Sixfold increase in export businesses should SMEs go fully digital

SMEs should invest in cloud analytics to gain market insights, says deputy minister

By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

Small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) complete adoption of digitalisation could result in a sixfold increase of businesses involved in the export of products and goods from Malaysia.

Deputy Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli said SMEs should go beyond computerisation, and instead explore and move towards fully digital approaches.

“As the pace of digitalisation picks up around the world, it is extremely imperative for Malaysian SMEs to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies to spur economic growth,” he said after the launch of the “SME Digitalisation Whitepaper” by SME Corp Malaysia and Huawei Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd.

Mohd Hatta said businesses should approach SME Corp and continue to keep tabs on the ongoing programmes that can benefit them, besides engaging with the relevant ministries.

“On top of all that, invest in enterprise software that have an impact on the overall business — like cloud software.

“Consider developing mobile applications to take advantage of the large pool of mobile devices out there that may improve staff productivity and market reach,” he said.

Mohd Hatta also said SMEs should start collecting data and invest in cloud analytics to gain market insights, as these initiatives would help to improve and expand their businesses.

He said SME Corp should also establish an office for SMEs’ digitalisation and the established entity should comprise members from the corporation and related agencies to ensure its effective implementation.

“As different ministries and agencies have overlapping programmes to support SMEs, representatives from these organisations should discuss and map out their programmes to identify overlapping areas,” Mohd Hatta said.

He added that it would also help to rationalise the various programmes and plug the gaps in SME programmes.

The whitepaper launched by SME Corp and Huawei highlights challenges faced by 2,033 SMEs from all sectors in moving their entities toward total digitalisation.

It also proposes ways to help SMEs and uncover their digital strength with the help of government and private sector.

SME Corp CEO Noor Azmi Mat Said said based on the survey of 1,469 respondents, only 32% are aware about Industry 4.0 — but from that figure, 69% of the respondents said they are ready for its implementation.

“Another 62% cited a lack of knowledge and skills, and 45% said there is a lack of funding and support.

“We hope with the recent Budget 2019 announcement, the RM7.12 billion allocated for various initiatives to support Industry 4.0 will provide the necessary support for SMEs to embark on this journey,” he added.

The survey also found that 20% of SMEs are not well-informed about information and communication technology usage.

“This group of 20% tend to wait until someone has invested, tested and proved a particular technology before they would consider using it.

“To be truly digitalised, SMEs must re-engineer their businesses by ensuring their business strategies, processes and infrastructures are aligned and fully integrated to support their digital transformation,” Noor Azmi said.

Noor Azmi said Malaysian SMEs are only at the nascent stage of e-commerce, despite the market’s huge potential.

“The goal is to enable SMEs to expand their coverage from targeting to service the domestic 16 million digital customers, to reach out to 87 million digital customers within Asean and, ultimately, to serve the one billion digital customers worldwide,” he said.

He said policymakers should take steps to improve broadband coverage, and ensure that the necessary initiatives are in place to allow SMEs to perform data analysis off their respective businesses and the markets.

“Necessary policies are needed for the commercial use of public or private cloud, big data and artificial intelligence services, while safeguarding the privacy and confidentiality of data,” he added.