SME Innovation Challenge draws strong response

  • Business
  • Saturday, 05 Oct 2013

WHETHER it is a business of people kicking around or licking a fruity popsicle, Alliance Bank Malaysia’s SME Innovation Challenge has drawn in a mixed bag of start-ups for its contest.

Despite their vastly varying backgrounds, the 13 participating companies each stand a chance to win the handsome RM250,000.

Alliance Bank had initially wanted to shortlist only 12 finalists among the 200 odd contest participants, but it couldn’t leave out one company that it felt was worthy of being shortlisted. So, that’s why there are 13 companies as they had outshone the rest.

At the bank’s first Alliance Bank BizSmart Academy Young Entrepreneurs’ Conference 2013 last Monday, head of group business banking Steve Miller noted the encouraging quality submissions from Malaysian businesses which “indicates that Malaysia’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive is thriving”.

“We had a strong nationwide response and the submissions that we received were from a diverse range of industry sectors including bio-technology, e-commerce, retail and food and beverage,” Miller says.

Among the 13 participants are:

? The Last Polka, an ice cream maker bent on recreating favourite memories through taste and texture, producing unique flavours like Salted Gula Melaka and Pandan Kaya. The Last Polka is currently distributed through its retail partners like cafes and restaurants;

?, a pioneer in the business of selling and renting of tertiary education textbooks locally. It aims to encourage recycling of old books while help economically-tight students save cost;

? RedTick who is spearheading an online grocery store, bringing both wet (morning market) and dry (supermarket) concept into e-commerce. It offers online purchasing and delivery of groceries which consumers can order via their smart phones or tablets;

? Bio Tree Biotechnology sells lifestyle beverages with a mission to address digestive health issues. The BioNexus company swears by no additives, no preservatives, no flavouring, pesticides and herbicides-free in its ready-to-drink products;

? Bloc 48, a boutique-sized social customer relationship management (CRM) agency that believes in socializing with its client’s consumers, making them brand loyalists using various social media avenues and customised CRM programmes;

? myBurgerLab, a new conceptual fast-food restaurant serving creative burger offerings in its signature charcoal buns. It does not believe in advertising but uses the people they have in contact with as brand ambassadors;

? Tapway provides a unique platform for businesses to seamlessly manage and modify their campaigns in the cloud, without ever leaving their seats. The platform easily connects digital marketing and event content to physical locations through one tap on the smart phones;

? HighrisePro provides an online property management software developed with a vision to provide the best integrated living and management experience to home owners, tenants, resident committee members and property managers. Its current clients include Ara Hill, Armanee Condo in Malaysia while internationally, it is present in Montreal under Notman House and St Michel residences;

? MuayFit, gym and training centre that provides fitness and self-defense services. It is the no.1 mixed martial arts centre in Malaysia and was ranked ninth out of thousands of centres around Asia. It has a team of over thirty fighters making it the one of the top fight teams in Asia and organises the Malaysia Fighting Championship;

? Smooshie Juice, the product of an architect and an accountant, who identified the gap in the Malaysian market for healthy, high quality fruit juices in a bottle. The beverage is distributed to 10 outlets around Kuala Lumpur, Smooshie makes unique fruit juice and yoghurt smoothies, blended from imported and local Malaysian fruits with no preservatives, colouring, flavouring, added sugar or concentrates;

? Fru-T-Pop, a first-of-its-kind producer of 100% wholefruit ice popsicles with no added sugar, water, preservatives, additives, dairy free and gluten free. The popsicles use mainly local organic farmed fruit supplied by local farmers, whom Fru-T-Pop work closely with;

? Christy Ng an online shoe company founded in July 2010 offering a wide range of woman’s footwear and a range of complementary accessories including custom-made bags. Customers have the option of designing their very own masterpiece, with the help of technology making the process possible and seamless;

? SoftInn provides commission-based cloud reservation system specifically for small hotels and family-run lodging businesses. Its mobile solutions also allow business owners to manage their property while travelling. SoftInn collects a 12% commission on each paid booking. There are 119 hotels registered and listed on the portal now, 51 bookings served and transacted over RM30,000 to date since August 2013.

The SME Innovation Challenge comes under Alliance Bank’s BizSmart Academy. Planned as an annual affair, Miller describes the competition as “the American Idol for SMEs”.

The academy, on the other hand, is designed as Alliance Bank’s way of providing big business tools to small businesses all year round, to help accelerate their growth in today’s environment. It boasts an online resource centre with tools for the modern-day start-ups as well as access to conferences and seminars.

Alliance Bank Malaysia won the Best SME Bank in Asia-Pacific award from Asian Banker this year and with the introduction of BizSmart Academy, it intends to remain the best SME bank.

The structured business coaching and training will be conducted by business consultants using the Blue Ocean strategy. The budding SMEs will also receive guidance from top business leaders.

These participants may be familiar names to some, especially those who live in the Klang Valley but what makes them stand out from each other has yet to be proven by their performance in the contest.

Could the ice cream maker or CRM agency prove better mettle than the androgenous gym owner or online property management software developers?

It’s hard to say at this juncture so let the games begin.

SP Setia president and CEO Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin is the chairman judge for the contest, while the panel comprises Leaderonomics chief executive Roshan Thiran, Microsoft Malaysia small and medium solutions and partners lead Azizah Ali, jobsDB Group CEO Adrian Chng, BFM 89.9 founder and managing director Malek Ali, SMI Association Malaysia national president Teh Kee Sin and Miller.

To learn more about Alliance Bank BizSmart Academy and SME Innovation Challenge, please visit

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