Taking Malaysian Tech Company Onto Global Stage


Our sister media, Business Today talks to four digital advocates about helping Malaysian tech companies go global

By Amanda Suriya Ariffin

Making the transition from an entrepreneur to a champion of entrepreneurs seemed a natural progression for Gopi Ganesalingam. “I thought things would be easy as an entrepreneur,” he begins, “but it was very tough, a lot of work for me; a lot of things that could have gone wrong, went wrong.”

The Vice-President of Enterprise Development at the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) afforded Business Today a slice of his time to talk about Malaysia’s Digital Ecosystem and more importantly, the Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN) programme, an initiative designed to elevate Malaysian technology companies onto the regional and global stage.

The former entrepreneur, a finance professional by qualification who has served in senior management roles with multinational corporations in Asia Pacific, admits that “when I was running my own company, we had to find our own funding; the system wasn’t like this. Tough times, yes, but we managed it.”

This may be why he is the best person to lead a team specifically created to identify and catalyse Malaysia-based technology companies within the digital ecosystem for expansion, growth and recognition. “The GAIN programme is designed for entrepreneurs; it sits on four pillars,” he explains, but the end-goal remains the same: to build world-class tech champions.

One of the key pillars of the four that Gopi mentions, is market access. “The other one,” he adds, “is visibility.” Many of these companies “are really good companies but they have not yet been given a spot in the media or the opportunity for key speaking roles.”

The third pillar is perhaps one of the most crucial ones: money.

“We may not have the money, but we know where the money is.” It is not simply a case of just matching the funds to the outfit that needs it but, as Gopi points out, “It is about understanding the company, the entrepreneurs, what sort of appetite he/she has, and matching it with the people who have the money.”

Mentorship forms the last significant pillar of the GAIN programme. “The mentors provide their expertise on a pro-bono basis,” he says. “It is a pay forward sort of mentorship.” Having successful entrepreneurs help startups and smaller companies ensure the latter group does not make the same mistakes, in addition to opening doors for them, bringing them to different markets and perhaps investing in them (there has been the occasional buyout). This approach builds the structure and momentum needed to grow and nurture a thriving entrepreneurial and digital ecosystem.

The GAIN programme, the brainchild of MDEC in 2014, gained further traction when Gopi came on board in 2015. Bringing insights as an entrepreneur and as a finance person, brought solidity to this crucial programme, not just in Malaysia but also regionally and globally.

“We are now beginning to look at Japan, and having ventured regionally as far as the Middle East, the GAIN programme connects the digital ecosystems in these disparate regions, bringing people in each market, together.”

The breadth of the GAIN programme, having its tentacles in culturally diverse digital sandboxes, also involves local chambers,venture capitalists, other entrepreneurs, “as well as the Malaysian diaspora,” highlights Gopi; “We bring them all together, and that is how the programme is cultivated and structured.”

Success stories under the GAIN programme include Aerodyne as well as N2N Connect. These discoveries take the MDEC team from Middle Eastern shores to the Silicon Valley. The nature of business that these entities are built on can range from drone technology to stockbroking solutions.

One of the most valuable forms of assistance the GAIN companies benefit from, under the auspices of the GAIN programme is the restructuring and pivoting of business models to a digital platform. “These and many others are just the start of many upcoming Malaysian gems and champions,” beams Gopi.

The takeaways for any company in the select GAIN community include the paradigm shift of “thinking global and thinking big. Malaysia is a small market – thirty plus million people; if you want to have a big company, you have to go beyond the shores of Malaysia. Build a product that can go global, he adds; build it on a digital platform so that you can scale it up faster and shout it out and be proud that you are a Malaysian company.”

The community nurtured under the GAIN programme is a close-knit network of 150 companies. “Here, we know the CEOs personally and we know their left and right persons,” shares Gopi. The MDEC team knows the minutiae of these companies, which helps to form a culture of trust, cohesiveness, camaraderie and collaboration.

“2018 was a very good year for us,” nods Gopi. “We know the numbers are coming in very well and there is a lot of optimism for 2019 to scale this up, to elevate the success stories into market immersions with business platforms running in the region. The program in 2018 has driven a pipe of RM 2 billion – but more importantly – carrying this success forward gives more Malaysian entrepreneurs and companies sustainable hope in going global.”

(Part 1 of 2)

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