Unlocking growth in SMEs: The driving forces of Malaysia’s economy


THE Covid-19 pandemic pushed millions of Malaysians to be confined to their homes and caused booming growth in digital transformation and e-commerce as businesses explored various channels and online platforms to grow their sales. Today, over 88% of Malaysians are online shoppers, compared to 46% during pre-pandemic times.

Studies suggest that this wave will not abate — the Covid-19 pandemic has indeed given customers an opportunity to explore more options beyond brick-and-mortar businesses and embrace the convenience of online shopping. Thus, making shopping on e-commerce platforms the new normal.

As of January 2022, Malaysia recorded 29.55 million Internet users (or 89.6% Internet penetration rate). This number is higher than many other South-East Asian countries, further cementing the notion that digital consumption, whether in Malaysia or in other parts of the world, is now integrated into every aspect of human life.

As it is, over 65% of Malaysian consumers have opted for online shopping as their primary purchasing channel due to the benefits e-commerce has to offer. This includes time and cost savings, flexible payment and delivery options, and diverse product offerings.

The icing on the cake would be the regular online shopping events such as live streams, giveaways and brand sales campaigns. Additionally, cash payments have inevitably been overtaken by online transfers and other digital payment gateways as the preferred payment method of choice among consumers — with the latter now accounting for 93% of e-commerce transactions.

Sustainability of SMEs in the New Normal

It goes without saying that the large and listed companies were in the spotlight throughout the course of the pandemic, with the implications of Covid-19 on these firms’ performance making headlines daily. However, equally — if not more — vulnerable to the economic impacts of the pandemic are the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Interestingly, SMEs – despite having lesser resources and exposure compared to larger and more prominent counterparts – make diverse and significant contributions to social and economic wellbeing. These small businesses play a critical role in global economies, creating employment opportunities particularly in these current times when most jobs require digital expertise and millions of workers have been displaced.

Closer to home, SMEs in Malaysia have been a key driver of the domestic economy, contributing 38.2% or over RM512.8 billion to the country’s GDP last year. Having said that, while SMEs are showing positive signs of recovery with the easing of movement restrictions, reopening of borders and resumption of business activities, these businesses are still grappling with lower-than-desired capacity, labour shortages, rising overhead costs and supply chain disruptions.

According to the Small and Medium Enterprises Association Malaysia, many SMEs managed to stay resilient during the pandemic by investing in and adopting new digital technologies and solutions to get through the pandemic. This spirit and drive to keep up with competition and stay ahead of the curve is undeniably commendable, despite statistics showing that the technology adoption and digital transformation among SMEs are still relatively poor compared to larger corporations.

In response to this, the Malaysian government stepped in and rolled out a slew of initiatives and assistance to support the growth of SMEs in the country. The support provided came in the form of wage subsidy programmes, SME Automation and Digitalisation Facility, High Tech Facility, among others, all of which are aimed at keeping SMEs financially afloat and accelerating their innovation and digital transformation further.

As a tech-enabled logistics company, Ninja Van continues to expand the range of its products and services to ensure that it’s able to better support and empower SMEs – pic source: Ninja Van

Where Logistics Comes Into Play

Besides leveraging digital technologies to streamline processes and enhance operation performance, companies bank on digitalisation in order to respond better and quicker to changing customer behaviours and expectations, and in turn deliver better value.

Consumers expect online shopping to be a breeze throughout the entire process from browsing to filling up their carts, payment and delivery. To this end, logistics providers play a critical role in supporting SMEs to ensure hassle-free and seamless delivery services.

In recent years, we have also witnessed massive and progressive advancements within the logistics industry in areas such as artificial and augmented intelligence, advanced analytics and automation. These technologies are significant, as they help logistics companies boost efficiency and also provide better delivery solutions for SMEs and experience for consumers.

At Ninja Van Malaysia, that is exactly what we strive to do. As a tech-enabled logistics company, we continue to expand the range of our products and services to ensure that we’re able to better support and empower SMEs. Our recent partnership with DPDgroup on South-East Asia online shoppers’ buying habits and shopping experience also highlighted the importance of real-time tracking, service guarantee and reassurance for parcel deliveries — a solution that we have offered through our tech since our establishment in 2014.

To further support the growth of SME shippers, Ninja Van has recently launched its fulfilment service — Ninja Fulfilment. This service aims to provide a comprehensive and customisable inventory management solution, helping shippers to manage and grow their businesses at lower fixed cost, get full visibility on stocks and orders from start to end as well as personalised experience to suit different businesses’ needs. Other services such as our B2B offering and NinjaChat are other ways we aim to bring our shippers to greater heights for their shoppers.

Working Together to Empower SMEs

The SME sector plays an extremely important part in today’s economy and their contributions should not be understated. They provide new and rare growth opportunities for entrepreneurs, jobs for those in need and even a space for communities from all walks of life to advance and thrive.

At Ninja Van, we are dedicated to diversify beyond platforms and help SMEs achieve independence by making it easier to run and grow a business. This is why we invest heavily in technology and innovation to ensure that we are able to meet their needs and demands.

By doing the heavy-lifting in logistics for SMEs, it is our hope that we’re able to free them up so that they’re able to concentrate on growing their businesses.

Adzim Halim is the CEO of Ninja Van Malaysia, a tech-enabled express logistics company providing hassle-free delivery services for businesses of all sizes across South-East Asia.