“Malaysian startup ecosystem has and will continue to churn out the region’s best quality startups because of the starting environment that they are bred from.“ —Francesca Chia, CEO & Co-Founder, GoGet
The world we live in is becoming increasingly fast-paced, prompting with it a series of innovations: from faster travel to faster communication, all great breakthroughs neatly packaged in every piece of technology without ever losing the important and age-old element of seamless quality in its every improved version. Through this, we have seen an inevitable growth in the demands of the market.
Because of this growth in demand, the world has reared a need to optimise existing services for better swiftness, transparency, and overall experience on both the customer end and the business end. It is precisely this growing demand that birthed the rise of smart phones, ride sharing apps, streaming platforms, and e-commerce among many others — all of which are founded on individual great ideas.
With all these amazing ideas sprouting here and there, how is one of Southeast Asia’s leading countries in tech startups faring? We spoke to three of the top startups in Malaysia — GoGet, Dropee, and StoreHub — to see how they have adapted to an industry that is no longer built as a niche, but as a somewhat universal requirement for every thriving business model: tech.
How diversity has become an important element to key successes in the Southeast Asian market
What ultimately separates Malaysia as a breeding ground for tech startups (from the likes of, say, Singapore that offer larger grants to SMEs) is that the Malaysian market operates as a microcosm for most of its Southeast Asian neighbours, especially ones whose startup ecosystems are still at their infancy.
If your goal is to scale, your business has to be adaptive to frameworks in which governments do not necessarily dole out massive amounts of money and incentives. You need to understand how to operate in more neutral frameworks, because that is the reality you will eventually have to contend with as you explore other Southeast Asian countries.
“I sincerely believe that the Malaysian entrepreneur is best-positioned to win in the region because of our inherent flexibility from living in the only truly multi-cultural country in Southeast Asia,” said Wai Hong Fong, Storehub CEO and Co-Founder. “Having had decades of training on how to live peaceably and prosperously with people from vastly different cultures, our ability to ‘selok-belok’, adapt and speak multiple languages, have positioned us to navigate the complexities and nuances of the different markets in SEA.”
StoreHub prides itself for optimising over 5,000 brick-and-mortar retail stores across 15 countries with digital systems that oversee their inventory, employees, and customers, run promotions, monitor sales activity, and grow their businesses from anywhere through an omni-channel platform.
Fong also notes that things are looking up for B2B platforms in the region because governments are pushing for stronger adoption of technology, with its greatest challenge being the gap in tech savviness; predicting, still, that we are likely to see a steady transition towards a younger and a more tech-oriented business spectrum in the coming years.
Traditional SMEs find new successes by trading old tricks for newer, more innovative ones
GoGet on the other hand, who is yet to introduce its platform to markets outside Malaysia, credits much of its success to collaborations between different players in Malaysia’s vibrant startup ecosystem.
More importantly, the key to GoGet’s success, said GoGet CEO and Co-Founder Francesca Chia, is listening to their consumers and understanding the market: how to improve, what to refine, etc.
GoGet is a startup that developed a flexible work app that bridges businesses and part-timers together. What they essentially do is enrich traditional businesses by democratising part time work on an “on-demand” basis, helping not only businesses access vetted, trained, and verified part time workers real-time, but also help those part time workers explore job opportunities that suit their needs best.
Much like ride sharing apps that pair people with drivers, what GoGet eliminates are the tedious processes that often go between the important elements of an equation.
“Malaysia is a great country to start business not only because of the ease of running a business, but also learning through diverse customer feedback, said Chia. “Malaysia has a wide range of consumers that are able to refine the product and services. Malaysian startup ecosystem is highly collaborative and friendly. There are countless collaborations between players.”
This speaks a lot about the startup culture in Malaysia, one that isn’t only driven by quality players but also one that recognises the importance of partnerships in producing better, more competitive products and services.
How Malaysia is working hard to accommodate people’s digital adoption sentiments
The journey for one-stop B2B procurement solution provider Dropee has been smoother primarily because of all the support they’ve been getting in Malaysia, not only in monetary value, but also on exposures, contracts, and scaling opportunities. Dropee is a startup that provides solutions to problems often faced by traditional businesses in terms of sourcing, operating, and trading products especially in bulk.
Their technology also enables large enterprises to keep track of their purchases by sourcing directly from qualified wholesalers, manufacturers, and principals through their transparent and reliable tech platform.
Dropee CEO and Co-Founder Lennise Ng further posits that “B2B is definitely growing as more businesses are continuously looking for platforms to reduce their costing and optimise their businesses. Not to mention that the ‘e-commerce’ wave into these big brand owners; hence, more distributors are looking into the ecosystem”.
Some of the perks that emerging startups in Malaysia find themselves enjoying is not only hinged on the market’s emboldening trend of digital adoption, but also because of the support startups typically get from the likes of MDEC and many others. Also, Malaysian startups typically acquire support from the onset of their creation through more institutional start up enablers like the government.
Moreover, Malaysia adequately distances itself from benevolent incentives, thereby allowing local startups more opportunities to scale in similarly young and vibrant Southeast Asian countries.
What’s next for these players?
The one thing these three different startups can truly agree on is that Malaysian entrepreneurs will continue to build and lead top regional startups with their perfect mix of adaptive-quality and ambition.
For now, Malaysia counts on a few things to help navigate through the market and scale bigger: the diversity of its people, innovative ideas, and a lot of camaraderie and support from the larger community that they all ultimately belong to.
Featured image credit : Sean Pavone for 123rf