TRADITIONAL enterprises in Penang were among those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Most were not tech-savvy and relied mainly on walk-in clientele. Nevertheless, they embraced new ways of doing business and emerged better for it.
This evolution proved an intriguing subject matter for a group of executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Sydney, Australia.
They spent the morning exploring George Town on foot, checking out businesses which have existed for decades and seeing how their operations changed in the new normal.
It was part of a week-long study tour hosted by sister institution UOW Malaysia KDU Penang University College, which also included visits to multinational corporations in the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone and roundtable discussions with stakeholders.
The roundtable saw several influential industry captains share insights and real-world experiences on how businesses can drive growth, efficiency, innovation and strategic alliances in a multicultural setting like Penang.
Prof Paul Gollan, a senior professor of management with UOW’s Sydney Business School and Executive MBA programme director, described the trip as informative and enlightening.
“Penang’s kaleidoscope of cultures and history going back hundreds of years is quite incredible.
“I was impressed by how the buildings and trades have persisted over time,” he said during the recent stroll around the city.
He found many parallels between Penang and Australia, not only in the British colonial influence but also the modern issues faced like equity and economic development.
Among the group of 17 executive MBA students was Bharath Venkataraman, who found the experience an eye-opener, particularly from the lens of culture.
“This is a part of the country we have never really explored, because when you think of Malaysia, it tends to be Kuala Lumpur.
“But there is potential and opportunity in Penang. If the government continues to engage with the industry, it can be a regional powerhouse,” Bharath opined.
The city stroll included stops at George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) where they were addressed by general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee, as well as Tourism Malaysia’s Penang Office where northern region director Shahrul Aman Sabir Ahmad briefed them on the country’s charms.
UOW Malaysia KDU Penang University College School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts senior lecturer Dr Irhanida Abdul Kadir said such academic exchanges not only facilitated knowledge transfer but also indirectly promoted tourism.
“Participants who have experienced Penang’s culture, food and attractions will spread the word back home and entice more to visit us, creating opportunities,” she added.