Close competition for top spots in EEA 2021

Final round of EEA 2021 judging: (seated, from left) SMG group chief executive officer Alex Yeow and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia managing director and CEO Abrar A. Anwar with (standing, from left) Azman, BDO Malaysia advisory executive director Mok Chew Yin, Sharimahton, BDO Malaysia advisory director Lim Sin Han and Nor Hasnah during the recent second round of judging held at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

PETALING JAYA: It was tough deciding on the finalists for the top spots in the Export Excellence Awards (EEA) 2021, say judges at the second round of judging for the awards programme.

“There were close calls as most charted good sales and growth. So it was difficult to find out which company had the most advantage,” said Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd (CGC) bumiputera development and products senior vice-president Mohamed Azman Mohamed Taufik.

Fellow judge, International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) bilateral economic and trade relations senior director Nor Hasnah Badroddin added: “It was not easy and we had quite a tough time deciding on the finalists, as they performed quite well.”

“We were pleasantly surprised that many of them did well and charted growth during times of crisis, especially during the tough year of 2020,” opined chief judge, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) export acceleration deputy chief executive officer Sharimahton Mat Saleh.

As for categories that saw exceedingly excellent revenue and growth, the judges pointed to medical supplies, digitalisation as well as green products.

Azman said: “For those selling recyclable paper or green products, for instance, some of their overseas markets came from e-commerce platforms such as Shopee or Lazada, which gave them access to new markets that they would not otherwise have access to.”

Nor Hasnah, while concurring with Azman’s view, pointed out that another category where Malaysian exporters saw the most growth was in content and entertainment.

“We also saw how companies positively leverage the use of social media such as YouTube and LinkedIn to put out content and enhance their business to markets that were far reaching, which they did not previously explore,” she said.

Companies also increasingly leveraged on virtual exhibitions and platforms by seeking assistance from various government agencies, alongside using search engine optimisation and other digitalisation initiatives.

The selected finalists were companies that constantly innovate and invest in research and development to introduce new products and services for new markets.

This is in order to lower business risks by diversifying the portfolio of their products, services and markets.

“They have all the ingredients to grow stronger and bigger, so for them to be one of the finalists shows they’re on the right trajectory,” she added.

The three judges also noted that in the final round of judging, every finalist should be outstanding in all aspects of doing business.

“As EEA finalists should also be role models, it was an aspect that we had to take into account as well.

“To better their submissions, we would advise companies to look at expanding and improving their businesses by benchmarking themselves against others. Whether they win or not, they need to continue challenging themselves,” said Sharimahton.

Azman went on to say that companies must look past sales and growth by bolstering efforts into other areas such as corporate social responsibility in line with environmental, social and governance considerations.

“Going through the submission process for awards programmes like EEA can help companies identify the areas they need to improve,” he said.

Previously, the first round of judging for EEA 2021 was held virtually on Oct 14.

It saw the participation of Kuala Lumpur Malay Chamber of Commerce honorary secretary Rizal Abdul Rahman, Malaysia Retail Chain Association council member Dr Afendi Dahlan, Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia treasurer Koong Lin Loong and deputy secretary-general Michael Chai, Timber Exporters’ Association of Malaysia committee member George Tan, Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry council member Datuk Dr Samanan Ratnam, Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce vice-president Ngan Teng Ye, as well as American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce representatives Vejay Kumar Narayanan and Guo Xiuling.

EEA 2021 is organised by Star Media Group (SMG) in partnership with Standard Chartered, with Matrade as patron. It is audited by BDO. For more information on EEA 2021, visit, contact Victor at or Jency at

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