With the digital revolution now affecting the way business is done across sectors, companies have to adapt and change before the changes overwhelm and put them out of business. JOY LEE reports on the SMEBiz Think Tank conference.
CHANGE is upon us. And businesses, large or small, new or established, would do well to keep up with the digital revolution sweeping through the markets today.
Business as usual will no longer cut it if companies are to thrive and move up the value chain.
“You either disrupt your own business or be disrupted by external factors. We need to be prepared for what’s next in the market,” DiGi Telecommunications CEO Albern Murty cautioned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the SMEBiz Think Tank conference last week.
“The competition around us is changing. We are seeing competition from players that were previously not there.
“We need to look at how we can adapt to that change because it’s happening,” he urged.
Murty noted that the digital revolution had empowered societies, catalysed economic development and levelled the playing field for established and new companies. The new element of digitalisation places both new and established companies equally at the starting line, and it’s up to the individual companies to take advantage of this new development to grow their businesses.
Recent surveys have found that 30%-70% of CEOs across various industries, including media, telecommunications and healthcare, felt that their industries would be disrupted by the digital revolution.
Drawing from his own experience of instilling change in DiGi, Murty shared some practical steps SMEs could take to embrace the uncertainty of the digital revolution.
He urged business owners to inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset and culture within the company to encourage innovation that could help spur the company forward. This, however, could be a risky direction for SMEs that do not have resources to spare on experimentation.
“It is a risk. But if you don’t do anything, others will. You need to reignite innovation in the team. Create, instead of just capturing, value,” he stressed.
And as the industry and consumers changed, job functions would also change and old talents would need to be retrained and reskilled, he added. Similarly, a company would also need to be relevant to new talents and should tailor training methods and matters to their needs.
SMEs should also embrace digital trends growing quickly in the market such as the use of artificial intelligence, digital payment, wearables and Internet of Things, as well as virtual reality to improve efficiency, create value and enhance customer experience.
They would also have to enable a more digitised and collaborative workspace to boost better collaboration and innovation.
Murty also pointed out that delivering on customer experience was vital at every point of the business, even as consumer behaviour continued to change. “Deliver what they want,” he said.
Additionally, consumers were increasingly supportive of businesses with a purpose, and companies should look into responsible practices and creating an impact on local communities.
Businesses should have a team to look into a digital strategy for the company over the next few years to stay relevant in their industries.
“We don’t have all the answers. But look at how we can exist in this new changing eco-system,” he said.
Murty’s sentiment for adapting to change is shared by veteran entrepreneurs Song Hoi See, founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Lounge, and Dr Soraya Ismail, managing director of Boost Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
“In any business, we must be prepared to change,” said Song, “Change with small steps to reach the dream. Don’t worry about making mistakes.”
Soraya added that businesses had to remain relevant in their industries. Understand your brand and stay true to it, she advised.
Even the funding landscape for businesses have changed over the years. Traditionally a domain of established financial institutions, funding providers now include private equity firms, venture capitals, angel investors and the likes.
During the “SME Financing vs Private Equity Funding” session, moderated by Secretariat for the Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME) CEO Neil Foo, panellists Ekuiti Nasional Bhd (Ekuinas) CEO Syed Yasir Arafat, Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MavCap) CEO Jamaluddin Bujang and AMMB Holdings Bhd (AmBank Group) CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir elaborated on the funding options that SMEs could tap into.
Sulaiman said AmBank was looking at providing financing for startups or new companies in its efforts to help companies that had yet to have a track record. On managing the risks, he said it was a question of working with the customer closely and ensuring that disbursements went to the right places.
AmBank Group’s commercial and wholesale banking head Yeow Swee Yun concurred that companies had different funding needs at each stage of their business.
Meanwhile, representatives from Matrade, deputy CEOs Datuk Susila Devi and Wan Latiff Wan Musa, urged SMEs to capitalise on the market access that had been created through various free trade agreements to expand their businesses. Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) chief executive Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran Jeyandran reminded SMEs to increase the skills and capabilities of their workforce to remain competitive and relevant.
The Star SMEBiz Think Tank was 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