At the end of 2020, we threw out some business trend predictions across Malaysian industries, collected from the startup community called Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia on Facebook.
A solid year later, we’re looking back on which predictions came true and which ones didn’t. So, sit back and let’s see what foundations 2021 has laid for 2022, shaped by the pandemic.
1. Live commerce will take off: Came true!
For 2021, we predicted that live commerce would be on the rise as the next level of e-commerce.
As a refresher, live commerce brings in a more interactive aspect to your usual e-commerce experiences. It’s where sellers livestream to show off their products and give out limited-time promotions, engaging curious viewers who could be converted to customers later.
This phenomenon ties in with our love of consuming visual content, such as Tik Tok, Instagram reels and stories, etc.
Noticing this growing trend, more businesses jumped in to capitalise on it. Some local examples in 2021 included:
- Multichannel e-commerce solution provider Sitegiant launching its new live commerce feature;
- Singapore’s Netccentric entering a joint-venture agreement with Malaysian companies Commerce.Asia and Docono Holdings to launch Nuffnang Live Commerce;
- Global livestreaming site Bigo Live launching Bigo Marketplace, its e-commerce site that utilises live and social commerce features; and
- The development of LiveCom, a new Malaysian live commerce site that’s yet to launch.
The traditional way of e-commerce is already old news, and with its explosive growth over the pandemic, it makes sense that players are trying to one-up each other with different strategies.
Personally, I think we might already be moving on to the next phase of e-commerce, where augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will come into greater play. But we’ll see if the industry in Malaysia catches up so soon.
2. The birth of an online education ecosystem that tackles virtual exams: Didn’t come true…
We’re still holding out hope for this one. Edutech is an exciting, ever-growing space, so there’s always a chance we may suddenly see breakthroughs.
For now though, we haven’t yet seen national exams go virtual, which means the ecosystem is still incomplete. If we’re talking about online tuition, revision, and more, we’ve got lots of players (just go through our edutech tag and you’ll see).
Universities like Monash Malaysia (which I’m an alumnus of!) and The University of Nottingham Malaysia have already rolled out their own online exam systems, with the former even having a supervision system called eVigilation.
So, there remains a lot of opportunities to bring this kind of tech to government schools too. All we can say is, having edutech startups work with the government to roll out a complete, virtual education ecosystem would be a gamechanger for the future of education.
3. Cloud kitchens and delivery-only brands will grow in number: Came true!
Also known as ghost, central, or shared kitchens, a cloud kitchen is a place for virtual F&B brands to cook food without a storefront and do only deliveries.
We already had quite a number of cloud kitchens in 2020; by 2021, more names had joined the chat, such as GrabKitchen, Air Kopitiam, and kEATchen, to name a few.
Starting a restaurant from scratch is costly, and the advantages of cloud kitchens for many budding F&B entrepreneurs tend to be the flexibility and slightly lower upfront costs.
However, there are cons to them as well, such as having no foot traffic, high delivery commission fees, and more, which we explain in detail here, and got more insight from virtual brands themselves here.
It’s likely that this trend will continue mushrooming to cater to the many pandemic-born, home-based F&B businesses that may eventually want to scale up.
But to really attract these businesses, competing cloud kitchens would have to offer better incentives that target their pain points, such as offering their own food delivery apps and fleets to lower operational costs for the brands.
4. The co-sharing concept will blossom across industries: Didn’t come true…
2020 saw co-sharing centres for hair-styling, beauty services, baking, and more. But in 2021, the concept’s growth seemed to have stagnated.
Could this be blamed on how 2021’s pandemic arguably turned out to be worse than 2020’s, even though we were already beginning to understand COVID-19 better? We’ll need to check in with an expert on that, probably.
So, coworking and cloud kitchens aside, nothing new utilising the co-sharing concept has come to our attention yet, so perhaps we were just thinking ahead of our time. (2022, don’t disappoint us!)
5. Younger players will innovate the agricultural industry: Came true!
Yes, we know agritech isn’t a new concept, but we’d argue it’s much “sexier” now, what with all the drones and smart farms and whatnot.
Traditionally, working in the agricultural industry brings to mind working in the dirt under the hot sun, but even smallholder farmers today benefit from technological innovations built by the younger generation.
Some examples of players making this possible are Rice Inc., which uses a “laundromat” to help rice farmers reduce crop losses, CocoJack, a social enterprise that upskills B40 youths in agritech, and Kapitani, an “agri-fintech” startup offering bookkeeping solutions to farmers so they can adopt agritech.
These startups are all helmed by younger Malaysians, but that’s not to say that the industry veterans haven’t done their part in innovating our agricultural landscape.
Take for example Mono Melon, who made waves when they grew Japanese muskmelons right out of their smart farm in Putrajaya. (They’ve now also grown square watermelons, popularised by Japan.)
It’s a startup created by farming experts whose real ambitions actually go beyond just growing premium fruits of their own—they want to equip more farmers with the knowledge and technology to do the same.
We got the juicy details when we went over for a farm visit to harvest my boss’ melons (ahem), and you can read their full story here.
Much like edutech, we foresee this still being a space with lots of opportunities for growth, so we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground (pun intended) for 2022 developments in agritech.
6. Improved virtual events, and increased hybrid events: Came true!
2020’s virtual events were still a little rough around the edges, leaving more to be desired, but by 2021, the virtual events we attended felt like they’d been around for years.
Some examples of virtual and hybrid events included Wild Digital SEA 2021, MaGIC’s E-Nation 2021, and MDEC’s Malaysia Tech Month 2021, which all saw impressive turnout.
With sentiments still wary of COVID-19 infections, most of us were more comfortable attending these through a screen, but were still open to attending demo days or pitch events in person with proper SOPs.
We’re not sure if this trend of virtual and hybrid events will continue to grow in 2022, because much of the population is already vaccinated, and we’re learning to live with the new variants.
People are itching to go out and experience things physically, so it’s likely that we’ll see a comeback for in-person events in 2022.
Nonetheless, though virtual and hybrid events may no longer be our first choice, they’ll remain viable backup options.
Special mention: This one’s not quite a virtual event, but we wanted to give a shoutout to Gather.town (Gather), which enabled us to create our virtual (and dream) office that now acts as our go-to for our own internal, virtual events, keeping us sane through 2-ish years of WFH.
4 out of 6 predictions came true, which, if graded on a 100-mark scale, would give us a score of 67. That’s a C grade, one that our Asian parents won’t be too proud of, but still a win in our eyes.
This means that there are still opportunities in the Malaysian market that more entrepreneurs could leverage. Whether the market is actually ready for such moves, we don’t know, but we suppose that’s where market validation is necessary.
Since the economy is recovering, we have high hopes that 2022 will shape up to be an interesting year for business, and we’ve already got a 2022 industry trends prediction piece brewing.
- Read our previous business trends predictions piece for 2021 here.
- Check out our other predictions piece on who has the highest potential to win Malaysia’s 5 digital banking licences here.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post / Cookhouse