By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
The operations of the underperforming Mara Digital Mall is expected to be reviewed with the possibility of a physical relocation of the retail outlet to a more suitable site.
The mall, which is an initiative by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) Corp Sdn Bhd to increase the participation of Bumiputera in IT hardware and software business, is facing dwindling footfall and sales.
Mara Corp chairman Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi said the retail outlet, which is currently suffering a slumping sales performance, could also be transformed into a conventional shopping mall.
However, he said any decision pertaining to Mara Digital Mall’s new direction will also be made pending the outcome of its operational review.
According to Akhramsyah, Mara Corp is also looking into changing Mara Digital Mall’s existing business model in an effort to turn around the Bumiputera ICT retailer’s fortune.
“We feel there is a future for Mara Digital Mall, but strictly speaking not in the shape of its kind now. We need to rejuvenate it,” Akhramsyah told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a recent interview.
Akhramsyah, who became the chairman of Mara Corp in early January, said the reassessment studies would be conducted by its retail subsidiary Glocal Link Sdn Bhd.
Among others, he said Mara Corp may consider finding ways to increase visitors to Mara Digital Mall via aggressive marketing.
Akhramsyah said the possibility of relocation is not off the cards if the study reveals that the current mall is not strategic to attract visitors.
He added that WGN Scan Sdn Bhd may also have to review its exclusivity in selling authentic and original products.
“You can lose a large section of your clientele (if you retain that approach),” he said.
He also reckons that Mara Digital Mall could be transformed to a conventional mall.
“Whatever it is, we need to decide what this mall is supposed to be after the assessment is concluded.”
Mara Digital Mall started seeing a decline in sales a year after its inception in December 2015. In September 2017, TMR reported that the poor sales and the declining number of visitors were due to a lack of product variation, non-competitive prices and weak publicity.
The mall’s anchor tenant, WGN Scan, recorded between RM4 million and RM5 million in sales last year, compared to an average annual turnover of about RM19 million in the last two years.
Akhramsyah said as Mara’s commercial arm, Mara Corp has to shoulder the responsibility of saving or mitigating losses incurred by Mara Digital Mall retailers.
As of last September, the mall has more than 30 entrepreneurs and retailers selling various ICT products, mainly mobile phones and computers.
Although Mara Digital Mall is located near “local hot spots” Sogo Mall and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, it is still struggling to establish itself as THE digital mall.
Mara Digital Mall was proposed by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry after a dispute at Low Yat Plaza in July 2015. Also known as “Low Yat 2” before it was rebranded, Mara Digital Mall aims to provide a platform for Bumiputera entrepreneurs to break through the ICT market, which is monopolised by Low Yat, and to provide alternative solutions for ICT users.
Akhramsyah, who used to head a retail division at an oil and gas company, admitted that Mara Digital Mall’s creation started off on the wrong foot.
“Certainly, the reason of the Mara Digital Mall birth is not ideal. It is not in the back of the serious business consideration, but more like a backlash to what happened in the Low Yat Mall.
“That is a political decision, not a good solid business decision for it to exist,” he said.
Still, Akhramsyah said there is no plan to close down Mara Digital Mall so far.
Besides the Kuala Lumpur branch, Mara has another three digital malls in Shah Alam (Selangor), Ipoh (Perak) and Kuantan (Pahang).
“We will work on the main branch first and if it appears to be a success, we can do the same to the others,” he added.
So far, seven companies have undergone due diligence and transferred to Mara Corp from its parent company, including Mara Inc and Glocal Link.
Akhramsyah said the other three organisations — the transportation company Mara Liner Sdn Bhd, Kolej Universiti Poly-Tech Mara and Kuala Lumpur University — are expected to be moved to Mara Corp by the first quarter of this year.