Driving Malaysia’s digital economy transformation

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Under Dato’ Yasmin’s stewardship, MDeC is growing from strength to strength (photo credit: ACCA, and you can read about ACCA’s perspective here.)Under Dato’ Yasmin’s stewardship, MDeC is growing from strength to strength (photo credit: ACCA, and you can read about ACCA’s perspective here.)

The Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) is one of the key forces driving the nation’s digital economy transformation, which was kick-started in 1996 with the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).

Its chief executive officer Dato’ Yasmin Mahmood Yasmin said a major part of what it does involves attracting foreign direct investments.

“We are part of the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) which rolls up into the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). Malaysia has ranked in the top 3 in AT Kearney’s Global Services Location Index for 10 consecutive years, with only China and India ahead of us,” she said.

MDeC has been cumulatively responsible for securing RM285 bil worth of investments into the country. Yasmin pointed out that the previous year produced sterling results, with an 11% increase in revenue to RM38.52 bil, a huge turnaround from the marginal increase of 3% previously.

Meanwhile, total export sales from MSC Malaysia companies also grew to RM13.73 bil, an 11% increase from the previous year, she added.

But Yasmin, who had a long and distinguished career in the corporate IT world, including stints at Dell and Microsoft before taking on the top job at the government agency, said MDeC’s role doesn’t end at merely bringing in FDI – the corporation also follows through to ensure investments made are successful.

As an example, she points to Scope, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank. It started operations in Malaysia back in 2001 and since then, the company has grown to a local workforce of over 4,000 people. Last year it announced further investments in Malaysia, setting up a 24/7 “Collective Intelligence and Command Centre” here for Standard Chartered’s global operations.

Another example is Scicom, a home-grown MSC company that was supported by MDeC since its beginnings in 1997. Now it’s listed on the KL Stock Exchange and employs close to 2,000 people, servicing over 40 million customers in 90 countries, in 30 different languages.

Creating global icons

Yasmin, who took over as CEO 16 months ago, also touched on the importance of scaling up local companies into global icons.

Though Malaysia may not have yet produced a Microsoft, it has produced the likes of Silverlake, a renowned solutions provider for the global fintech industry; and Fusionex, a multi-award winning Analytics and Big Data company that is based in Malaysia and listed in the London Stock Exchange.

There are many other examples, but Yasmin said in her opinion, many local ICT companies suffer from a start-up ceiling syndrome, that is, they stay in start-up mode, unable to scale-up.

Smaller local companies with technologies at the heart of today’s digital disruption need help to scale up, she said, giving two examples: Speedminer, which delivers sentiment analysis technology, and Neuramatix, a pioneering machine learning company.

MDeC’s mandate to help these companies grow and to meet the national agenda has to be accelerated.

To this end, Yasmin said MDeC recently launched GAIN (Global Acceleration Innovation Network) initiative, where it has identified companies that have the potential to be accelerated into major global icons, such as Sedania Innovator and iPay88.

“Through our newly set up Silicon Valley office, we connected 21 of such companies to the SV ecosystem of mentors, accelerators and venture capitals (VCs). It was an eye-opener for me when one of them, whose company is currently looking at a valuation of US$30 million, was in fact valued at US$150 million by one of the VCs! This goes to show that we have gems amongst our companies,” she said.

MDeC’s role was widened in 2011, when it was given the mandate to go beyond MSC and look at the Digital Economy of the country in a more holistic manner, towards a Digital Malaysia agenda.

Digital Malaysia is a national programme to advance the country towards a developed digital economy by 2020 and will be driven by MDeC with other agencies under the stewardship of the Minister of Communication & Multimedia.

As for Yasmin, an industry observer described her tenure at Microsoft Malaysia from 2006 to 2010 as Microsoft’s “golden era in Malaysia”.

Similarly, her genius, expertise and determination should ensure that Malaysia’s transformation into a high income digital economy shall be a highly successful one.

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