The inaugural SME Conference, which is also called The Star SMEBiz Think Tank, was a day full of insightful views and thought-provoking messages from top business leaders to entrepreneurs and businessmen eager to learn and advance their companies.
Themed “Moving Up The Value Chain”, the event drew more than 400 attendees who sat through six sessions which focused on various aspects related to the theme.
Kicking off the event was DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Albern Murty who urged business owners to consider using digital strategies as a means to stay relevant in today’s markets.
“The digital revolution has empowered societies, catalysed economic development and levelled the playing field for everyone from established to new companies.
“It cannot be ignored and can be an opportunity to go beyond the traditional business and grow,” he said in his keynote address.
Murty said uncertainty was the new normal and the faster a business could change and adapt, the better chances of its survival.
“Some believe their jobs, functions or industries will remain the same moving ahead, and maybe it will be, but the digital revolution is breaking down all the borders that surround it.
“Be prepared and make sure your people are equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to bring the business forward,” he advised.
After the officiating speech by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, the first speaker Yeow Swee Yun took the stage to talk about “Accessing the Right Funds for Your Next Business Growth.”
“Companies have different funding needs at each stage of their business.
“One should study up on the funding choices that are available and determine which suits their needs best before going for it,” said the head of AmBank Group’s commercial and wholesale banking.
He added that most Malaysian businesses would go to financial institutions for their funding needs.
Matrade deputy chief executive officer Wan Latiff Wan Musa spoke next on the export business.
“Export is a main driver of our Malaysian economy.
“Trade remains resilient even in the current economic times.
“There may be many challenges and the daunting task of learning about a new market, but that’s where we can come in and help local companies.
“Our global network and familiarity with all these issues can be a boon to businesses looking to export,” he said, urging companies to register with them for further information.
His colleague, deputy chief executive officer Susila Devi, who spoke in the last session about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), said Malaysian businesses needed to look beyond the country’s borders for trade, investment and growth opportunities.
“This country is not new to free trade agreements, having already signed 13 regional and bilateral ones even before the TPPA.
“Don’t look at the situation as the glass half empty but rather it is half full. We were once among the top 15 trading countries but have dropped to the mid 20s now.
“TPPA is meant to remove or reduce the number of barriers in the way of trade that will make it easier for local businesses to enter new markets,” she said.
Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) chief executive Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran Jeyandran delivered a talk on “Leveraging on the 30% Pool Fund to Build Staff Capabilities” at the conference.
He echoed Murty’s sentiments on increasing the skills and capabilities of the Malaysian workforce in order to remain competitive and relevant.
“Sometimes it is also a matter of the employee finding different but sometimes simple ways of communicating things to their staff in order to get things done efficiently,” he said.
The day also featured a session moderated by Secretariat for the Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME) chief executive officer Neil Foo and three expert panellists namely AmBank Group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MavCap) chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang and Ekuiti Nasional Bhd (Ekuinas) chief executive officer Syed Yasir Arafat Syed Abd Kadir.
They spoke at length about the criteria, processes, differences and related matters of “SME Financing versus Private Equity Funding.”
Plaza Premium Group founder Song Hoi See and Boost Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei managing director Dr Soraya Ismail then took to the stage individually to share their perspective on “Reinventing, Sustaining and Growing Your Business” based on their respective experiences.
Song’s main message is for businessmen to be observant and find the unmet need in the market to start off their enterprise, while not being afraid to make mistakes in order to continue the learning process.
Soraya advised businessmen to understand their business from the inside out in order to make decisions that had a positive effect on the business as well as create synergistic relationships with other businesses to expand one’s brand.
The Star SMEBiz Think Tank is organised by Star Media Group as an extension of The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA), which is in its seventh consecutive year of recognising, honouring and rewarding outstanding non-public listed companies and SMEs in various business aspects.
It is sponsored by AmBank, Matrade and HRDF.
The submission deadline for SOBA 2016 has been extended to Oct 21 and details can be obtained from the Star Media Group’s Events Business Unit at 03-7967 1388 ext 1240 (Melissa) / 1657 (Victor) or at www.soba.com.my