Malaysian SME

Facebook partnered with MATRADE and Avana to address the digital skills gap among Malaysian SMEs by providing them with valuable training and resources. Source: Shutterstock

Understanding Facebook’s quest to transform Malaysian SMEs

SMALL- AND MEDIUM sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 98.5 percent of businesses in Malaysia, contributing upwards of US$104 billion (RM435.1 billion) to the Malaysian economy every year.

As SMEs position themselves to become key enablers of economic growth, many struggle to digitalize. In Malaysia, many SMEs find that the digital gap between them and their technologically advanced counterparts in China and Japan grows constantly.

Last year, Facebook partnered with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and e-commerce platform Avana to address the digital skills gap among Malaysian SMEs by providing them with training and resources.

The program, titled “Made by Malaysia, Loved by the World,” was created with the aim to help at least 2000 Malaysian SMEs to export their product to the regional market and facilitate cross border transactions.

SMEs were able to pick up skills in market research and digital marketing, and develop an e-commerce presence via training conducted by Facebook to adopt digital solutions and accelerate their growth.

“In our Future of Busines study done in 2018, 97 percent of SMEs told us that social media and online tools are really important in helping them drive their business and transformation for their business,” said Facebook Malaysia Country Director Nicole Tan at a recent coffee chat with the media.

Addressing the challenges

According to Tan, one in 10 Malaysian SMEs are already trading internationally, and this program is perfect for companies which aim to market their products globally.

From engaging with many SMEs in the past year, Tan found that local enterprises face two big challenges — how to attract new customers and how to expand internationally.

“When we were talking to a lot of the SMEs, one thing that struck me was that they do not have the means to do research the way the large companies can. They have very little information on what market to expand into next,” said Tan.

To solve this issue, Facebook has built a tool called Cross Border Insights Finder which helps SMEs make better decisions when entering a new market.

At the coffee session, Facebook told the media that it is preparing to launch phase two of the program, after successfully training 1000 SMEs thus far.

The next of the program will see the addition of DHL Express, which is expected to address critical knowledge gaps in cross border commerce.

“DHL Express will be sharing global insights and learnings that they have done across countries around logistics supplies, which SMEs will find valuable,” Tan said.

Helping Malaysian SMEs go global

One SME which was part of the program is Oleh Elona, a natural skincare company. The founder of the company Tengku Elona told media that the program helped her business.

“Since participating in the program, I’ve seen a significant increase in sales numbers, and I have gained valuable knowledge in expanding my business beyond Malaysia.”.

She added that going digital has allowed her business to be open 24 hours, seven days week, and advertising on digital platforms are quite cost-effective.

Another SME owner, Rose Nizeana, who produces and sell gourmet chili condiments under the brand name Auntie Tim, said the digital platform had allowed her business access broader market.

“We get orders from the Phillippines and Indonesia now, as well as inquiries from Brunei.”

Overall, with Facebook preparing to renew the program with a new partner in tow, Malaysian SMEs will have plenty of exciting opportunities to look forward to in the next year.