Friday, September 18

S’wak SMEs need to evolve and expand market reach

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Munir (centre) poses with Raja (right) and Ismail after the media briefing.

KUCHING: Sarawak small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need to evolve and expand their market reach, amid digitisation and competition from online businesses.

Access to funding, larger market, mentors and digitisation are among the problems entrepreneurs and SMEs face, whether locally or globally.

“SMEs have got to actually move fast, otherwise with digitisation and online businesses, they are going to have their backs to the wall.

“A lot of them are afraid, but they have got to move forward. They cannot be afraid,” Asean Business Advisory Council Malaysia (Asean-BAC Malaysia) chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid summarised in a media briefing yesterday.

This followed Asean-BAC’s luncheon dialogue with SMEs yesterday to discuss the challenges, growth and the promising future of SMEs in Sarawak. The event was supported by SME Corp Malaysia.

“Essentially, it has to go on, this dialogue and interaction, not necessarily you sit down and just talk. Get in touch, network, and be in communication, via online nowadays,” Munir added.

“When we talk to Asean-BAC members, at the Asean level, they say Malaysia has got fantastic structure, activities, including in particular, the access to finance, which everybody complains about, not just in Sarawak, but all over Asean.

“The problem is, the companies do not seem to know enough, they haven’t found out enough of what’s available (for SMEs), a lot is available.”

Asean-BAC Malaysia council member Raja Singham explained that the problems entrepreneurs face are almost universal, especially when it comes to funding and market access. However, he stressed that they are looking in to how to assist entrepreneurs or SMEs in addressing these issues.

“In this case, some of the things we look at is access to money (which is why SME Corp is here), access to markets because Sarawak only has a population of about 2.8 million so trying to see whether they can get access to larger markets in West Malaysia and across Asia.

“Thirdly is access to mentors, other people in the industry that they can learn from. One of the things we are looking at is trying to see how to cover these areas,” Raja said.

Meanwhile, SME Corp Sarawak director Ismail Hashim highlighted that for Sarawak, they are going to have a program called ‘Access to financing for SMEs’.

This will be a collaboration between SME Corp, the state government, Bank Negara Malaysia, financial institutions and SME-related agencies. The aim is to organise a program, especially in Kuching, to provide information to SMEs here in terms of financing.

“If SMEs rely on the market in the state, they are going nowhere. They have to go beyond that, at least to West Malaysia or export to other countries. From there, SMEs in Sarawak can go far,” Ismail said.