AI and digitalisation key to growing prospects, value for SMEs

Knowledge sharing: (from left) Kuan, Ma, Ooi, SMG sales and events manager Puteri Balqis Sharudin, Yip and Chan during SOBA LAB event in Bukit Mertajam.

GEORGE TOWN: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should embrace and harness technological advancements and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise resources and enhance their value, emphasised industry experts during the Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) LAB event held in Bukit Mertajam on Sept 21.

SOBA LAB, which is an abbreviation of “Learn, Aspire, Build”, assists SMEs on their entrepreneurial journey through talks and discussions by business leaders and experts.

In addition to workforce transformation and enhancing operational efficiency, rapid adoption of technology can also lead to improved cost optimisation, enriched customer experiences, and increased engagement, according to speakers at the event attended by more than 100 participants.

RHB Bank Bhd SME banking head Yip How Nang stressed the importance of integrating human resources into digitalisation initiatives.

“Digital technologies offer significant efficiencies, but without the right mindset for change, organisational weaknesses can be magnified. Businesses need a well-defined strategy before making significant investments, with human resources being an integral part of the digital journey rather than a component to be replaced,” he said.

PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd chief revenue officer Kuan Eu Jin encouraged SMEs to embrace AI and digitalisation, noting their better affordability and ease of access today.

“While the impetus for digitalisation or automation often comes from external sources, SMEs should seize the opportunity to overcome internal fears or hesitations regarding increased productivity and effectiveness. AI and digitalisation are becoming more affordable, making it an ideal time for SMEs to explore their options.

“Initiating digitalisation and automation is never too late, as long as it aligns closely with business requirements,” he said.

OPC Resources Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer Eric Ooi highlighted the potential benefits of AI-driven software in connecting departments in a company to conduct comprehensive market research.

“Currently, we have systems running without the need for a server managed by third-party operators. This approach saves costs and allows smart systems to analyse market trends and outcomes, particularly in departments dealing with large volumes of data. Small industries concerned about the burden of digitalisation can always start on a smaller scale,” he said.

The trio were sharing their perspectives on digitalisation and AI for productivity in Malaysian SMEs. The discussion was moderated by Krystelle Ma, bureau adviser for the PCCC YES Toastmasters Club.

Meanwhile, 988 DJ and 180 Degree Strategic Sdn Bhd founder Chan Fong emphasised the potential of harnessing AI for brand vitality.

Chan underscored the importance of recognising AI’s capabilities to enhance products or services, in addition to improving their brand image and value.

To facilitate the engagement session, representatives of sponsors of the event shared their solutions for SMEs. Among them were Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd (CGC) Prai sales marketing and processing senior executive Lim Khai Foong, PKT Logistics’ Kuan, CelcomDigi business exclusive partner Ivan Hor and RHB Bank Bhd group retail distribution business development head Koeh Bee Ling.

SOBA Connect is part of SOBA 2023 organised by Star Media Group with CelcomDigi Bhd, CGC, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd as the main sponsors, and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) as official trade promotion partner.

Supported by Bursa Malaysia, SOBA is audited by BDO while radio stations 988 and Suria are official media partners.

To take part in SOBA 2023 or for more information, call SMG Events (017-231 1789) or go to

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