[This is a sponsored post with Sidec.]
From November 19-21, the Selangor Smart City & Digital Economy Convention (SDEC) took place in the form of a hybrid event this year, hosted by the Selangor Information Technology & Digital Economy Corporation (Sidec).
Lasting 3 days, the event kicked off with a full 2 days of panels by 45 distinguished speakers and wrapped up with Pitch@Selangor 5: Selangor Super League.
Key themes this year for the panels included discussions around fintech, agritech, travel tech, digital marketing, and SME digitalisation, all picked for their growing importance as the global economy heals from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Selangor Super League boasted 20 startups selected from 3 of Selangor’s leading accelerators: the Selangor Accelerator Programme, Sunway iLabs Super Accelerator, and ScaleUp Malaysia.
Safe to say, this was an event packed with expert knowledge and experience, and these were the highlights of SDEC 2021.
1. Insider viewpoints on Malaysia’s SME digitalisation & fintech disruption
The first panel kicked off with an engaging discussion about the digitalisation trends in Malaysia, along with the current fintech landscape.
Speakers such as Danny Chua of TNG Digital, Eric Chong of Boost Biz, Aizat Rahim of Dropee, and more, made appearances to share their insights.
From them, we learnt that though Malaysia is improving its rate of business digitalisation, we still have many more SMEs to bring into the 21st century.
Some methods to do that include simplifying the onboarding of SMEs onto online platforms and lowering the barriers to entry.
Contrary to the popular belief that too many players spoil the market, the panellists believe that having more players would accelerate the adoption of digitalisation. They also noted that digital payments are only the first step in the digitalisation journey—it is just one solution amidst many more pain points to address.
This is where players in the private sector can fill gaps that incumbent institutions cannot, such as the provision of microloans.
2. Understanding how Malaysia’s travel and tourism sector is recovering
On the topic of travel and tourism, speakers like Roslan Sulaiman, Senior Deputy Director of IT at Tourism Malaysia and Rickson Goh, founder and CEO of Tourplus took the stage.
In summary, the global population is in the period of revenge spending. After being cooped up for so long, it’s no surprise that we’re willing to trade our hard-earned cash for experiences that matter to us.
But with international borders still not quite open, the focus is on domestic tourism. In fact, it could even be said that domestic tourism became the saviour of the industry, following an 83% drop in international visitors in 2020 compared to in 2019.
Agencies and companies like Malaysian Inbound Chinese Association (MICA) identified the unique selling propositions (USPs) of each Malaysian state, and proceeded to market them online.
An example would be Selangor’s Sky Mirror, the backdrop of thousands of Insta-worthy shots. That was how the industry leveraged digitalisation to cope with the pandemic, but Azrul Shah Mohamad, CEO of Tourism Selangor, also acknowledged that government agencies still had a lot to learn in this space.
As they’re not necessarily the most well-versed in digitalising the travel and tourism industry, it’s important that they engage and leverage the strength of players from the private sector to accelerate the learning process.
3. Learning of the hurdles in agritech & the opportunities they present
What’s commonly assumed to be a traditional sector is actually advancing fast. But one long-standing problem is still the assumption that agriculture is an “unsexy” sector to work in, which is why many farmers’ children opt not to continue the business.
Agritech could be a potential fix for this, as it takes away the need for manual labour and the high risks of traditional farming.
Some key areas in which the government is focusing on to grow Malaysia’s agritech include services like farmers’ advisories, peer-to-peer lending, traceability, digital marketplaces, and mechanisation platforms.
In the future, there should also be increased focus on impact investments, sustainable farming and development processes, renewable energy, and more.
4. Expert advice on staying competitive in the e-commerce world
We’ve heard it again and again—the pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of businesses, and with it, the growth of e-commerce.
How then can merchants ensure that they’re still seen in the red ocean?
Firstly, the panel of expert speakers comprising leaders from Lazada, JDMAas, and PG Mall, shared that merchants need to be familiar with the tools available to them, and actually utilise these tools.
And just because you’re an online business, it doesn’t mean that you can slack in the customer service department.
In fact, it’s much easier to be forgettable when you’re an online-only business, so making your customers feel like they’re genuinely cared for is all the more important in e-commerce to build lasting relationships.
Constant discounts and deals will not guarantee a lasting fanbase, so being able to smartly harvest the data at your fingertips and knowing how to tell an excellent brand story will help you be memorable.
5. A reveal of how subscriptions and rentals are the new ownership models
At Vulcan Post, we’ve been seeing an increase in subscription models being used for all kinds of businesses and products, ranging from bird’s nests to baby equipment.
It’s part of the sharing economy and could be a more sustainable way to ensure everyone can experience ownership of a specific product.
These models have even penetrated the energy and healthcare industries, as in the cases of Plus Xnergy and DOC2US.
Subscriptions and rental models are attractive because they reduce the immediate financial burden on customers and lower the barriers to entry for ownership of products. In a nutshell, they make it possible and more accessible for Malaysians of all income groups to benefit from a product or service.
With the pandemic’s effects on people’s financial situations, it’s likely that this is a sector we will see continuing to grow.
6. Innovative startups battling it out at Selangor Super League
After 2 long days of engaging and relevant panels, the much-anticipated Selangor Super League began.
In total, 20 startups went on stage to pitch their ideas and solutions, but only 5 would make it to the finals. To qualify, participants had to ensure that they had crucial and meaningful contributions that could assist the nation in its economic recovery efforts.
These 5 ended up being:
- Champion – eMLab, a biotechnology company offering laboratory services,
- 2nd place – POMEN, a car services and breakdown assistance app,
- 3rd place – GFI Fintech, a solutions provider for the financial industry,
- 4th place – NexMind AI, a software-as-a-service (Saas) cloud-based AI company,
- 5th place – GO LOG, an intelligent cold chain logistics platform.
These startups won cash prizes of varying amounts from a pool of RM30,000. At the same time, the Top 3 startups would get the chance to later pitch to international investors on a sponsored trip to the Dubai World Expo 2020.
Despite many of us only being able to attend SDEC 2021 from home on our laptops, it didn’t take away from the learning experience.
It was interesting to hear from experts where our nation is heading in terms of our current hurdles to overcome, our recovery strategies, potential opportunities across sectors, and more.
The only thing that could probably have made it better would’ve been to actually be there in-person to network too, but perhaps that will be more attainable once our nation is better protected against COVID-19.
Featured Image Credit: Sidec