Giving our underdogs a fighting chance — local SMEs and Morocco football team

Supporting local businesses gives them a lot more than just a fighter’s chance 

EVERYONE loves an underdog. And the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the first time ever that the world’s largest sporting event is held in the middle east, was a thrilling example.

Over the course of 29 days, underdogs at the tournament held once every four years have been sensational and left favourites in peril. From the start of the group stages through the quarterfinals, have featured upset results, with underdogs earning either a draw or win. 

From the third day itself, there was a shock in store as Saudi Arabia defeated footballing giants Argentina led by the mesmerising Lionel Messi. This, however, was not a one-off event, and has since been an enthralling journey on the football pitch, thanks to an unpredictable environment that made this one a world cup of upsets. 

A number of historic milestones were also featured in the tournament. For the first time in its history since its inaugural World Cup in 1930, three Asian teams reached the knockout stage, while Morocco became the first African and first Arabic-speaking nation to reach the semifinals of a FIFA World Cup. 

Morocco head coach Walid Regragui, who became the first African to coach in a World Cup semifinal, said after beating Portugal: “We are now becoming the team that everyone loves in this World Cup because we are showing that even if you don’t have as much talent and money then you can succeed.” 

Millions watched as the “Lions of the Atlas” dispatched a raft of more established teams to reach the semifinals of the tournament, just one match away from conquering the world. It was a modern-day fairytale of David versus Goliath suggesting that with the right combination of grit and perseverance, we too can soar to unimaginable heights. 

If you don’t know the story, here’s a recap: David was a shepherd boy who offered to fight the giant Goliath when everyone else was afraid. He fired a stone at Goliath with his slingshot and hit him in the head. While the giant was distracted, David killed him with his sword. It’s the classic story of the underdog and it resonates with many the world over whether in sports, politics, business or just life in general. Indeed, it is this sort of thinking, and really it is no surprise, that small businesses are so often portrayed as underdogs.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) find themselves in much the same position as both David and the Moroccan football team. Constrained by factors such as small size, lack of financial and other resources, proper tools and other economies of scale that big businesses enjoy, SMEs have primarily their own self-confidence to work with in trying to scale up the reach of their products and services. 

For decades, countless SMEs have entered an unlevel playing field, battling insurmountable odds, taking on giants ie dealing with competition from companies with much larger budgets and more resources at their disposal. 

Over 98.5% of all businesses in Malaysia are SMEs. Hailed variously as unsung heroes, the backbone of the economy and even as employers of last resort, the importance of SMEs to the country’s economy cannot be overstated. 

Important as they are, SMEs are financially more fragile than larger firms — they own fewer assets and cash reserves, and score lower on productivity levels. 

Hence, we must show the same support for our local SMEs as we did with the Moroccan national team. When it comes to showing your support for small businesses, it’s important to do so, and not just to help them gain revenue and stay operational. 

By supporting a small business, we are also supporting the local community. Spending our money there helps to stimulate the local economy and keep business booming. These smaller-sized businesses help to create and sustain jobs as well as keep the locality vibrant and buzzing with shoppers and tourists. 

Supporting local businesses gives them a lot more than just a fighter’s chance — we are arming SMEs with tools that go well beyond a slingshot and a rock.

Rupinder Singh is the assistant corporate editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition