Malaysia as startup hub important to attract global talent

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must position itself as a hub for to attract the best entrepreneurial talent to be based in the country, said the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).

Its Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem was on par with the world’s best, but Malaysia must brand itself better to get noticed.

“We don’t brand ourselves enough. We have to do more about positioning ourselves. Many countries are attracting the same limited amount of talent. If you don’t shout above the noise, you’re going to be bypassed,” he said in a statement today.

Khairy was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘Reflect, Reset and Reform – Thriving in the New World’ at the eNation technology conference organised by the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) today.

He said Malaysia had the advantage of being an English-speaking country, multicultural, with high-level tertiary education enrolment, relatively high-skilled workforce, and is ranked high in global indices in terms of competitiveness and ease of doing business.

“The incentives we offer are just as competitive as any in the region. It is really about branding this environment,” he added.

He emphasised the importance of a sustainable holistic ecosystem, highlighting that it is more than just establishing trade offices and offering tax incentives.

To attract the best talent, the country needs to have a mission and demonstrate a sense of purpose, such as lowering carbon footprint or ensuring wealth or income equality.

Khairy also said that Malaysia has to position itself as an open economy, given that the domestic market is relatively small.

“Our startup companies have to fill the void and not be afraid to take on big international technology companies to offer personalised, localised services. At the same time, they must not be afraid to take on big regulatory issues as well,” he said.

Khairy urged all ecosystem stakeholders, from government bodies to businesses, to embrace change that is forced upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It presents us with the opportunity to accelerate change that a lot of governments have put off in terms of structural changes to the economy, changes that the corporate world should have done a long time ago in terms of digitisation, digitalisation, automation, and robotics.”

He said even small and medium enterprises, many of whom previously resisted the need to invest in digitisation and digitalisation, had no choice but to embrace change to keep their businesses going.

Khairy also explored the possibility of collecting digital tax from big international technology companies as they are monetising sovereign data.

“We need to have this conversation on a multilateral level on monetisation by big tech companies as they are getting away with it,” he added.

He also emphasised the value of compassion and empathy to businesses as the lockdowns have varying levels of impact on the individual companies or sectors.

“Don’t underestimate the value of compassion or empathy in business. It is important we see this coming through in terms of investments as well,” he said.

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