Innovation aplenty at SOBA 2016

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  • Sunday, 06 Nov 2016

(Standing from left) Karthi, Simon Wong, Lee, Terence Wong, Gladys Goh, Billy Goh, Chai, Jamaluddin and Estavillo. (Seated from left): Chong, Mizanur, Kumararajah and Andrew Lee. — RAYMOND OOI/The Star

JUDGES presiding over the selection of winners for The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2016 in the “up to RM25mil in revenue” category are happy to see an improvement in the quality of submissions this year.

“We are pleased. It is very encouraging for the development of Malaysian businesses,” says Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers council member Datuk Mizanur Rahman Ghani.

“It meets with the main objective of SOBA, (which is) to see continuous improvement in these businesses for the development of Malaysia,” he adds.

Mizanur notes that the SMEs have displayed strong innovative ideas, not just in products, but in technology, human resource management and business skills. And this has come about from the sharing culture built over the years through SOBA, where past winners share their experiences in workshops and seminars.

Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry honorary secretary general, Datuk A. T. Kumararajah, agrees that this year’s participants have put in more effort into improving themselves.

He says companies are starting to see the importance of other elements such as green initiatives and CSR as differentiating factors for their businesses to remain sustainable.

“SOBA is becoming an educational process for SMEs. The criteria for the categories have set a benchmark for these companies,” he opines.

While the participants have improved in quality, the judges did, however, notice a decline in the companies’ financial performance due to the slowing economy.

“But despite the setbacks in financial performances of these companies, we are happy to see that the entrepreneurs have continued to improve themselves and continued to implement their business strategies amidst the market uncertainties,” says Branding Association of Malaysia president Datuk Eric Chong.

“That is the true spirit of entrepreneurship. You don’t quit doing the right things,” he states.

First-time judge Neal Estavillo, council member of Media Specialist Association, notes that the participants also displayed great ideas not just as local brands but potentially as global brands.

“Every time I come in as a judge, I feel proud to be Malaysian,” remarks Andrew Lee, vice president of Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) of Malaysia.

“Most of these companies are doing marketing the right way, although they may not be able to present their efforts well.

“But the things they are taking care of, the fundamentals, they are doing that well,” adds Lee.

Gladys Goh, of the Malaysian Advertisers Association, concurs, adding that participating companies have put in a lot of efforts to build the fundamentals of the business.

“Some of these companies, you didn’t even know they were Malaysian. And they have been able to go global. So we are quite proud of them,” she says.

SOBA, which honours up-and-coming local, non-listed companies and SMEs, is in its seventh year.

This year, the awards are divided into two broad categories – one for enterprises with a turnover of more than RM25mil and the other for those that have generated less than RM25mil per annum – to recognise the achievements of upcoming small businesses as well as more established SMEs.

SOBA has seven Top-Of-The-Class awards, namely, best in marketing, best brand, best in CSR, best green initiative, best employer, best innovation and best global market, as well as three Outstanding Achievement awards, which are rising star, entrepreneur of the year (male/female/young) and Malaysian business of the year.

Winners of SOBA 2016 will be unveiled at the SOBA Awards Night in January 2017.

SOBA 2016 is organised by The Star with AmBank as its main sponsor. The awards is co-sponsored by BMW Malaysia, Credit Guarantee Corp and Matrade while Connexion Conference and Event Centre is the official venue sponsor for this year’s event.

It is endorsed by the Secretariat for the Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME), supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO with 988 and Suria FM as the official radio stations.

The judging panel also included 4As council member Karthi Palanisamy, Malaysian Retail Chain Association operations manager Simon Wong, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia vice president of strategic investment Lee Chee Khoon, the Federation of Malaysia Chinese Guilds Association youth secretary Terence Wong, Malaysian Entrepreneurs’ Development Association honorary treasurer Datuk Billy Goh, Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry of Malaysia deputy secretary general II Michael Chai, and Bursa Malaysia director of Islamic and alternative markets Jamaluddin Nor Mohamad. 

  • For more information on SOBA 2016, call The Star Events Business Unit at 03-7967 1388 ext 1240 (Melissa)/1657 (Victor) or visit
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