THE Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) LAB is back, delving into two topics that are related to the SOBA 2023 theme of “Shaping New Possibilities”.
Both sessions were conducted in Bahasa Malaysia and were held in Cybertorium at Level 2, Menara Star, Petaling Jaya on July 27.
The sessions were moderated by Suria FM announcer and founder of ManjaBoost Feeya Iskandar, who assumes the moniker “Cik Piah” on air.
In the first session entitled Business expansion opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), RHB Bank Bhd’s group retail distribution regional sales head and SME/chapter lead, Ahmad Fauzi Ramli, said that SMEs have access to a wide selection of financing options from banks.
He mentioned that RHB Bank in particular makes it easy for SMEs to get financing via its new online financing facility.
Credit Guarantee Corp (M) Bhd (CGC) business development and products senior vice-president, Mohamed Azman Mohamed Taufik, explained that CGC assists unserved or under-served SMEs who have insufficient track records or security ratings.
Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) transformation and digital trade division, exports advisory unit head Noor Ezzwanee Ahmad said that Matrade is mandated to help local companies, especially SMEs, with grants that help them expand their businesses via exports.
PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd chief revenue officer Kuan Eu Jin shared the importance of networking, saying that the entrepreneur’s journey is fraught with challenges.
“Networking allows business owners the chance to not only mingle and potentially make business connections but also share experiences on their own journeys.”
Noor Ezzwanee said that networking is not just about fielding new businesses but also to gain information and knowledge.
In terms of adopting environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, she cautioned SMEs that plan to expand their businesses overseas that many foreign buyers prefer companies that are sustainable.
“SMEs that have not yet started adopting ESG will be left behind,” she said.
Mohamed Azman said that banks have already started ESG reporting and have begun classifying business customers according to how sustainable they are, which may impact them later if ESG is enforced.
Kuan said ESG is not a new or foreign topic but in fact makes sound financial sense.
Ahmad Fauzi pointed out that banks also provide incentives if a certain project is ESG-related, whereby the differential cost of borrowings is quite substantial.
The second session on Navigating the Digital Landscape opens by exploring the rise of viral videos as a promotional tool.
Nippon Sushi (M) Sdn Bhd founder and director Che Siti Noraini Nuawi said that viral videos are more in the domain of the Generation Zs (those aged between 10 and 25).
“In Malaysia, everyone is considered a digital consumer – however it’s just how digitalisation is used that makes the difference,” she said. She added how a content becomes viral depends on chance.
CelcomDigi Bhd SME collaboration division business manager Md Rohaizad Hussin said that everyone knows how to use digital technology today, hence promoting a product online is easy. “The user is the content creator so promoting any product is simple with minimal setup,” he said.
MCM CoMetro 5 Pillars Venture Plt general partner Chris Daniel Wong observed that SMEs struggle with content creation as they try to target their sales pitch following data points, when they should be focusing on the customer experience.
He also advised SMEs to use established eCommerce platforms such as Lazada or Shopee and not to bother spending large investments on starting a new one.
He said, “When SMEs use these (established) platforms to trade, they would only need funds to market the product.”
Siti Noraini said that data is important as the “next step”, which is to promote upcoming brands or promotions to users.
Data collected when customers order via a QR code in her sushi outlets were helpful in the movement control order during the Covid-19 pandemic, as customers could be reached via WhatsApp, where her team was able to share promotions and menu for delivery.
When it comes to expertise, Rohaizad said that CelcomDigi collaborates with companies and councils to provide training on social media concepts and on what to say when dealing with social media followers.
He added that the telco has many specialists who can assist its customers on connectivity, systems operations and more.
Wong said that business owners should take the lead in learning about technology in depth themselves in order to set better KPIs that achieve their business’ digital expectation.
Siti Noraini agreed, saying learning is an ongoing process. “As business owners, we need to know what is the ongoing trend to target a message to the Gen Zs. And it is also important to learn about the company’s back-end processes.”
SOBA 2023 is organised by Star Media Group (SMG) with CelcomDigi, CGC, PKT Logistics and RHB Bank as the main sponsors, and Matrade as the official trade promotion partner.
Supported by Bursa Malaysia, SOBA is audited by BDO while radio stations 988 and Suria are the official media partners.
To take part in SOBA 2023 or for more information, call SMG Events (017-231 1789) or go to www.soba.com.my.