Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Some perspectives

These are interesting times for Malaysia. For the many who trawl the cyberspace for alternative news the hunting must be deliriously good. There is no shortage of negative views.

This gives rise to an interesting question. Many people blame the media for propagating sensational and negative news. But, then, why do cyberspace trawlers, who have the power to decide what websites to click on, decide to visit sites and blogs that spew bad news and negative views?

We would think that people who abhor sensational news would actively avoid it. But it never happens.

Let's face it. There is a dark, voyeuristic tendency in all of us. If there is a hole in the fence cladding that has a sign, "Do not peep", most of us will not be able to resist the temptation of a peek.

This is where things stand.

Malaysians read the mainstream news and Malaysians read the alternative media.

Too much information (not necessarily knowledge) results in information overload. Those who have no perspective and who do not read books and rely chiefly on the internet for reading material will suffer from a form of vertigo.

It is not easy to remember good news. It is impossible to forget bad news.

So, it is likely that you will forget this posting because it's about good things.

I have been associated in an advisory capacity with a European multinational for some years. They've had a sales office outpost in Malaysia for several years. The brands and products they sell reaches the retail level. So, it is likely that you would have had contact with their range of brands and products. Since this is not a paid advertorial, I will not give you any names.

Two years ago, this MNC decided to acquire a Malaysian SME based in Johor. The gross annual revenue for the SME was about RM20 million a year. It had good manufacturing and production practices that impressed the MNC.

Post-acquisition and fastforward to today, this SME is no longer an SME by definition. It's gross annual revenue has ballooned to nearly RM100 million a year. The SME is now part of the MNC's global supply chain.

Mind you, the MNC's Asian footprint is very large with a natural gravitation centred in its production bases around the coastal manufacturing hubs of mainland China. 

But, after the successful experience of acquiring a Malaysian SME this MNC continued to scour Malaysia to look for more gems - more diamonds in the rough.

And, you know what?

They found not one, but two more SMEs that met with their high production and manufacturing criteria. One is in Selangor,the other in Malacca.

So, the acquisition process is in earnest progression.

The good news, my fellow Malaysians, is that there are many Malaysian SMEs that are capable of becoming world-class.

Having said that, our challenge as a nation is to nurture these SMEs to go beyond making products for international brands (OEM - original equipment manufacturing) to creating and establishing their own brands.

In this way, Malaysian SMEs will be able to sustain its Malaysian ownership.

Although I am proud to have seen three Malaysian SMEs being highly regarded by my MNC associates, I will be prouder still if it is our Malaysian SMEs that can hold their own and grow themselves into partners of equal standing with the MNCs.


Raison D'etre said...

You're absolutely correct. I've already forgotten what it was you posted :)

Tell you a story:
I attended a 2-day HRDF training recently - they're basically catering for SMEs - where I met one chap from a manufacturer in Balakong.

Small operation, about 35 odd workers, 2 factory expanding by another later this year and producing plastic resin for international clientele.

Very niche, small volume but good fees.

Certainly opened up my eyes a fair bit.

Mainstream news is so passe. Non mainstream is like gossip, so sinfully juicy.

Anyway, you do get the more readable stuff elsewhere rather than MSM.

de minimis said...

RDM, wassat? Even i have forgotten what I wrote :(

walla said...

It seems i can't remember anything these days which may actually be a blessing except i have also forgotten why i had thought it would be a blessing.

I have forgotten good news because they are few and far in between and bad news because they have avalanched in so much as to cause a breaking point.

Therefore, i am now in that black hole between the world of good news and the world of bad news, a phenomenon of the universe where all information gets sucked in, and never appears again.

In which case i have, as you're reading this, also forgotten what i have written a second ago.

Which means i can proceed to say i wouldn't consider three local SMEs getting a lifeline from a foreign MNC to be good news even at the individual level.

Because in the context of generational progress, whether in individual business or national development, i think we could have done better, faster and surer.

Some may say this is like saying the glass is half empty when others can see it's actually half full.

But if one were to only see it as half full, it will soon be empty because to fill it to the brim, one must first consume a part of what has already been filled, thereby losing acceleration in a world where first edge no longer emanates from just having velocity.

However if one were to see it as half empty, consternation will prod more sacrifice, ingenuity and gungho creativity to make it not just full but overflowing to compensate for the next round of consumption before production, thereby achieving accelerated progress which is a positive rate of change of velocities.

Because knowing how events in the world tend to foist the law of unintended consequences, mostly negative by statistical inference as one would have noted, conventional wisdom will recommend alarm over encouragement.

We should be alarmed that after half a century of nation-building we are only at the stage of trying to find good news from a local concern getting know-how and know-where from a foreign concern whose primal agenda is to make profits by sourcing for parts where production is cheapest at the quality defined by it in some airy office in Amsterdam or Liverpool.

Those local concerns should be SMEs alright, but not local SMEs. They should be global SMEs writing their own agendas for being the third generation of enterprises in this nation, defining their own designs, value-adds, profit levels, quality standards, and market shares earned by conflating research findings with customer focus and cost analysis.

When we first started, we had farmers, miners and traders. Later we had contractors and OEMs. But what do we have today? Production and manufacturing lines waiting to be acquired so that they can get their big breaks.

We are failing in the third stage of our generational progress. It's not just industrial. Service too. Walk into a condo office, ask for the first aid box and watch how languorous is the response. Buy a RM3 McDonald's sundae and watch how it drips while its size and filling bear no resemblance to the colorful ad displayed.

Why are we failing in this third generation? Let's hazard an uneducated guess. Because we never paid one hundred and ten percent focus on what drives this planet. It's not geomagnetism. It's constant progress built on a solid foundation of constantly teaching best, learning best, craving to do better without fail and really exceeding the last effort. It's paying attention all the time to details.

And this is going to get tougher because attention spans will get shaved the more complicated the world becomes. The more wired, the more distractions, the less focus, the less details-cultivation, the less value, the less profit per unit weight or volume.

Having discharged negative vibes, let's move over to the other corner and start emanating positive vibes.

walla said...


Let's say those acquired SMEs in showing they are of european standards, are but three out of say five thousand of the fifty thousand industrial SMEs, some of course hidden from sight of the bureaucrats.

Since i've already forgotten again that it should be what-was-it vibes, i must therefore conclude the number is paltry for our industrial base being in the third generation. But since others will say we are actually already in the fifth generation, that will only make it worse, doesn't it?

Unfortunately there's also another slant. The neighbor south has articulated it too suffers the same industrial malaise. Not enough brains to do own designs and build globally attuned entrepreneurial successes.

But shall we be relieved knowing so? The problem will still be here because the other hungry economies are racing to bypass countries like ours whose only creative activity seems to be inventing new labels for ourselves...like 'advanced but caring economy'.

If we are really caring, our blue force shouldn't have to take two hours to record a report by a female snatch-thief victim with a bleeding hand only to tell her after that torture to go file it again at another station.

If we are really caring, we should care that our elections are clean.

If we are really caring, we should care that those of our SMEs which are making the real effort will be really supported financially without the curse of racial discrimination by a government only good for lipserving. Maybe that's why the rakyat have become deaf.

If we are really caring, people with poor memories won't have to write in blogosphere to compensate for the almost absence of reality in our illustrious mainstream media. That would also be caring for their poor journalists, men and women of intellectual distinction reduced to burning their candles trying to coax the last juice out of their brains to whitewash what their eyes clearly see as hoary black.

If we are really caring, we won't have to develop memory dementia so as to relieve ourselves from the pain of seeing a nation coast itself into some twilight on the spring of spin.

If our SME successes are predicated on their being acquired, how can they be 'our' in the end?

The only consolation is that the world is flat so it won't matter who owns what so long as there is some activity on our land.

But what we can do, others can also do better.

We need a completely new set of policies for our SMEs. Remove the notion of race. Help all those who are making it. Help them even when their people are trying to learn things in their own schools and colleges. Help them as they build their businesses. Help them as they upscale and upgrade to the next global rung. And keep the bureaucracy and energy-n-money sapping officialdom away. Keep the noxious control-freak racial policies away. Help them to grow and bloom on their own unique human spirit.

If we want our SMEs to thrive on our land, we should first treat them as our national enterprises. Well, shouldn't we?

This post for the what's-his-name? deputy PM. Walk your talk. And do try to get some MSM photo with you and the nonMalays for a change the next time.

Racism killed this country and its enterprises.

Anonymous said...

No good at zen talk, but like to put in my 2 sens.

Two yrs ago, I was toying with the idea of expanding my small, niche engineering operation, located at somewhere of KL.

I faced many authorities ‘obstacles’. Some r even blackmailing me to partake their nominee if I ever wanted to get any fast official approvals for business expansion via licenses &/or grants.

This story is not an isolation that only I’m facing then. I believe, the situation is more prevailing now than ever.

The company is profitable with multiple MNC as clients. I've a reasonably small core group of people, working for me. Within the group, none was Malay M'sian, though I tried very hard, at one time, thinking that with a few good Malay M'sians I could break into the glokals’ business circle. Though, why I couldn't break into the local golkals always defy me. Then, I finally found out that to trade with the glokals, I must have good ‘political connections’ even if I had Malay partners. & I despise sleeping rent-seekers of any kind. More so when I’m doing well on my own.

Hardworking Malay M'sian is a rare find. Qualified & experienced Malay M'sian with a good discipline was a one in a billion chance trial. Why? Simply bcoz, if they r good (begginer level & untested with only a piece of paper), they would be fast-tracked to higher & better paid position. Without due courses of training & exposure in the field, what u got then was a hp6. There were many in the country now. Any wonder why there were/are failures almost throughout the project/management/administration under their cares. The tasks at hand simply overwhelmed them, even with the helps of con-sultants & incidental delegation!

So after some in-field market researches & a generous persuasion from a Scandinavian client, I decided to sell major portion of the company to this investor & move the operation to China.

2 yrs down the road, the company profit has increased more than I can expect if I’d have remained in M’sia. Part of the growth I attributed to the management efficiency that the head office has introduced. The other is the hunger-to-learn attitude of the new workforce in China. All of them r paid equal, or in some case, higher than the M’sian workers I used to have. In a nutshell, the human overhead cost has increased, but this is more than been offset by the production efficiency that the company gained.

Incidentally, all the M’sians who worked for me, r now in senior management within the new setup. Many of them have only bare minimum academic qualification but with tons of experience that one can only accumulated via hardworks & unending tries. They r the proud M’sia export of human expertise! & I strongly believe that there r many of such categories of people in M’sia SME. Many r now been ‘exploited’ by the S’pore companies, earning less than what they should be paid humanly, while the country of origin treat them as dirt, either bcoz of their race &/or lack of paper qualification.

Just a closing statement, many of u might have watched the doc from National Geographic’s megastructure series. Turning Torso in Malmo, Sweden is one of the project highlighted.

Anyone notice that it takes only a gang of 8 tradesmen to construct a single floor in about 8 days. & almost all these tradesmen have no academic papers, except experiences that the industry recognized. They earned better money than many aircon office ‘occupants’ too!

Think about the efficiency. The implementation & coordination. & most of all, the hard earned hand-on experiences that would carry u further. These r the people that moves the real economy of the world.