Digitise SMEs to explore Western markets

By Simon Suresh


It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. Businesses suffered major losses from March onwards, due to the implementation of the Malaysian movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of employees had been laid off across industries to reduce costs.

The coronavirus leaves great impact on businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises (SME). Many business operators struggle with cash flow and failed to recover from their losses.

According to the SME Association of Malaysia, up to one-quarter of Malaysia’s SMEs are at risk of closure over the next few months, and it is quite alarming.

The same organisation also stated in March that up to one million Malaysians could lose their jobs if 10% of SMEs in the country go bust in the coming months.

But SMEs also have an unexplored opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation as a result of this paralysing period.

Companies have been forced to hit the reset button, reshape their business operations and shift from traditional methods to more digital and consumer-centric approaches.

Some started to focus more on selling their products via e-commerce platforms, while for micro businesses, have utilised social media platforms and worked closely with delivery service providers to send their products to customers.

E-marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Lazada and Shopee, are the right platforms where it presents an opportunity for SMEs offer a cost-effective solution to market their products to a wider audience at the same time to recover lost revenue in a short period of time.

The government’s measure in allocating RM300 mil for the automation and digitalisation facility under the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin) to incentivise entrepreneurs to automate processes and digitalise operations to increase productivity and efficiency through participating financial institutions should be applauded.

The government is also actively encouraging more local businesses to move rapidly into the technology sphere.

Seven key digitalisation areas identified which should be adopted by SMEs include digital marketing and sales, electronic point sales system, HR payroll system, procurement, e-commerce, remote working, as well as accounting and tax.

Answering the call, Halal Street UK stands ready to partner with the federal and state governments as well as banks and trade associations to introduce an export related solution to the small and medium-sized businesses.

The export market beckons small and medium sized Malaysian companies to pursue opportunities in the western world. Instead, we often find western companies selling their products (ironically made in the east) to the Asian countries.

Why haven’t Asian countries seen western countries for the greenfield market opportunity that they are?

Usually the reasons include being unfamiliar with the culture, regulations and logistical requirements. Great opportunities exist where others have feared to explore.

While the pandemic remains a threat to our socio-economic recovery, Budget 2021 is a great moment for the government to consider and adopt more sustainable ways to grow the economy and build the country’s resilience.

Slated to be tabled on Nov 6, the budget announcement will underline a combination of business-friendly policies, prudent fiscal management, and effective transformation tools to build the nation’s resilience against future economic shocks.

The government will continue to support businesses in key sectors that are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, and to ensure a stable and conducive environment for investments to come in and generate value-added returns.

I personally hope that the government will offer more relief assistance and tax break to ease businesses’ cashflow problem at the same time continue to promote digitalisation transformation.

The government should also introduce other initiatives to reduce operating costs, protect jobs and enhance consumer spending while helping businesses develop new capabilities for long-term growth.

The whole world and including Malaysia are looking forward to 2021, the Year of Recovery. In 2021, hopefully, we will see the beginning of one of the strongest runs for the Malaysian economy ever. – Oct 30, 2020


Simon Suresh is the founder and CEO of Halal Street UK Ltd, which is currently the largest online store for Malaysian products in the United Kingdom, it focuses on business-to-business and business-to-customer services.

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