So, how do you go global? Why not start with you and your company to think globally, then, you take the next strategic steps. Let’s be honest, international markets beyond Malaysian shores appear daunting to many companies, especially when it comes to establishing the first foothold.
To do so successfully, visibility and branding must play vital roles in solidly building your success. Without visibility, potential customers in both your current and prospective markets will not have sufficient awareness of your company’s brand, products or services and not to forget, opportunities and other business challenges, too, may appear limited in the first phase of market penetration.
In recent years, the process of generating visibility to strengthen branding efforts has become one of our key pillars in the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN) programme. These pillars include enabling market access, enhancing capabilities through mentorship, and providing access to financing ecosystems. To date, this strategy has borne fruit with many GAIN companies benefiting from our initiatives – their profiles were powerfully raised in the global arena such as MDT Innovations Sdn Bhd, Akati Consulting Group and MobilityOne Sdn Bhd. So, what’s the best foot forward?
One of our programmes, The Silicon Valley Immersion is a special programme designed for selected high-growth Malaysia and Malaysia-based technology companies. From this programme, we provide unique opportunities for companies to be ‘immersed’ in innovative ecosystems and disruptive digital business models evolved by renowned and successful technology companies and major partners in Silicon Valley.
A little something along the way, in 2017, the first group of 21 local MSC Malaysia companies were chosen for GAIN’s Silicon Valley Immersion programme with 24 companies the year before. The aim? It’s quite simple actually – ‘to open their eyes’ to the US start-up zone ventures and innovations and surprise surprise, in total, we have about 66 GAIN companies participating in three inaugural Silicon Valley Immersion programmes. The interesting thing about this is, it is carefully curated to ensure GAIN companies get only the best access and networking opportunities; the week-long programme helps companies leverage on the knowledge and on-ground connections established by MDEC Americas to create and test new business ideas for global markets and it doesn’t stop here.
Participating GAIN companies were given opportunities to pitch their products and services to an influential audience derived from Silicon Valley communities of companies, corporate buyers, venture capitals and other potential investors! These kinds of activities have definitely boosted the visibility of the companies and positioned their founders’ profiles as capable thought leaders in their respective digital and technology spaces. To name a few participants, Petronas, MIMOS and the Multimedia University (MMU) have commented that the programme has helped them expand horizons and brought the realisation that Malaysian technology stands shoulder-to-shoulder with their global counterparts. How cool is that?
Believe it or not, this programme has grown from strength to strength, especially by helping local technology companies to drive their branding and visibility initiatives by leveraging with our support – this is our first phase strategy, to help you and companies through immersion, connection and excellence or ICE for short. As MDT Innovations CEO Liew Choon Lian pointed out, “The Silicon Valley Immersion programme has indeed opened up our eyes to the tech scene in the Western world – how they raise funds, do research and drive development. Having that kind of exposure is just one of the many benefits.”
MDT Innovations COO and CTO, Sim Honwai too, mentioned that penetrating the international market for a Malaysian company is very much about managing the perceptions of foreign companies and users and what makes it even more challenging? Don’t be surprised, but many Malaysian companies are not very visible even in their own region. “GAIN has enabled us to increase visibility and in that process, reducing the sales cycles necessary to capture foreign export sales. It also helps greatly in terms of reducing friction when it comes to engaging potential customers.”
As it is now, the matchmaking aspects of the Immersion programme also help to foster deeper collaboration and opportunities for growth. Leading Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider, MDT Innovations has been exporting since 2005 and developed through many hardships due in part to a lack of visibility, making it the more reason why they now appreciated the value in GAIN’s programme because we, the MDEC, and GAIN have indirectly impacted the company’s revenue by providing ancillary values, and truth be told, it’s not as easy to measure.
Since then, the company has surpassed the RM100 million mark in yearly revenue with RM226 million in 2017, which in itself shows how successful the company has been. That may be the right path but Liew believes the company can achieve greater heights in the future. “We’ve attracted a great deal of attention and achieved much international recognition, but we’re not there yet. We have a long way to go and with support, with better branding and visibility, we can achieve a lot more. Branding is vital for us to scale up.”
Here’s another interesting story to tell; security firm Akati Consulting has grown from three consultants to almost 130 consultants today, with 400 clients across five continents and year-on-year growth of 80%! The company’s CEO Krishna Rajagopal even said that the engagement with GAIN has been very positive and know this; the company has since gone on several immersion programmes including the one to Silicon Valley and has gained a deeper understanding of the market and has also connected with ecosystem players for future synergies.
“It has helped us not only with visibility in different parts of the world but also with market intervention and even the go-to-market strategy as well.” Speaking of visibility, Krishna feels that it is pivotal and crucial for the company to be better known especially as their market speciality is none other than cybersecurity. “We’re able to speak to the right interested parties, be it a reseller or direct customer. Participating in these immersion programmes give us the opportunity to expand in the country, increase our clientele and boost the bottom line without increasing the capital expenditure.” With such exposure, you not only drive visibility but you are also establishing credibility for your company in new markets.
A helping hand
Would you believe if we say that the payment specialist MobilityOne has already been with us for several years already? But don’t be surprised, it was only some time ago that they began to be actively involved in the GAIN programmes. Their CEO, Datuk Hussain A Rahman said, “GAIN has helped link us up to new businesses and also investors such as fund managers and potential investors. They’re organising events and ensuring participation by bringing the local technopreneurs together, where we can mingle and exchange ideas.”
While they have been busy developing and stabilising their business and technology, Datuk Hussain is confident that MobilityOne will move more aggressively especially with immersion programmes coming into play. Now, the company has taken part in a few of the GAIN programmes in the last few years and it has helped MobilityOne to better innovate and explore potential business opportunities globally.
To end, here is a little fun fact for you. Did you know that we were involved in the TechMatch Asean 2017 a couple of years back with both Sunway Innovation Labs and the US Market Access Centre Inc? It is another one of our visibility initiatives which have brought together 40 high potential Asean-based start-ups and scale-ups to connect with a group of 20 corporate and angel investors, as well as venture capitalists from Silicon Valley and Europe. The group of select investors collectively represented a fund size of over US$3 billion and get this; it is a part of the global TechMatch Series, which is known for its high success rate in building partnerships with corporate executives and investors in the US and around the world. Now, that’s what we’re talking about.