In most cases, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often lag behind when it comes to technology adoption, either due to the lack of financial means or human resources. The same appears to be true with adopting a digital strategy to drive their businesses forward. According to SME Association of Malaysia president Michael Kang (pic), SMEs understand how to run their businesses, but not how to adopt modern technology.
“The second thing is, they don’t know how to go about going digital, because they lack the expertise. They can only depend on their staff or someone else to do it for them and even if they have a website, they don’t really utilise it,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via telephone. The majority of Malaysian SMEs, he says, serve the domestic market, with over 80% of them being domestically-focused. “They are only focused on the local market so for them to go digital there’s not much motivation, unless they are serving the international market.”
When asked who should spearhead the efforts to assist SMEs in going digital, Kang highlights that the government has allocated budgets for Malaysia Digital Corporation (MDEC) and SME Corporation Malaysia. “Both agencies should spearhead efforts to give the knowhow and solutions to assist SMEs in moving into digital. They should create more awareness through a nationwide initiative.” He adds that since the government has allocated budgets for both agencies to assist SMEs in digital business, they should both work closely with Telekom Malaysia Bhd and the SME associations to get more SMEs to go digital.
That said, many SMEs lack the financial resources to adopt new technologies. Would they be incentivised to go digital should funding be provided to them?
Kang however, firmly says he doesn’t agree on giving out funding. “Funds have been disbursed but nothing often comes of it. So that’s why I suggest, with the funding, the government should build a platform to educate SMEs or a resource platform for SMEs to use and slowly embark on a digital strategy. Turn the money into a tool and let the SMEs use it, perhaps even subscribe to the platform,” he suggests.
In the meantime, there is an initiative helmed by Google Malaysia to help SMEs explore new markets by digitising and equipping them with the right knowledge and tools. Called Go Global Malaysia (#MYGoGlobal), the public-private partnership is led by Google, Alliance Bank, Mastercard, and Maxis, along with government partners the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation and SME Corporation.
The nationwide training programme is provided free of charge to SMEs and Google Malaysia has said in the past that their target is to get at least 1,000 SMEs in the programme.
In an e-mail interview with Digital News Asia, Google Malaysia head of communications and public affairs Zeffri Yusof says that Google “would love for more Malaysian businesses to take advantage of going digital no matter what their line of business might be”.
He adds: “Small and medium businesses (SMBs) can also learn from each other since there are many Malaysian SMBs that have gone digital as well as global — because of how digital opens doors. Based on how Google itself grew in our early days, we are passionate about how the Internet is a net contributor to any business, as well as a country’s economy.”
He explained that Google has workshops planned throughout the year until December. “Along with our partners, we started in KL in early April and will be going to Perak in May followed by other west and east Malaysian dates every month throughout the rest of the year — including Penang, Johor Bahru, Ipoh, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and other cities.”
When asked if Google would track the success of the SMEs they train, Zeffri replies that together with their partners, they will be following up with each and every one of the SMEs on the ground.