Digitalisation and sustainability drive export

Selecting the best exporters: Star Media Group Bhd group chief executive officer Alex Yeow (seated, left) with Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia CEO Mak Joon Nien (seated, right) and EEA 2022 eminent judges (standing, from left) Wong, Nor Hasnah, Nilammasri and Abu Bakar at the EEA 2022 final judging session at Menara Star, Petaling Jaya.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian companies, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are doing well to embrace digital transformation and sustainability to achieve strong growth in the export market.

This is reflected in the quality of companies that have submitted their applications for the Export Excellence Awards (EEA) 2022.

Companies involved in the export of healthcare-related products and services have been in the spotlight in recent years, owing to global efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Naturally, it has given rise to public perception that large, successful companies in export would come from the healthcare or manufacturing industries.

At the conclusion of the EEA 2022 judging session by eminent judges, held at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya, Bursa Malaysia’s vice-president of listing development, origination and listing division, Wong Kong Loong said that the submission showed companies from a range of industries.

“There are so many unlisted companies out there, across different industries, that have been involved in large amounts of exports,” he said.

He further said that aside from healthcare, a significant number of submissions came from companies in the agriculture sector.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) deputy chief executive officer Abu Bakar Yusof added the observation that there were hidden gems among the nation’s SMEs.

He stated, “While we are very much aware of the large companies in export, we do have several SMEs that have done very well in terms of their export growth and also contribution of export to their total revenue.

“In some cases, the contribution of exports to total revenue over the past two to three years have actually been very high at 80% to 90%.”

Changes in business landscapeIn addition, the growth of the contribution of exports to total revenue shows that SMEs have recognised the importance of export to their businesses.

A number of companies, including SMEs, have undertaken noteworthy steps to not only adopt digitalisation, but also sustainability, said Matrade’s Abu Bakar.

From the submissions, he sees that SMEs have started embarking on digitalisation – be it in terms of technology or research and development aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution – to uplift their productivity and efficiency, while reducing their dependence on labour-intensive processes, in order to be more cost effective in the long run.

“Also coming into play is sustainability, which will be the future when it comes to global market access. If they don’t comply with international sustainability requirements, they may not be able to gain tap into certain markets and also participate in the global supply chain.

“Companies worldwide – especially from developed or advanced economies – require their suppliers to adopt a certain level of standards with regards to sustainability and environmental, social and governance considerations,” he added.

International Trade and Industry Ministry bilateral economic and trade relations division senior director Nor Hasnah Badroddin, who returned as a judge for the second year, lauded the introduction of the Special Award for Woman Exporter of the Year.

She said, “It’s a good addition to promote more women entrepreneurs to be involved in the export sector.”

Noting that the submissions for EEA 2022 showed that the development of the halal sector has shifted beyond food and beverage, as well as raw ingredients and materials, she shared that it would be interesting to see a wider scope of halal products and services being exported in future.

“Halal is not about certification, it’s like a standard or best practice that enables you to go far internationally, as it not only opens up export opportunities to more markets, but also to the increasingly sustainability-conscious consumers around the world,” she explained.

Moreover, she pointed out that ESG considerations already exist within halal practices, which could help companies ease into fully integrating ESG principles across their operations.

Putting the right foot forward

That said, Bursa Malaysia’s Wong suggested that an area of improvement would be to provide more visibility to judges when it comes to profiling and showcasing themselves.

He suggested, “Take brand awareness, for example. As a Malaysian company, how would they go about promoting their brand and Malaysia to the world?”

To do so, they can put more effort into describing and elaborating on the execution of plans and the inclusion of supporting evidence or documentation.

Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd bumiputra development head Nilammasri Jaafar shared similar sentiments.

“Companies would be at a better advantage if they are more focused and thorough when readying submissions to reflect their efforts,” she opined, also suggesting that the awards programme could look at introducing a new tier for companies for large companies.

Previously, the first round of judging for EEA 2022 was held virtually.

It saw the participation of American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce’s Fabian Er, Kuala Lumpur Malay Chamber of Commerce’s Norhisham Abdul Mutalib and Rizal Abdul Rahman, Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce’s Datuk Joseph Lim Heng Ee, Kerk Loong Sing and Sean Lee, as well as Malaysia Retail Chain Association’s Datuk Winnie Lim and Valerie Choo.

Winners will be announced at the Export Excellence Awards Gala Night, to be held on Nov 24, 2022 at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

EEA is organised by Star Media Group in partnership with Standard Chartered Malaysia, with PKT Logistics Group as co-sponsor and Matrade as patron. It is audited by BDO. For more information on EEA, visit, or email

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