Recovery On The Horizon

An abundance of positive signs demonstrates that Malaysia’s recovery from Covid-19 is firmly on track.

Malaysia is on track for a resilient recovery after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Buoyed by a high vaccination rate that has surpassed 90% among the country’s adult population, and the pledge by the government to boost the economy, Malaysia is on track to recover strongly from the disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its latest report on Malaysia’s economy, Bank Negara Malaysia noted that the economy grew by 16.1% in the second quarter compared to a contraction of 0.5% in the first quarter of 2021. It also said that the economic performance was supported mainly by the improvement in domestic demand and continued robust exports performance.

Bank Negara Malaysia says the Malaysian economy is projected to expand by between 3% and 4% in 2021. It believes that the expected reopening of the economy will support a gradual recovery in the fourth quarter this year, with higher global growth and sustained policy support providing a further lift to economic growth.

“Malaysia’s growth recovery is expected to broadly resume in the latter part of the second half of 2021 and improve going into 2022,” says Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says that Malaysia remains a business-friendly country that attracts large flows of foreign direct investment and is well-integrated in global value chains.

According to its Ministry of Finance, Malaysia is registering net foreign capital inflows thanks to the positive progress on the National Recovery Plan. “For the month of August, a total of US$1.8 billion was registered in terms of foreign portfolio flows, marking the highest monthly net inflow since June 2020, and offsetting the declines in the two preceding months,” it said.

Seizing Opportunities

Many businesses had to adapt to changes as a result of the pandemic, and one company that did well was MedTech startup BookDoc. The six-year-old startup pivoted to help Malaysia cope with Covid-19 and at the same time diversified its business.

The company adapted its BookDoc app to become a booking platform that supported 500 government clinics and helped them manage queues and practice social distancing when Malaysia was going through its lockdowns.

Malaysia has gained an international reputation as a safe and trusted healthcare destination.

It also introduced innovative services such as “lab uberization”—conducting real-time PCR tests by going to people’s homes and offices instead of waiting for them to come into test centers. This helped BookDoc to diversify and weather the storm during the tough months.

As the economy continues to open up in 2021 and 2022, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), an agency under the Ministry of Health, will continue to move forward with greater industry resilience to enhance the health tourism sector.

There is great potential for Malaysia’s medical tourism market as it has grown from around US$130 million to nearly US$400 million, an average of 16% in annual growth, between 2011 and 2019.

MHTC continues to actively promote medical tourism as it believes Malaysia is not only a safe and trusted healthcare destination but also offers strong value propositions. These include hospital fees being regulated by the government, world-class medical facilities that are easily accessible with a short waiting time, and specialty fields ranging from fertility, cardiology and oncology to orthopedics, neurology and health screenings.

Capitalizing on Technology

Malaysia has always been quick to capitalize on the power of technology, and one company at the forefront of developing smart cities is Cyberview, which is currently building three technology clusters centered on Smart Mobility, Smart Healthcare and Digital Creative spread across four zones in Cyberjaya. The project is estimated to contribute US$60 billion to Malaysia’s GDP and potentially create 87,000 job opportunities by 2045.

An aerial view of Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s premier smart city, where plans are in place to transform it into a global technology hub.

Cyberview believes that it has all the ingredients, from infrastructure to talent and policies, to strengthen Cyberjaya’s position as a global technology hub. After all, the likes of China Mobile International, Dell, Ericsson, HTC Global, Huawei and Modality Systems have made Cyberjaya Malaysia’s premier technology investment destination for decades.

Another company capitalizing on technology is Silverlake Axis, which is taking on newer, nimbler, fast-growing financial technology (fintech) companies at their own game. The company has just won a major digitalization project from a bank in Thailand that involves transforming a traditional operating model for banks into a digital one without affecting its legacy infrastructure.

This will help the Thai bank embark on their digital transformation with peace of mind as Silverlake Axis has the expertise to understand how banks work and is suited to helping them to transform through their digital journey.

Recognized Globally

Internationalizing Malaysia as a brand is one of the key strategies in reviving Malaysia’s economic fortunes for 2022. This is why the Halal Development Corporation (HDC) and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation are co-hosting the Halal Cluster Week at Dubai’s World Expo in November in a quest to attract US$80 million in potential trade and investment.

HDC plans to take its initiatives global through the introduction of its new Muslim Friendly Guidelines, a set of standards and regulations for the halal industry covering the retail, tourism and medical sectors. It also plans to undertake a halal ecosystem assessment in 22 countries in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank. The study will help to identify key components of the halal industry in the countries involved, including best practices and gap analysis.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest glove maker, Top Glove, is setting its sights on going further by focusing on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

Top Glove realizes that it cannot just be good at producing gloves but also needs to be the best at producing these products in a sustainable way. With its emphasis on ESG, the company plans to reduce its carbon emissions and water consumption by 25% and 34%, respectively, by 2025, and reduce waste being sent to landfills by 10%. It has also committed to consulting experts on labor issues such as the worker recruitment process, employment terms, training and workplace safety, among others.

Looking Ahead

As Malaysia continues to look to the future, RHB Bank’s quarterly economic outlook report notes that a few key events are likely to support increase in consumption by the end of 2021 into early next year.

With working capacity increasing to 100% and business operating hours normalized as states recover, broader industries that were deemed non-essential and high-risk should gradually be reopened.

Coupled with the opening of international travel, which will support tourism-related segments, mobility should improve, which lends support to the labor market and private consumption recovery.

“Consumer spending is already well positioned to capitalize on the reopening of the economy. Household savings have significantly built up during the pandemic due to mobility restrictions, moratoriums and cash support. The increased savings are arguably involuntary, and mostly in liquid assets, which may likely be drawn upon when consumer confidence improves,” the report noted.

Malaysia’s Health Tourism To Focus On Cardio, Cancer And Fertility

National agency Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council is on a mission to promote the country as a safe and trusted destination for international travelers seeking medical treatments, particularly in cardiology, cancer and fertility, the three mainstays of its health tourism sector.

“We are preparing to move forward with greater resilience to enhance the health tourism sector,” says Mohd Daud Mohd Arif, the CEO of MHTC.

Between 2011 and 2019, Malaysia’s medical tourism market grew from around US$130 million to nearly US$400 million, an average of 16% annual growth. Indeed, the figure would be many times higher if the larger health tourism sector—which would include people traveling for wellness pursuits, preventive and rehabilitative care as well as medical treatments—was taken into account.

“We are preparing to move forward after the pandemic with greater industry resilience to enhance the health tourism sector, bearing in mind the new expectations of the international traveler seeking treatment abroad,” says Mohd Daud Mohd Arif, the CEO of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).

MHTC is a national agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Health tasked with promoting the nation as an international healthcare destination and the Malaysia Healthcare brand. The agency also serves as a one-stop center for all matters related to healthcare travel—ranging from business development and facilitation to regulation and handling of inquiries.

Drivers of Health Tourism

Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest growing regions in the world for healthcare tourism with countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea often featuring prominently among the top travel destinations. The region has long been popular for elective and cosmetic procedures, but recent years have seen an increasing number of patients opting for more complex procedures such as heart surgery and cancer treatment in countries like Malaysia.

Among the factors driving medical tourists to Malaysia are lower costs, shorter waiting times for physicians and specialists, world-class service, compliance with international standards, and the availability of the latest medical technologies.

A broad range of healthcare services, including preventive and rehabilitative care, are available in Malaysia but its niche is in three key specialties: cardiology, cancer and fertility treatments.

With the trend moving towards digitalization, several hospitals and service providers in Malaysia are also starting to offer telemedicine as an option. Private hospitals such as Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV), Pantai and Gleneagles hospitals have started teleconsultation services to allow patients to receive health advice at home from doctors online.

Recognizing the importance of digitalization, MHTC is working with other national agencies and stakeholders to build and implement a digital framework primarily to enhance the digital touchpoints for travelers entering Malaysia for healthcare.

“One of the silver linings of the Covid-19 pandemic is the accelerated adoption of digitalization—both by service providers and patients, who are very quickly learning to use technology to get information and services,” says Mohd Daud.

Cardiovascular Care: The Heartbeat of Asia

“Over the last decade, Malaysia has achieved worldwide recognition as the ‘Cardiology Hub of Asia,’ thanks to our hardworking medical fraternity and healthcare infrastructure,” explains Mohd Daud.

The Cardiac Vascular Sentral Kuala Lumpur attracts patients to Malaysia for safe, trusted and affordable treatments.

“We have 48 advanced cardiology centers, like the renowned national heart institute, Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), and the award-winning Cardiac Vascular Sentral Kuala Lumpur (CVSKL), which are attracting patients to Malaysia for safe, trusted, reliable and affordable treatments,” he adds.

In July 2020, IJN made a breakthrough when it became the first hospital outside the U.S. to successfully implant a Micra AV pacemaker, an implantable device for the treatment of a slow heart rate, in a patient.

IJN is also well-known for its pediatric cardiology, with facilities and infrastructure that cater to babies and children.

CVSKL, meanwhile, is home to an integrated cardiac and vascular hospital, driven by six Center of Excellence programs: cardiac diagnostics, arrhythmia, heart and lung, structural heart, vascular and endovascular, and the complex high-risk indicated procedures (CHIP).

Establishing the Cancer Care Center of Excellence

“In the field of oncology, we are also gaining worldwide recognition as the ‘Cancer Care Center of Excellence’ in the region while our oncologists and researchers have been making headline news around the world. In a recent study by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Malaysia was named as the third most prepared country in Asia-Pacific to battle cancer,” says Mohd Daud.

“As the world adjusts to the new normal after the pandemic, the number of people heading abroad, pairing travel with treatments, will increase again.”

Mohd Daud

Earlier this year, Cancer Research Malaysia, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), announced that it had built the largest genetic and genomic database of Asian breast cancers to date. This database opens the door to improving precision medicine for Asian breast cancer patients.

Last year, SJMC launched a patient access program to provide genetic next generation sequencing (NGS) of lung cancer at substantially reduced costs. Working in collaboration with AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the private hospital acquired the most advanced version of the NGS machine, part of a new technological platform that shortens the time from diagnosis to commencement of targeted treatment for lung cancer.

Malaysia’s fertility centers deliver success rates that are above the global average.

Asia’s Fertility Hub Giving Hope to Dreams

One of the most popular services sought by medical tourists is fertility treatment. Malaysia’s fertility centers are making good progress with success rates that are above the global average cementing the country’s position as the “Fertility Hub of Asia.”

Fertility centers in Malaysia provide a range of advanced treatments including oncofertility and AI technology for fertility viability testing, besides in vitro fertilization (IVF). For IVF treatments, the success rate is one out of every two patients received.

“Out of the 30 fertility centers worldwide with Reproductive Technology Accreditation Certification (RTAC), eight are located in Malaysia,” says Mohd Daud.

RTAC is awarded by the Fertility Society of Australia, which sets a code of practice for fertility centers in quality management systems, process controls, service requirements and qualifications of key personnel.

A Safe and Trusted Healthcare Destination

There are more than 200 private hospitals in Malaysia offering medical treatments ranging from fertility, cardiology and oncology to orthopedics, neurology and health screenings.

To attract more medical tourists, Malaysia Healthcare continually elevates the quality of healthcare and service offerings, while at the same time looking into enhancing the overall patient journey.

“We want to tell the world that Malaysia is not only a safe and trusted healthcare destination but it also offers a strong value proposition as our hospital fees are regulated by the government while our medical facilities and services are world-class and easily accessible with a short waiting time,” says Mohd Daud.

Early in November, the country launched the “Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025,” a comprehensive plan to revive the industry and forge resilience. With buy-in from both the public and private sectors, the plan aims to build confidence in Malaysia as a safe and trusted healthcare travel destination.

“For 2022, we are looking at a modest target of US$200 million in medical tourism receipts, but by 2025, we hope to see the country back on track to contributing US$1.67 billion towards the national economy,” says Mohd Daud.

Malaysia is starting to see a declining number of Covid-19 cases, with more than 90% of its adult population already inoculated, one of the highest vaccination rates in the region.

“Eventually our national borders will be reopened to international travelers from countries with a low incidence of Covid-19 cases. We want to ensure that those entering Malaysia for medical treatments can do so with the feeling of being safe and protected. We are currently working to enhance our infrastructure to support a seamless patient experience at all touchpoints.” says Mohd Daud.

“As the world adjusts to the new normal after the pandemic, the number of people heading abroad, pairing travel with treatments, will increase again,” he adds.

Malaysia’s Halal Business Is Going Global

National agency Halal Development Corporation Berhad is on a mission to synergize Malaysia’s halal ecosystem with the global market, paving the way for the onboarding of more industry players both at home and abroad.

“Halal is a way of doing business,” says Hairol Ariffein Sahari, the CEO of HDC.

With an estimated market size of US$3 trillion in 2020 in terms of potential consumption by Muslim consumers, the halal industry is big business. Indeed, this figure grows to US$30 trillion if potential consumption of halal products and services by non-Muslims are considered, making it a market that is difficult for business-focused governments and corporations to ignore.

This is according to Malaysia’s Halal Development Corporation Berhad (HDC), a government-backed agency tasked with promoting the Halal Malaysia brand worldwide and attracting foreign investment into the country’s 14 halal parks.

An Arabic term that literally translates as “permissible,” halal refers to a set of rules in Islam dictating permissible practices. These mainly involve food and beverages, but also covers services such as logistics and other products with halal ingredients.

“In 2020, Malaysia exported halal products worth over US$7.2 billion into a US$3 trillion market, so there is a huge supply and demand gap for us to fill,” says Hairol Ariffein Sahari, the CEO of HDC.

Established in 2006 under Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, HDC facilitates the nation’s halal economic growth by developing key initiatives, cultivating future talent and positioning the country as the leader of the global halal industry.

As the custodian of Malaysia’s halal economy, HDC also facilitates the onboarding of industry players into the halal ecosystem and helps them to grow into bigger players by tapping the global market.

Internationalizing the Halal Business

To take its initiatives global, HDC is introducing its new Muslim Friendly Guidelines (MFG), which will detail standards and regulations for the halal industry covering sectors like retail, tourism and medical. MFG will initially be introduced to countries/territories in East Asia such as China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Malaysia’s certified halal products will also be showcased within MFG, and priority will be given to companies registered with HDC’s online Halal Integrated Platform (HIP).

The Malaysia Pavilion at Dubai’s World Expo 2020.

“To give an example, let’s say a chain of retail stores in Japan adopted MFG. They can then tap into our system to access a wide range of halal-certified products. Through the system, they can also find other companies to assist with logistics, quality assurance and volume,” explains Hairol.

HDC launched its proprietary HIP initiative in September with the aim of connecting Malaysia’s halal industry players with the international market. Since inception, around 5,000 entities have registered as members, including banks, government agencies and halal park operators.

Global Halal Ecosystem Assessment

In August, HDC announced a collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) to conduct an assessment of the halal ecosystems in 22 countries. The study will help to identify key components of the halal industry in the countries involved, including best practices and gap analysis.

The overarching objective of the Global Halal Ecosystem Assessment and subsequent government-to-government reports is to enhance cooperation between countries with halal ecosystems, especially among the 10 ASEAN countries, the 57 member countries of IsDB’s Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the 40 countries on the International Monetary Fund’s Advanced Economies list.

The findings and recommendations of the assessment will become important resources for policymakers, industry players and researchers, leading to new partnerships, trade, investment and business matching.

HDC will also be undertaking literature reviews, information-gathering and data analyses, starting with Malaysia before expanding to countries/territories in Asia-Pacific such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as selected countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“As we move to internationalize our business, we will share our knowledge globally so that more halal industry players will understand our ecosystem and desire to create mutually beneficial business partnerships with us,” says Hairol.

From November 14 to 20 this year, HDC will co-host the Halal Cluster Week event at Dubai’s World Expo 2020 (Malaysia Pavilion), together with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation. One of HDC’s objectives is to position Malaysia as both a thought leader in the global halal market and as an international halal economy enabler. During the event, HDC will promote the Halal Malaysia brand, boost halal exports from Malaysia, explore new market opportunities, and attract up to US$80 million in potential trade and investment.

“There are several strategic initiatives lined up, including plans to introduce our halal products and services to the Economic Community of West African States via our existing partnership with the African Institute of Islamic Finance (AIIF), and initial discussions to collaborate with an Islamic financial institution to start a fund to support halal trade,” says Hairol.

The proposed fund is expected to benefit both Malaysian companies expanding overseas and foreign companies planning to set up in the country’s halal parks eventually using Malaysia as a gateway to the lucrative ASEAN halal market, which is estimated to be worth around US$900 billion annually.

The halal market is diverse, and HDC works with central coordinators and trade agencies around the world—especially those that have the full support of their respective governments—for joint economic cooperation and mutual recognition of halal products and services. Agencies that HDC has worked with include the Japan External Trade Organization, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council. HDC also has project-based collaborations and agreements with organizations such as the AIIF and the Korea Institute of Halal Industry.

Post-pandemic Opportunities

There are 200,000 industry players in Malaysia involved in various halal sectors including food, beverages, cosmetics, personal care items, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and logistics, but less than 5% are halal certified. And among the 5%, or 10,000, who are certified, only 3,000 are exporters of halal products.

“In order for us to increase our halal exports, which have been hovering around the US$7 billion to US$10 billion mark for the past few years, we need to encourage more industry players to be certified and grow to become exporters,” says Hairol.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic first started in 2020, investment in our halal parks stopped. However, by the second half of the year, around US$30 million started to flow in. This shows that, even during a crisis, there will be resilient players who will take the opportunity to prepare for better times ahead. The pandemic actually fueled a greater demand for halal products such as food and personal care items,” he adds.

In preparation for a post-pandemic recovery, HDC will roll out several initiatives, and one of them is a project in collaboration with Malaysia’s Department of Statistics to compile halal data analytics and intelligence reports covering various halal activities.

Malaysia as a Thought Leader in the Global Halal Business

Malaysia has a 40-year history pioneering the development of the halal industry, and it has become the reference center for more than 150 countries. The country’s thought leadership in halal development has created opportunities for trade, development and employment in Malaysia and abroad. Today, Malaysia’s halal industry goes beyond certification, manufacturing standards, best practices and training, as it has grown to include trade, development and nation-building.

“Halal has evolved to become a philosophy and a way of doing business while generating wealth for the economy. It is strategic in nature and has a direct impact on the country’s GDP. Ideally, when people want to do business, we would want them to consider doing halal business. And when people invest, we want them to consider investing in shariah-compliant businesses,” says Hairol.

Transforming Cyberjaya Into A Global Tech Hub

With the new Cyberjaya Masterplan, Cyberview Managing Director Najib Ibrahim is set to steer the smart city to greater heights, turning it into an irresistible destination for technology investments.

For more than two decades, Cyberjaya has been the preferred investment destination and business hub in Malaysia for many global multinationals, especially those specializing in technology such as China Mobile International, Dell, Ericsson, HTC Global, Huawei, Modality Systems and many more.

As part of the country’s efforts to grow Cyberjaya into a smart city and global tech hub, Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the master developer of the tech city, has been mandated by the government to revitalize Cyberjaya with the launch of the new Cyberjaya Masterplan.

To enhance Cyberjaya’s position as the premier tech investment destination in Southeast Asia, Cyberview’s new Masterplan is built around three technology clusters—Smart Mobility, Smart Healthcare and Digital Creative—spread across four zones: South, North, West and Downtown.

According to Cyberview’s Managing Director Najib Ibrahim, South Cyberjaya, which is also known as the Innovation District, is a fundamental component of the Masterplan as it anchors the development of the three tech clusters. This means that innovative solutions developed in South Cyberjaya can be commercialized and deployed to the other zones.

“Companies can be assured that setting up in Cyberjaya means they are entering an ecosystem that will ultimately drive real results with commercial value,” says Najib

Ibrahim, adding that the initiatives under the Masterplan are estimated to contribute about US$60 billion (RM250 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and to create 87,000 job opportunities by 2045.

Cyberview also acts as a one-stop center for investors, businesses and entrepreneurs who are keen to expand their presence in the tech city, assisting with activities such as business matchmaking and talent development, among others. “The Masterplan is expected to attract over 1,200 companies to Cyberjaya,” adds Najib Ibrahim.

A Unique Location

Cyberjaya is strategically located adjacent to Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya, with easy access to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Kuala Lumpur city center. It also has the highest concentration of colocation data centers in the country.

In addition, Cyberjaya has direct access to a wide pool of talent, with seven established universities and colleges located within the smart city to nurture future talents that meet industry needs. Najib Ibrahim explains that Cyberview facilitates initiatives that match university students’ interests with the in-demand skills required by businesses today. The company also works closely with academic institutions to provide internship facilitation and various tech and entrepreneurship-related upskilling initiatives. “We strive to bridge the skills gap through relevant upskilling programs to improve employability and nurture high-value, knowledge-based workers,” he says.

The Malaysian government, meanwhile, offers attractive incentives to lure companies to Cyberjaya, including tax exemptions of up to 100% for ten years, capital allowances, double deductions, and competitive research and development funding to eligible investors.

These infrastructure, talent pool and governmental incentives have attracted many tech companies to be part of the Cyberjaya community, from multinationals to up-and-coming startups. Since its inception in 1996, Cyberjaya has attracted at least US$16.77 billion (RM70 billion) worth of investments, and today it is an incubator for many of the country’s fastest-growing tech companies, such as The Lorry, Moovby and MHub.

A Soft Landing Zone

To further enhance Cyberjaya’s ecosystem, the company recently introduced the CoSpace Soft Landing Zone. This functions as a launchpad that is tailor-made for startups, technology companies and ecosystem partners looking to establish a base or expand operations. “The space aims to provide ease of entry for foreign companies into Malaysia by allowing a quick and convenient process for them to penetrate new markets within the country as well as the region via Cyberjaya,” says Najib Ibrahim.

Other benefits of the launchpad include subsidized rental rates for office space and the provision of shared facilities, as well as access to key government agencies, ecosystem partners and industry players within the tech city.

The response to the CoSpace Soft Landing Zone has already been encouraging. “To date, despite the closing of borders due to the pandemic, we have received applications from companies to be based at CoSpace. These applications are currently at the final stages of evaluation and are in the areas of machine learning, cloud computing and data analytics, to name a few,” says Najib Ibrahim.

Cyberview Sdn Bhd Managing Director Najib Ibrahim expects the new Masterplan to attract over 1,200 companies to Cyberjaya.

“I believe we have all the ingredients, from infrastructure to talent and policies, to strengthen Cyberjaya’s position as a global tech hub.”

– Najib Ibrahim

Strong Progress Made

Besides the launchpad, Cyberview has also formed the Collaboration Campus to facilitate development of the three tech clusters in a single location. It offers companies the opportunity to scale up their tech solutions, such as a large physical space for the testing of autonomous vehicles and a huge field for drone testing.

Within the Collaboration Campus, there is also the 5G Open Lab. The lab provides participants with the means to test and incubate 5G-enabled solutions. “To date, there have been 25 test cases conducted at the lab in the areas of smart city, smart healthcare, smart mobility and digital creative,” says Najib Ibrahim.

Cyberview is also working closely with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), and both parties inked a memorandum of understanding last year to leverage each other’s strengths to attract foreign and domestic direct investments. “Through this partnership, 12 fiscal incentives are made available for businesses in Cyberjaya including tax exemptions,” says Najib Ibrahim. “On top of that, we also have a dedicated team that regularly engages with potential investors globally.”

As part of Cyberview’s commitment to ensure its tenants’ and community’s sustainability, it has also embarked on various initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic, such as providing businesses with rent relief of up to six months. “To date, 95 companies have benefited from this incentive, amounting to a total value of about US$360,000 (RM1.5 million) in business relief in the form of rental moratoriums and discounts,” he says.

To further improve Cyberjaya’s connectivity to other business hubs, a mass rapid transit development is underway, and is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Last year, SJMC launched a patient access program to provide genetic next generation sequencing (NGS) of lung cancer at substantially reduced costs. Working in collaboration with AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the private hospital acquired the most advanced version of the NGS machine, part of a new technological platform that shortens the time from diagnosis to commencement of targeted treatment for lung cancer.

Digital Creative is one of the three technology clusters under Cyberjaya’s new Masterplan.

A Global Tech Hub

Cyberjaya is not alone in the tech city space, of course, and there are many other tech cities emerging in other parts of Asia. Najib Ibrahim points out that no two markets are the same as each market has its own unique set of propositions with varying values, benefits and perks for businesses and investors.

“Instead of competing with the other markets, we hope to join forces with them for the greater good, engage in knowledge-sharing and collaborate for better market access within the region,” he says. “I believe we have all the ingredients, from infrastructure to talent and policies, to strengthen Cyberjaya’s position as a global tech hub, and I am confident that it will make an attractive destination for technology investments.”


Symmetry The Backbone To Silverlake Axis’ Success

Founder Goh Peng Ooi and Group Managing Director Andrew Tan reveal how symmetry has been essential to Silverlake Axis’ success for more than 30 years, and how its recent transformation program will help the company reach even greater heights.

Singapore Exchange-listed Silverlake Axis Ltd, a company known for providing core banking solutions, has grown tremendously since it was established in 1990. Now in its 31st year of operations, Silverlake Axis counts three of the five largest—and eight of the 20 largest—banks in Southeast Asia as customers.

According to Founder and Executive Chairman Goh Peng Ooi, Silverlake Axis’ success has been largely driven by its application of symmetry.

“Symmetry is the study of innateness and properties without human intervention… Obviously, it applies across many areas of our life, and it is the backbone of Silverlake Axis’ evolution and successes,” says Goh, a passionate mathematical thinker.

Goh Peng Ooi, Founder and Executive Chairman, Silverlake Axis

“Symmetry will be the backbone for the company’s future game plan. It is also the basis for the fourth industrial revolution.”

– Goh Peng Ooi

Goh adds that Silverlake Axis’ motto of “Symmetry at Work” has helped the company to differentiate itself from its competitors. “Our growth, our sales, are largely driven by word-of-mouth. This allows us to be focused on developing the right products, and not be distracted by the noises competitors make,” he says.

Silverlake Axis’ footprint today has expanded beyond Southeast Asia, as its solutions are now deployed by more than 380 enterprise customers from 80 countries.

Just as its commitment to symmetry has helped Silverlake Axis to grow into a company with a market capitalization of well above US$500 million, Goh says that, “Symmetry will be the backbone for the company’s future game plan. It is also the basis for the fourth industrial revolution.”

Remaining Competitive in the Age of Digitalization

Digitalization has disrupted many businesses and industries globally. The hotel, taxi and entertainment industries, for example, have drastically changed as a result of the emergence of new tech companies. The financial sector has also been affected, as banks seek to meet their clients’ evolving demand for more efficient services delivered across various channels and touchpoints.

As a result of digitalization in the financial industry, Silverlake Axis, which traditionally competes against incumbent core banking solutions providers, is now competing against new, nimble, fast-growing financial technology (fintech) companies. However, thanks to its application of symmetry, Silverlake Axis is able to remain competitive, even against fintech firms.

Silverlake Axis helps banks transform with its Straight Through Banking solutions.

Group Managing Director Andrew Tan Teik Wei says the company, via its newly developed MÖBIUS solution, won a major project from a bank in Thailand recently, beating a field of fintech companies in the process. “We have secured our first win, and we are on track to deliver. We have confidence in MÖBIUS and our capabilities,” he says.

“Banks want a reliable vendor that understands their business and their pain points, and which can assist them in the digital age. Silverlake Axis is the perfect platform. We are a one-stop shop, and this shop has been around for more than 30 years. We are time-tested and deep-rooted here for our customers, with a 100% implementation track record,” Tan says.

MÖBIUS a Key Growth-driver

Most banks understand the benefits of embarking on the journey of digitalization and adopting fintech solutions. However, they also understand that it is important to keep their legacy core financial systems, explains Tan. The challenge, therefore, is to be able to adopt fintech solutions without jeopardizing the core banking system.

“This is where MÖBIUS will help banks to get to where they want to go from a digital perspective,” says Tan. “It allows them to do it at the pace they are comfortable with.”

MÖBIUS is a cloud-native open banking platform for banks seeking to transform their traditional operating model into a digital one without affecting their legacy core banking infrastructure.

“MÖBIUS is a solution that banks can rely on to do a range of things for them. It comes in modules, and it allows them to scale without disrupting the legacy system. For example, a bank can start with digitalizing their personal loan business, and once they are comfortable with it, then we can help them to do the same for their credit card business,” he explains.

Tan adds that some banks may make mistakes in their digital transformation journey, for example by taking on solutions that do not give them the intended return on their investment. Silverlake Axis understands core banking systems and how banks work end-to-end, and are thus most suited to helping banks to transform through their digital journey.

“What we have learned over the years is that there is no one-size-fits-all transformation journey for banks. Vendors that offer disjointed, siloed solutions would not cut it,” says Tan.

Andrew Tan, Group Managing Director, Silverlake Axis

“Banks want a reliable vendor that understands their business and their pain points, and which can assist them in the digital age. Silverlake Axis is the perfect platform.”

– Andrew Tan

Re-strategizing for Future Growth

During the coronavirus pandemic, Silverlake Axis has also embarked on a five-year transformation program, so that it is able to validate and determine its strategic directions for the future.

“The transformation and restructuring programs are not just for the pandemic, but also to better position Silverlake Axis post-pandemic,” Tan says.

Under the transformation program, Silverlake Axis will focus on growing its banking and insurance segments. “We have a strong base of clients in the banking and insurance sectors. This base is our crown jewel. We not only need to retain this base, but also to drive greater realization value from this base. More importantly, the transformation program allows us to be more laser-focused in servicing the existing base,” he adds.

With the ongoing coronavirus vaccination programs by many Southeast Asian nations progressing on track, and health experts and governments expecting Covid-19 to become endemic, businesses are preparing for the eventual reopening of the economy. Tan says he is optimistic that Silverlake Axis will continue to perform well for its financial year ending 30 June 2022, as rising economic activity could drive banks to further invest in digitalization solutions.

“Our deal pipeline is also very strong. We have a gross deal pipeline of close to US$358.12 million [RM1.5 billion],” he says. “I am optimistic that we can achieve growth, both top and bottom line, this financial year.”


Realigning Business Strategies With A Focus On ESG

An increasing number of governments and corporations around the world are looking at Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) factors as part of their contribution towards sustainability, and Top Glove is no exception, with 2021 designated the company’s “Year of ESG”.

“We’re committed to ESG,” says Top Glove Corporation Bhd Founder and Executive Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai.

A sense of euphoria swept through Top Glove, the world’s largest manufacturer of gloves, on September 10, 2021 when news broke that its Malaysia made products had been cleared for entry into the North American market again. The company received the green light from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection after 14 months of hard work to allay concerns over labor issues.

“The past year has been both challenging and humbling, and we learned valuable lessons. Looking at it positively, we were able to improve, grow stronger and become more resilient as a company,” says Top Glove Corporation Bhd Founder and Executive Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai.

“We will continue to rapidly realign our business strategies and ensure that all our operations remain uninterrupted while complying with the guidelines set by the authorities,” Lim adds.

Committed to ESG

Top Glove has made 2021 its “Year of ESG” and pledged to remain committed to sustainable growth while doing business in a way that is ethically, socially and environmentally responsible.

Lim explains that the company cannot just be good at producing gloves, it also needs to be the best at producing these products in a sustainable way with buy ins from management, employees, stakeholders and across the supply chain.

Converting to renewable energy with the use of more solar panels at Top Glove.

The company has set several environmental goals, including reducing its carbon emissions and water consumption by 25% and 34% respectively by 2025, as well as minimizing waste being sent to landfills by 10%.

Top Glove’s focus on social issues has also been intensified, and there will be more consultations with experts on labor issues such as the worker recruitment process, employment terms, training and workplace safety, among others.

The company has 22,000 employees and factories in Malaysia, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Staff wellbeing is managed by a team of in house doctors, nurses, nutritionists and counsellors. To improve living quarters and amenities for some of its 13,000 workers in Malaysia, Top Glove will invest a total of US$53 million to build new accommodation.

In the area of corporate governance, Top Glove continues to uphold the principles of honesty, integrity and transparency. Professionals are engaged by the company to conduct board evaluations while the tenure of its independent directors is capped at nine years.

Moving forward, the company will continue to emphasize ESG as it transitions to being a low carbon glove manufacturer. At the end of the fiscal year 2021, Top Glove’s sales revenue totaled US$4 billion, an increase of 127% over the previous year. The North American market accounted for approximately 24% of the company’s worldwide sales in 2020 and the company expects its shipments from Malaysia to the U.S. to return to normal capacity as early as December 2021.

“While the road ahead is expected to be bumpy, we believe Top Glove is well prepared to weather the storm, just as we always have in the past because our company foundation is strong,” says Lim.

Turning Headwinds Into Opportunities

The pioneering MedTech startup BookDoc pivoted during the pandemic to help Malaysia cope while boosting its business opportunities.

Dato’ Chevy Beh, Founder and CEO of BookDoc

The pandemic has upended many Malaysian businesses over the past 18 months, with even normally resilient industries such as healthcare drastically affected as the downturn took its toll on every sector. And, according to Dato’ Chevy Beh, Founder and CEO of MedTech startup BookDoc, the world cannot go back to the way it was before.

“Healthcare around the world, and especially for us here in Southeast Asia, has changed forever. While I take no joy in what has happened, I see BookDoc as a part of the broader cog in the wheel to help people take control of their health during this unprecedented period,” he says.

BookDoc launched in Malaysia in 2015 by connecting individual patients with medical care professionals of their choice. Through its eponymous app, the startup created a sustainable ecosystem between doctors, individual and corporate patients, and the insurance industry.

Since then, BookDoc has expanded its presence to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. In Malaysia, it continues to grow its portfolio of partner organizations, which include the Ministry of Education, the Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Army. It has also promoted advances in wearable technology such as smart watches to monitor patients around the clock and help them make better decisions through regular updates about their health.

As the pandemic swept through Malaysia in 2020, BookDoc was active in helping the nation’s healthcare system cope. It developed a queue management system, where patients were asked to schedule their appointments at clinics through the BookDoc app. In total, the booking platform supported 500 government clinics and helped them manage queues and practice social distancing.

The BookDoc app is used to track health metrics and book appointments.

BookDoc also introduced a number of novel ideas to aid the country’s battle against Covid-19. The first was “lab uberization”—conducting real-time PCR tests by going to people’s homes and offices instead of waiting for them to come into test centers. As well as this, the company organized online webinars to educate the public by delivering information on Covid-19 and other health issues such as sleep disorders and weight management. In addition, BookDoc managed three large vaccination centers for the government and set up a teleconsultation service to conduct follow ups for 50 clinics.

But as resilient as BookDoc was throughout these 18 months, Beh acknowledges that the company faced several impediments to its operations, especially since the emergence of the highly infectious Covid-19 Delta variant this year.

“Running these services wasn’t easy given the lockdown restrictions we faced. We had operational issues such as having to mobilize staff to work on shifts rather than fixed hours. We had to reorganize our limited manpower in the shortest time possible so that we don’t fail our patients,” says Beh.

“Take our lab uberization efforts for example; we need to ensure scheduled appointments work like clockwork to ensure all the tests are administered in a timely and accurate manner so that the results will not be delayed. We also had to ensure our logistical support was efficient so that our staff have the right equipment to do their jobs, such as having enough personal protective equipment,” he adds.

BookDoc has to date expanded to five Asian markets.

However, Beh says the biggest challenges for BookDoc weren’t the logistical or scheduling issues but keeping BookDoc’s staff motivated and morale high throughout the pandemic. “We had to constantly keep team members updated and abreast of the latest information. This helped motivate them to put in the extra hours and effort to meet the short-term surge in demand for healthcare services as they were inspired to help the nation fight against Covid-19,” he says.

Overcoming Challenges

Besides the internal challenges faced by BookDoc in running its business, Beh says there were other external factors that the company had to navigate, the most difficult of which was planning.

“Unlike marketing plans that are relatively predictable, Covid-19 was anything but. The coronavirus kept wreaking havoc on us. For instance, just as the country appeared to have been successful in containing the outbreak by September 2020, the number of cases spiked again. And in the first quarter of 2021, when things got better after the second wave, the third wave came. Exacerbating this was the advent of the Delta strain, which we now know is six to ten times more infectious than the original strain,” says Beh.

As a result, the efforts undertaken by BookDoc had to keep shifting, and this made it difficult to plan effectively as the situation was so dynamic. Beh says it was only through repeated iterations of trial and error that BookDoc was able to get a handle on these changes.

“At the end of the day, we still have a job to do and we are true to our mission, which is to connect and unite patients and healthcare providers, giving them seamless care.”

– MDato’ Chevy Beh

“Our staff were involved with working at one of the three vaccination centers we managed. These centers cater to thousands of people at any given time. At the same time we had another set of staff answering queries on the lab uberization testing,” says Beh. “All these meant that we had to get better at what we were doing and become more efficient at our tasks. But we are thankful that the team managed to adjust and even thrive as we became more used to it.”

Continued Efforts

Malaysia has thankfully done relatively well in vaccinating its people to date. According to the Ministry of Health’s COVIDNOW website, the country’s adult vaccination rate stands at more than 90% while the rate for the entire population stands at 70% as of October. The government expects the total vaccination rate to rise to 80% by the end of December.

A large vaccination center managed by BookDoc and two other operators.

Still, Beh feels that the country is not out of the woods yet and that it needs to accept Covid-19 is here to stay. Ultimately, people have to learn to live with the virus in the same way as they do with influenza.

“Vaccination has proven to be effective against the virus and so the government should continue to vaccinate the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, those who want to enjoy extra benefits such as being able to travel domestically and overseas must be vaccinated,” says Beh. “If there is an outbreak somewhere in the country, the government should implement a short, targeted lockdown of that area or district rather than the whole country.”

Beh also believes that Malaysia has learned a lot from the past two years. “As a nation, we need to always be ready and prepared for the worst but hope for the best,” he says.

“As for businesses, we need to be ready to move swiftly and turn crises into opportunities. For us at BookDoc, we put a team together quickly and pivoted to introduce lab uberization to conduct real-time PCR tests and also helped the government to manage their clinics. By doing so, we managed to turn headwinds into tailwinds and mitigate against lost business opportunities while still being able to serve the country. At the end of the day, we still have a job to do and we are true to our mission, which is to connect and unite patients and healthcare providers, giving them seamless care.”

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