1. FIM2018 to attract over RM370 mln in franchise investment
  2. Malaysia-Brazil Business Council Launched
  3. Partnership to aid e-commerce entrepreneurs, SMEs to become nimbler
  4. Empowering Malaysia’s micro-entrepreneurs to boost e-commerce
  5. US manufacturing growth slows amid tariff concerns
  6. 11Street turns three with over 13 million product listings from over 40,000 sellers
  7. Malaysia Plans Bill on Women’s Rights
  8. Hong Leong Bank Introduces Hali Chatbot with AI Capabilities to Improve Workforce Efficiency by 60%

FIM2018 to attract over RM370 mln in franchise investment
The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry and the Malaysian Franchise Association (MFA) are targeting a potential franchise investment of over RM370 million during the Franchise International Malaysia (FIM2018) exhibition in Kuala Lumpur from 20-22 April. The ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Seri Jamil Salleh said FIM2018 should be able to attract more than the RM370 million achieved last year as more countries had signed up to take part and more booths were allocated for franchisors to exhibit this year. FIM2018 is a one-stop centre for entrepreneurs and the international franchise industry to promote their products and services and expand their business network in the region and is the largest annual franchise exhibition in Southeast Asia. FIM2018 will witness the participation of 12 countries, namely the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Apart from franchise in-buying mission, other main activities at FIM2018 will be the franchise exhibition, international franchise conference, franchise business matching, franchise consultation session, celebrity talks and a culinary competition. Malaysia aims to make the country a regional franchise hub for Southeast Asia by 2020. Datuk Seri Jamil noted that the national franchise industry has shown positive growth with more than 850 franchise companies from various sectors registered with the franchise system in the country. Meanwhile, MFA chairman Datuk Radzali Hassan said FIM2018 also provided space for Malaysia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to exhibit. “With this large gathering of local and international franchisors, SMEs and master franchisees, we hope to export more local brands overseas,” he said.

Malaysia-Brazil Business Council Launched
The Malaysia–Brazil Business Council has been officially launched in Kuala Lumpur. The pioneer members of the Malaysia–Brazil Business Council are PETRONAS; Vale Malaysia Minerals; Sapura Energy; BRF/OneFoods; Scomi Group; Marfrig/MacFood Services; Supermax Corp.; WEG S. A.; TTH Dynamic; Marcopolo S. A.; Careglove Global; Binwani’s Fashion Group and Universiti Kuala Lumpur. The first Chairman of the Malaysia–Brazil Business Council, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Shahril Shamsuddin, who is also the President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Sapura Energy Berhad said “The Council will be a forum for members to exchange ideas and share experiences. Through our network, we will promote greater Malaysian-Brazilian business cooperation by acting as an effective conduit for business entities that have keen investment interests.” The launch of the Malaysia–Brazil Business Council is a milestone in the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Brazil which was established since 1959. According to Malaysian data, in 2017 bilateral trade between Brazil and Malaysia reached a total of RM12.7 billion, a figure that consolidates Brazil’s position as the main trading partner of Malaysia in Latin America. According to Brazilian data, Malaysia was Brazil’s main trading partner in ASEAN in 2017. Brazil is also the largest Latin-American investor in Malaysia. Malaysian investment in Brazil is impressive, with companies like Sapura, PETRONAS and Scomi leading the way. In his keynote address, Y.Bhg. Datuk Seri J. Jayasiri, the Secretary General of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry while emphasising that more can be done to enhance the trade and investment relations between the two countries said: “While Malaysian businesses have made substantial inroads into Brazil’s market, I hope that our businesses will expand and diversify their activities in Brazil by availing themselves to the various opportunities that this newly formed Malaysia-Brazil Business Council provides which includes the prospects for strategic partnerships.”

Partnership to aid e-commerce entrepreneurs, SMEs to become nimbler
E-commerce company Lazada Group is joining hands with higher learning institutes and data analytics experts to jointly develop online and offline training courses for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to become nimbler and capitalise on the e-commerce boom in the region. Lazada formalised the partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), Singapore-based data analytics firm Sparkline, and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). More than 1,000 people, ranging from existing and new sellers on Lazada, SME owners, professionals, managers and operational staff, are expected to complete courses between April to December 2018. Topics covered include supply chain and inventory management, introduction to data analytics and how business owners can sell efficiently and effectively in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market.

Empowering Malaysia’s micro-entrepreneurs to boost e-commerce
MALAYSIA Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) celebrated the successful completion of 50 high potential eUsahawan participants, who were among the pioneer batch of a special training and coaching programme aimed at creating sustainable e-commerce businesses. A collaboration between MDEC and Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd’s Coach and Grow Programme, the eUsahawan Level Up programme is an extension of MDEC’s eUsahawan initiative. Started in October 2017, the eUsahawan Level Up programme consists of two stages – six months and three months respectively. In the first stage, participants underwent a series of online and face-to-face training sessions and set their own six-month targets in consultation with assigned personal coaches. Cumulatively, the participants achieved a total of RM12,043,069 in revenue; 125% more than the target set. The second stage will see these 15 chosen participants undergoing an intensive three-month programme focusing on funding and export readiness. The training modules included in the eUsahawan Level Up programme are Design Thinking, Business and Financial management, Advanced digital marketing, Branding facelift, eCommerce Website Development, Marketing Production Development. In addition, participants also received face-to-face coaching sessions by industry experts. eUsahawan is a national initiative aimed at inspiring and providing know-how on digital entrepreneurship to Malaysian youths and micro entrepreneurs. To-date, 160,020 Malaysians have been trained nationwide by MDEC and partnering agencies.

US manufacturing growth slows amid tariff concerns
The US manufacturing sector slowed from its torrid pace in March amid growing concerns about trade tensions and tariffs on steel and aluminium. According to an industry survey released on Monday by the Institute for Supply Management, the price measure rose to its highest level in seven years, while orders, production and employment all slowed. 32 percent of survey respondents expressed concerns about the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on March 23, which affect all sectors, in particular food. Another 10 percent commented on rising prices. Suppliers began to raise prices within 24 hours of the announcement and also stockpiled the metal in anticipation of being able to sell at a higher price. The price of steel jumped to US$860 a ton from US$720 previously.

11Street turns three with over 13 million product listings from over 40,000 sellers
11street is celebrating its third birthday this month and they’re commemorating it by giving their customers the best of everything in threes! Launched in Malaysia in 2015, 11street is now a joint venture between Axiata Digital Services and South Korean e-commerce marketplace provider, SK Planet. As Malaysia’s number two online marketplace, 11street currently has more than 13 million product listings on its platform from over 40,000 sellers. 11street has also experienced more than 200 percent increase in the total number of sellers registered on its platform, as well as a growth of more than 160 percent in its product listings from 2015 to 2017. The top performing categories include Baby & Kids, Mobile & Tablets and Skin & Personal Care. On top of that, 11street has sold more than 500,000 food & beverage and service e-vouchers in 2017 alone. Of all the purchases made by Malaysians from the platform, the top selling products include the car cameras and photo books as well as movie and petrol vouchers. 11street’s findings also revealed that in the past three years, more shoppers start to make online purchases for Automotive, Home Décor, Smartwatches & Wearables and Women Jewellery & Accessories. These categories are regarded as the fastest growing categories by the number of orders placed at 11street.

Malaysia Plans Bill on Women’s Rights
The Malaysian government plans to draft a legislation relating to women’s rights such as the Gender Equality Bill to balance the role of men and women in development. Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the proposed act was expected to bridge the gender inequality between women and men by incorporating the principle of Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the Malaysian laws. “The phenomenon such as low involvement among women at the leadership level, stereotyping and segregation of jobs in the professional fields, unequal pay, women’s hierarchy in society and so on will be addressed by the legislating of this act,” she told the Dewan Rakyat today.

Hong Leong Bank Introduces Hali Chatbot with AI Capabilities to Improve Workforce Efficiency by 60%
Hong Leong Bank continues to chart significant digital milestones by introducing a virtual assistant named HALI, to help it improve operations efficiency by 60% over the course of the year. HALI, a first for Malaysia, is powered by Hyperlab which specialises in artificial intelligence (A. I.) powered chat, voice and search products. The chatbot developed for HLB is set to assist two main core support functions – Human Resource and Branch Operations. It will take over in answering staff queries on policies and procedures, a function previously undertaken by staff members from the two divisions. The launch of HALI comes on the heels of the introduction of an e-learning mobile application called ‘SmartUp’ which enables the Bank’s employees to access bite-sized learning content via their mobile devices.