IN the second of our two-part Q&A on entrepreneurial success in times of Covid-19, five alumni members of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards Malaysia programme talk about being adaptive to change and answerable to stakeholders, as well as driving responsible governance as a global citizen. When it to comes to doing business in these unprecedented times, they all say responding positively to change has been key to efficiency, relevance and success.
- With environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues more important to consumers, how can entrepreneurs adjust their growth strategy to ensure all stakeholders’ needs are served?
- How have entrepreneurs accelerated the adoption of digitalisation and where do you most see the impact of this change?
- Bearing in mind the challenges of the last one year, what do you think is the most important quality that entrepreneurs need to have in navigating the future?
CEO, Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd
EY Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 Malaysia
- Pursuing growth of the business and ensuring that the stakeholders’ needs are served should be seen as a cohesive strategy. For instance, at Forest Interactive, we utilise our strengths in the development of our work in the telecommunications, tech and e-sports industries to address ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues related to them. Our key mission — developing future innovators — is powered by the business’ core values. ESG practices should have the buy-in of not only top management but also the employees. When we’ve launched sustainability initiatives that also promote the advocacies that matter to our employees, we’ve seen higher employee engagement and increased operation efficiency. This purposeful corporate culture becomes markers for our partners and clients to gain insight into our environmental and social impact, and how we utilise technology to develop our platforms with minimal waste and maximal positive impact.
- Traditional practices are no longer relevant in the Covid-19 era since entrepreneurs have embraced digitalisation out of need. It has come to a point of do-or-die decisions that would greatly affect their business outcomes. Digitalisation has impacted how entrepreneurs educate themselves and underscored the importance of having key people who understand technology, especially as quick decisions on the use of technology need to be made in order to transform the business.
- Perseverance and patience, combined with a positive mindset, are key in navigating these challenging times. When there are disasters, new opportunities arise. Entrepreneurs need to be able to recognise these openings and provide fulfilment to both the demand and supply value chains.
Azhar Zainal Abidin
Managing director, ProEight Sdn Bhd
EY Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Malaysia
- A strong ESG proposition links to top-line growth value creation. Providing high-quality products and services should always be a priority for entrepreneurs. Meeting customers’ expectations and gaining their trust will allow one to retain customers and attract new ones. Furthermore, strategic partnerships and acquisitions will help businesses build brand awareness in the market. A good reputation will open doors to fantastic business opportunities and higher company value.
- With Industry 4.0, the increasing use of technology in work and staying connected has shaped new digital habits. Entrepreneurs need to align with digitalisation. In the manufacturing sector, we are using high-tech machines as well as software to provide better products and services for our customers. This is the way for us to keep up with digitalisation as well as support Industry 4.0. Digitalisation has had a huge impact on the growth of businesses today. With greater applications of AI (artificial intelligence) and other technologies, we may see the business landscape changing completely.
- Motivation is the most important quality that entrepreneurs need in order to stay relevant in the coming years. Motivation is the will to accomplish certain things/targets. Always bear in mind the accomplishments that we have achieved and celebrate the results, even minor ones. Having a strong motivation will keep us striving for success even when too many challenges are thrown at us. Tough times never last, but tough people do.
Managing director, OFO Tech Sdn Bhd
Top nominee in Emerging Category of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Malaysia
- If entrepreneurs are to adopt ESG in a meaningful way, it needs to be a means for profit. Then it will be considered in every organisation’s growth strategy. For example, when companies adopt ESG, consumers will prefer their products over their competitors’, which equates to more sales. The government will offer more incentives such as carbon coupons and tax cuts, which equate to higher margins. Since ESG issues are intertwined, to comply in one area is to comply in all.
- The world saw three years’ worth of digitalisation taking place in the first three months of the Covid-19 outbreak alone. We have all been impacted by it. Suddenly, working from home and buying online became prevalent norms. This trend also hit entrepreneurs in a big way. Aside from conducting more online meetings, start-ups and SMEs had to increasingly rely on digitalisation of work. They had to rely on online mediums. For asset management, in particular, large-scale asset infrastructure is being digitally managed via reality-driven solutions and digital twinning techniques. Another way is through automation. Companies are also boosting autonomous technology integration. For example, monitoring highways and monitoring work conditions for SOP compliance using AI. More practical digitalisation and automation use cases are being developed as we speak.
- Every industry is being impacted by the pandemic, whether big or small. However, the most important quality to have during these times is optimism. As the saying goes, “no pressure no diamond”, and so, for entrepreneurs such as ourselves, we continue to look in the mirror, reminding ourselves that in every crisis, there awaits new opportunity.
MD, Muzart International Sdn Bhd
Top Nominee in Emerging Category of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Malaysia
- Key to MuzArt’s steady corporate growth is R&D. This gives our members a platform to boost personal talent development while motivating product and service expansion, which drives growth. The MuzArt R&D team ensures that we are on a par with market trends and shapes MuzArt as an international brand.
- When no one would have imagined that a boring encyclopaedia could be transformed into online “Artpaedia” classes, the innovative values that digitalisation provides have been a motivating element for MuzArt to break the stereotype by providing our target audience with a digitalised “Art Encyclopedia” programme called M’onNets. The standard of the programme is heightened by the use of multiple media, thus increasing the quality of teaching and learning. This has made a clear impact on creating multiple platforms for our business to be available, thus enabling our product to reach a wider target market.
- The key for all entrepreneurs to create and meet market demand is to have a fluid business model. The business model should be adoptable and, most importantly, scalable to various target markets, demands, product availability and platforms. MuzArt’s ability to provide a service in education and character development on an online platform with a whole new production team within a week of the closure of physical classes was made possible because of corporate speed and productivity, which enabled innovative strategies to be adopted to adapt to the new normal.
Ir Chow Pui Hee
Group managing director, Samaiden Group Bhd
Top Nominee in Woman Category of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Malaysia
- Organisations comprise a myriad of stakeholders, some of which can have competing agendas at times. In turn, companies are faced with the difficulty of appeasing these different groups when trying to meet stakeholders’ expectations while managing competing timelines. This leads to the leadership challenge of balancing the short-term demands of some stakeholders with long-term planning for growth, all while protecting the interests of other stakeholders. Entrepreneurs can create a strong ESG proposition as part of their growth strategy. With good governance, corporate actors are likely to be granted access, approvals and licences that can afford fresh opportunities for growth and ensure the availability of human capital. This is perceived to be beneficial by public and social stakeholders, as they can extract those resources more easily and without extensive planning or operational delays.
- The adoption of digitalisation accelerated the most among entrepreneurs because of the impact of Covid-19.Digitalisation has filled the void left by mandated shutdowns and social distancing measures. The pandemic was a wake-up call for businesses that had been hesitant to embrace digital transformation and they had to conduct most of their work transactions digitally, such as online tracking records, virtual meetings and online purchases.
- Agility and resilience are the two key qualities that all entrepreneurs should have to thrive in the Covid-19 era. Adaptable leaders can pivot quickly and react fast to the changing economic environment, which is imperative to survive the pullback created by the health crisis.