This article series is in conjunction with Entrepreneurial Nation (E-Nation) Symposium, a 4-day event at MaGIC with the theme “Shaping An Entrepreneurial Nation”. The event will cut across 6 main pillars (Creative, Corporate Innovation, Education, Entrepreneurship, Policy and Social Entrepreneurship), with the objectives to:
1) bridge ecosystem players together to exchange ideas, promote collaboration and foster networking opportunities;
2) highlight recent entrepreneurial initiatives;
3) gather influential entrepreneurs and speakers to share rich knowledge and information to attendees;
4) promote the concept of social innovation and social responsibility to encourage the adoption and understanding of the conscious entrepreneurship concept.
This article is in line with the Corporate Innovation pillar.
On Day 2 of the E-Nation Symposium, we had the chance to catch a forum moderated by Pradeeban “Ben” Letsumanasingam, the Manager of Corporate Innovation and Innovation Capital for MaGIC.
The panel consisted of experienced corporate leaders: Ernie Zainie, Senior Manager of Strategy and Corporate Lead for Innovation at Sabah Electricity; Suresh Sidhu, CEO of edotco Group; and Rob Sewell, Chief Digital and Transformation Officer of Maxis.
Their topic for the day revolved around the importance of corporate innovation and entrepreneurship. We picked up nuggets of insightful advice that corporates would do well to adopt and adapt.
1. Innovating Internally
Innovation is not a topic that can be easily tackled. In Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), Ernie mentioned that they had to cultivate this idea to innovate within the company.
“In Sabah, we have two major problems, one involving electricity thefts, and the other with customers paying their bills late,” she said.
There are solutions such as using smart meters, but they’re expensive and even West Malaysia has yet to fully implement them.
So, SESB had to look internally to solve the problems they had.
Through internal innovation, they were able to create a device that can detect and turn off the electricity if users are found stealing (rolled out in 3 locations throughout Sabah). Through “Remote Disconnection”, an innovation that can remotely turn off a customer’s electricity, they were able to get customers to pay their bills.
“We managed to get 10,000 customers to pay their outstanding bills thanks to these innovations.”
But, not all innovations have to be grand in nature and that brings us to the next point.
2. Do Everyday Things Better
“The problem with breakthrough thinking and innovation is that they are very hard if [they’re] not already their culture. If you have people that usually don’t think out of the box and make them think out of a bigger box, it’s not going to happen.” said Suresh.
He gave the example of a typical telco tower, which takes about 25% to 30% more steel than it actually needs due to old design philosophies.
Without thinking of a grandiose plan, the engineers at edotco just slightly tweaked the original design to reduce the use of steel on their towers.
“Having the mindset to question the small stuff can improve a corporation. Companies should be disciplined and focus on problems that they know they can solve.”
3. Expanding Into Sectors That Affect Your Industry
Rob then expanded Suresh’s point by saying that corporations should also try and expand into other sectors they’re not experts in, but have some knowledge of.
His example for Maxis was looking at Visual Analytics and IOT technologies to allow for better proactive management of towers.
“Yes, we’re getting outside of our core business, but it’s still an area we have expertise in,” he said. After all, telcos do need cell towers to work.
4. Celebrate Innovation & Never Settle
“There is a cultural challenge for corporations. It’s easy to get ahead in a corporation by being someone who accepts this is the way things are done. An innovator has to say this isn’t the only way you can do things.” said Rob.
A classic example that many people tend to use is with Kodak—its inability to innovate and transition to digital photography brought the company to its knees.
5. Small Ideas Can Create Big Impacts
“Adopting an innovative culture will benefit the customer. Some customers are comfortable with the way things are, but they want to see improvements,” said Ernie.
One of the examples she then listed was a customer not getting their bill in the mail after it flew away. To keep these customers happy, they created a mini-billbox that allowed the customers to see their bill without even going online.
“We should not be embarrassed at embracing small ideas, and not always think of big ideas.”
6. Do Not Ask To Be Spoonfed
Suresh mentioned that the government has already done a lot for the entrepreneurs. While there’s still room for improvement on the side of the government, Suresh calls for local entrepreneurs to help themselves first.
“What can the government do to help me? That’s not a very entrepreneurial question. I feel we are still a culture that looks for someone to help us. We need to change our mindset. If no one helps you, you’ll have to help yourself.”
He mentioned that it’s something he only sees in Malaysia.
“In Pakistan, they will pitch you anything, even without the support of the government, it doesn’t stop the guy. The zeal of local entrepreneurs must be stronger.”
As the panel drew to a close, Ernie suggested for corporations to open their doors to being part of the ecosystem of innovation and development.
Suresh then said, “Focus on getting a culture of everyday innovation. Corporations need to find a way to encourage and work with the ecosystem and bring ideas through that deserves nurturing and mentoring.”
- You can read more on what we’ve written about MaGIC here.