Helping hand for SMEs

(from left) Yap, Sulaiman and Eqhwan at the launch of the AmBank BizRace Season 3 in Kuala Lumpur.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engine of economic development for a country.

Their respective roles in terms of production, employment generation and contribution to exports, alongside facilitating equitable distribution of income are critical.

They play a significant role in the national economy, including by providing various goods and services, developing regional economies and communities and offering innovation.

With the intent to assist these SMEs, AmBank Group launched its BizRace Season 3 business competition under the AmBank BizClub platform, providing knowledge, publicity and networking opportunities for them in three focus areas – the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), digitalisation and the halal sector.

Registration for this year’s business competition is open from July 17 until Sept 2,2020 and will comprise of three tracks, with 100 businesses chosen per track.

Additionally, this year’s AmBank BizConference - another initiative under the AmBank BizClub platform - will focus on the same key areas that can help revitalise the growth of SMEs in Malaysia.

In keeping with social distancing requirements, AmBank’s BizConference series is going digital with a total of nine fully online and free sessions featuring prominent business leaders, SME owners and experts in different fields. These panellists will guide SMEs on how to leverage on various opportunities to revive their businesses and stay relevant by adapting to the challenges of the new normal.

“We want to have more successful SMEs. How can we help SMEs to align with the changes by the government?” queried AmBank Group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir during its Webinar Session 1: IR4.0.

Among the role of banks, is to simplify the process involved in certain areas to assist SMEs reset their businesses for survival.

Sulaiman said that AmBank has approved 1,200 applications by SMEs via the special relief facility by the government since March 2020. The bank has also launched the BizRace Season 3 offering over RM2mil worth of prizes for successful SMEs.

“The AmBank BizRace programme helps SMEs upscale their businesses by leveraging on the knowledge, training, branding as well as networking opportunities provided, ” he pointed out.

In line with the core theme The Big Reset: Revive Your Business, the AmBank BizRace will help SMEs adapt to the new normal by taking advantage of the various opportunities present, such as digitalising their business, accessing grants, applying for halal certification and more.

He urged SMEs owners to take part in the competition and webinars to learn from the experts in order to kickstart their IR4.0 transformation journey. At the moment, the AmBank BizClub has 5,000 members comprising SMEs.

“If you don’t participate (in the competition and online conferences) and then take action, you will lose out, ” he concluded.

For panellist and Bosch Rexroth director Royce Tan, the keyword for IR 4.0 is connectivity.

He said, “Will you be able to connect remotely to your office? If you are not, you are not taking the first step of IR 4.0.”

Fellow speaker, International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) sectoral policy 1 director Vimala Murugan, noted that 508 SMEs were selected by Miti last year to undertake the government-funded Industry4WRD Readiness Assessment Intervention programme or Industry4WRD Intervention Fund for Industry 4.0.

The programme is a financial support facility for SMEs in the manufacturing and related services sectors to embrace Industry 4.0.

“Of the figure, 301 SME companies have successfully completed this Readiness Assessment programme since last year. It will identify the gap and problems faced by these SMEs to move towards Industry 4.0, ” she explained.

Vimala said that each company was eligible for up to RM500,000 in matching grants upon completion of the programme.

“Each company has to apply for this fund as it is not automatic and they have to come up with a technical proposal for Industry 4.0, ” she stressed.

At the Webinar Session 2: Digitalisation, AmBank business banking managing director Christopher Yap said that AmBank created its BizHub marketplace to aid SMEs to start in e-commerce and guide them in their digitalisation journey.

“Many businesses were not ready and had to shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to provide a platform to put their products online. We want to guide them to use this platform and minimise failures, ” he stated.

With Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) as their partner, Yap said that there are grants ranging between RM5,000 and RM200,000 to help SMEs in the digitalisation journey.

The AmBank BizHub marketplace is provided to SMEs with zero entry and set-up costs, which means that they are not required to develop their own e-commerce platforms. The SMEs can sign up for this BizHub platform for free by registering online. E-commerce experts will then assist them in selling online.

Panellist and MDEC chief operations officer Datuk Ng Wan Peng said that there were misconceptions that digitalisation would be costly.

“You can start small and we have service providers to help you, ” she said, adding that the company’s management should ensure that their workforce are aware of the objective of digitalisation for its success.

“They must know that it will benefit them and then your digitalisation process will be real, ” she said.

Fellow speaker, Microsoft Malaysia national technology officer Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, said SMEs should take a brave calculated risk for digitalisation, as those who invested for the purpose enjoy good returns in their business.

In addition, at Webinar Session 3: Halal Quest, AmBank Islamic chief executive officer Eqhwan Mokhzanee said that halal certifications would provide added value and market share for SMEs, especially among the conservative groups.

“We provide value added services through capacity building, ” he said, adding that there were areas that SMEs can further explore in the growing halal market, which is valued at RM10tril.

Malaysian Islamic Development Department chief assistant director Mohd Fakaruddin Mas’od said that Malaysia’s halal certification was recognised worldwide, with standards in areas relating to food and beverages, premises, outlets, hotels, consumer goods and cosmetics.

He said they organise continuous trainings, conferences, meetings and roundtable discussions with SMEs to ensure that they are ready to apply for halal certification.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation halal food and beverages and agro-based section director Remee Yaakub said that they look for various opportunities for Malaysian SMEs to explore into the halal market due to its potential.

“We are an integral part in supporting halal ecosystem in Malaysia, ” he said, adding that the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (Mihas) is touted as the world’s largest halal trade event.

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