EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Malaysia: Unstoppable force

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 21, 2020 - September 27, 2020.
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ENTREPRENEURS are a special breed — they are willing to take risks, have absolute faith in what they believe in and exemplify the strength of the human spirit. As nominations draw to a close for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards 2020 Malaysia on Sept 30, we hear from a second group of the programme’s alumni on how entrepreneurship has changed for young people and what enterprise really means in this day and age.

Philip Rao,

Programme Director, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Malaysia

Entrepreneurs set themselves apart by being able to see beyond the present and reimagine a new reality. Their passion, creativity and courage are needed now more than ever to defy adversity and find new solutions for a more sustainable future,”

“We at EY believe that entrepreneurs are innovative trailblazers who contribute towards building a better working world, and we are certain there are many outstanding Malaysian entrepreneurs out there whose inspiring stories should be heard, and contributions recognised.”

Aaron Patel, CEO, iHandal Energy Solutions

1. What is your take on young entrepreneurs of today and how they do business?

Young entrepreneurs of today are starting increasingly younger and the few whom I have engaged with are increasingly driven to deliver social and environmental impact through entrepreneurship.

2. How are entrepreneurs in this day and age better equipped than our predecessors, and what advantages do they have that we did not?

Entrepreneurs today are blessed with a more supportive ecosystem such as access to talent, financing and mentorship, with the general sentiment of everyone being more receptive to new companies and solutions, as opposed to a decade ago when entrepreneurship wasn’t as commonplace.

3. What was your biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting MCO?

The value of fostering long-term relationships with all stakeholders, whether client or supplier, who can end up being your lifeline when you need help the most. When your stakeholders value you and your services enough to want to keep you around, you’ve built something special.

Johary Mustapha, CEO, Forest Interactive

1. What is your take on young entrepreneurs of today and how they do business?

Today’s entrepreneurs are much more experimental and disruptive; speed is now an important factor for them in achieving their goals. Even their years of experience can now be replaceable with the internet knowledge bank. However, they need to remember that patience and perseverance are still key in determining a successful outcome.

2. How are entrepreneurs in this day and age better equipped than our predecessors, and what advantages do they have that we did not?

Today, we live in a knowledge-based economy where technologies are fundamentally made available as tools for entrepreneurs to make well-thought-out, informed decisions. Masterclasses, tutorials, webinars — each with millions of hours on a wide range of topics — are the new normal of education, thus making self-improvement a must for entrepreneurs. To top it off, there are more incentives from the government and industry associations to support their business growth and drive the digital economy, whether it is through exposure, mentorships or networking.

3. What was your biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting MCO?

People’s lifestyles were indeed disrupted on a global scale when the pandemic brought many processes around the world to a standstill. We’ve learnt that it is important to be agile and adaptive to changes in order to survive and thrive, to be able to pivot our strategy quickly and leverage the technologies and resources available, all of which are essential to ensure business sustainability and growth during a crisis.

Other than that, as an organisation, we’ve learnt that it is also important to ensure all our talents are in sync to make great strides in planning for giant technology leaps. We chose to continue moving forward and to double our efforts in trying to reach our goals.

Goh Ai Ching, CEO, Piktochart

1. What is your take on young entrepreneurs of today and how they do business?

Young entrepreneurs seem to be very creative and eager to get started. However, I do think there is a lack of grit to persevere and not give up, or realism as they do not seem to be in love with validating the idea and ‘poking holes’ at it to see how it can get better. A lot of ideas that I’ve seen in start-up circles are me-too, and not true innovations in tech or business models. The ‘get rewarded’ instantly mentality is pervasive in our society today, not just with young entrepreneurs, and few are willing to put in the hard work to reap the fruits later.

2. How are entrepreneurs in this day and age better equipped than our predecessors, and what advantages do they have that we did not?

A lot more information. There are a lot more case studies of what worked and what failed. The cheapest thing to do is to learn from someone else’s mistakes. These are learnings that did not exist even two decades ago. But now, there are a lot of success and failure stories.

3. What was your biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting MCO?

Not to take the simple things in life for granted. For example, being able to travel and hop on a plane any day to any destination now is no longer the case. In terms of business, I’m really impressed with how some businesses have turned themselves around, such as repurposing their plant to make ventilators or a fashion business to produce face masks. Businesses are adapting at an astronomical rate (including ones like Airbnb that have been hit hard). The pandemic can present a challenge or force a change for good.

Natalie Sit, CEO, Acestar

1. What is your take on young entrepreneurs of today and how they do business?

They are so lucky because of this digital age, opportunities are everywhere and they can sell to any part of the world. Meanwhile, it has become more competitive because all the digital platforms can be easily accessed, hence they are competing with the whole world.

This may not apply to all young entrepreneurs. From my observation, most of the young entrepreneurs today are smart and creative and they do not mind starting small and growing the business. However, they may overlook how a company is operating and whether it has the ability to generate profit.

2. How are entrepreneurs in this day and age better equipped than our predecessors, and what advantages do they have that we did not?

The internet has changed the world and the way we do business. In the past, we preferred to trade with cash. But in today’s world, it is all about cashless payments.

New-generation entrepreneurs tend to build their social media presence and gather market feedback before they invest in starting a business. This is a great advantage as they need a low initial investment, while we are used to needing a certain amount of capital before starting any business.

3. What was your biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting MCO?

Gratitude! I accomplished so many important things during the MCO, including spending quality time with my children. I also started my Creative Cloud Community (CCC) LIVE Talk via YouTube and Facebook channels, with the purpose of helping and encouraging young creative talents and entrepreneurs to overcome this pandemic challenge.

I was so blessed to have Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as my sixth guest speaker. We spent an hour talking about how to turn a crisis into an opportunity. I am excited and overwhelmed that it generated 400,000 views in just two weeks.

Ganesh Kumar Bangah, Executive Chairman, Commerce DotAsia Ventures

1. What is your take on young entrepreneurs of today and how they do business?

Young entrepreneurs today are very fortunate. Being young, they have the energy, which is essential to succeed in business. They also have the exposure to entrepreneurship that the internet has brought to them. However, some of them are too idealistic due to all the success stories they have read on the internet and think that business is easy. It is important for young entrepreneurs today to understand that hard work is still needed to succeed in business and there is no shortcut to success.

2. How are entrepreneurs in this day and age better equipped than our predecessors, and what advantages do they have that we did not?

Young entrepreneurs today are much better equipped to succeed as the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Malaysia today is much more advanced than, say, 10 to 20 years ago. From idea-stage funding, which is provided through agencies such as Cradle, and later-stage venture capital funding through agencies such as Mavcap to crowdfunding platforms, young entrepreneurs today have a plethora of funding avenues to tap on to build their businesses.

Capacity-building programmes through agencies such as MaGIC also provide the necessary skills for young entrepreneurs to succeed. There has never been a better time to be a young entrepreneur in Malaysia.

3. What was your biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting MCO?

There is opportunity in crisis. Being an investor in the e-commerce industry, I have never seen technology businesses grow faster than in the last six months. Some of the businesses I have invested in have seen revenue grow by more than 300% during the period. Covid-19 has accelerated the e-commerce industry in Malaysia by at least 18 to 24 months. Where digitalisation was seen as a luxury before the pandemic, it is now seen as a necessity. This has further accelerated the industry.

The Edge is the media partner of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Malaysia 2020

 

 

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