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At the end of 2022, we sat down to come up with some industry and business trends we foresaw would happen in 2023. Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, it’s time yet again to look at these predictions to see whether we had hit the nail on the head.

1. Deep learning and AI tech will be used to complement creative industries: Came true!

Fly FM’s DJ Aina / Image Credit: DJ Aina

Having attended quite a number of business talks, I know firsthand that “AI” has been an absolute buzz word this year.

Specifically, when it comes to the creative industry in specific, generative AI technology seems to have taken centre stage. There have been so many AI tools from ChatGPT and Midjourney to more obscure ones that can help businesses generate creative marketing assets.  

New creative AI tools that appeared on the market this year include Adobe Photoshop’s generative AI tool that has also often gone viral on social media. These advancements have certainly made an impact on the global creative ecosystem, which most definitely would trickle into Malaysia too.  

Image Credit: Adobe

For one, homegrown burger chain myBurgerLab had used Midjourney to come up with an illustrated graphic. Unfortunately, many netizens seemed to have disliked the notion of using AI-generated imagery.

Although it had generated some backlash, it arguably did its job by generating conversations and getting some eyeballs on the business. Still, it may be a sign that not all Malaysians are on board with the AI train.

That aside, another local entity Fly FM also launched its very own an AI radio DJ by the name of DJ Aina (get it?).

2. Locally-made meat and dairy alternatives will cater to our appetites: Kind of came true?

Image Credit: Ultimeat / Nanka

Even before 2023, there have already been a number of prominent alternative meat brands in the industry. For example, there’s Ultimeat, Nanka, Ento, and more. Same goes when it comes to vegan milks, with options like Snappea in the market.  

This year, though, it seems like these offerings have become more refined and the industry has welcomed a few new names with great potential.

Some that Vulcan Post has covered include Meamo Foods, a homegrown brand selling meatless and fishless canned tuna and meat. There’s also In The Pink Co., which sells plant milk concentrates, a more affordable plant-based milk option.

We uncovered both of these brands at events we attended such as VEG FEST 3.0 and Food & Drinks Malaysia. On that note, it does look like there have been more vegan and vegetarian events this year.

Aside from these new homegrown brands, Singapore’s MAD Foods also launched its plant-based and dairy-free coffee in Malaysia back in September. The founders had told Vulcan Post that they believed Malaysians have become more accepting of plant-based alternatives.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

A local brand by the name of WonderMeat has also recently launched, offering a dry mix plant-based meat primarily composed of soy and pea protein.

Perhaps something that is gaining relevance, though, is not just plant-based meat but also lab-grown meat, which is also an alternative option.

Cell Agritech is a Malaysian startup we highlighted this year that’s been pushing the envelope on this front. Its RM20 million factory in Penang is currently in the works, and we can’t wait to see their products hit the market.

3. Electric car and bike ownership will be accelerated: Came true!

It was reported that the number of registered EVs increased to over 3,400 units in 2022 and exceeded 7,500 units by September 2023.

And if you’re even remotely interested in EVs, you’d know that Malaysia has recently seen a huge advancement in this area with the arrival of Tesla.

In the tabling of Budget 2024, there were new allocations and the continuation of tax relief incentives in the EV realm, so hopefully, this will be an industry that continues to grow in the coming year.

4. Esports and gaming will be taken to the next level through other industries: Not really?

Image Credit: Malaysia Electronic Sports Federation

Esports in Malaysia has continued to grow over the years, that much is true. This growth is something that the government has been supporting, too.

During the tabling of Budget 2024 in October, Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the government is setting aside RM30 million to promote Malaysia as a development hub for esports, encouraging international video games companies to invest in the country.

Meanwhile, support for local studios is present too. For example, institutions such as MDEC and Matrade had supported Malaysian gaming studios, bringing them to the Tokyo Game Show 2023. MDEC’s LEVEL UP KL event also helped showcase and spotlight local games.

However, the hope of the industry being taken to the “next level” arguably hasn’t come true.

Looking up “esports hub” and “Malaysia”, you’ll see many headlines about grand plans to make Malaysia an esports hub.  

To be honest, over the years, we’ve seen this sentiment being repeated, but when will that bright future that Malaysia has in this sector actually become our present? Will 2024 finally be the year we see the industry grow by leaps and bounds? We can only wait and check back in next year.

5. The gig economy sector will see increased efforts to grow its sustainability: Not as much as we’d like to see

Image Credit: Grab Malaysia

Earlier in the year, it was announced that informal jobs (such as gig workers) in Malaysia have increased by 7.7% in the first five months of 2023. However, have efforts to protect the sustainability of gig workers also increased?

Indeed, there have been some steps taken by companies like Grab over the year, such as the recent continuation of its partnership with PERKESO whereby the company is subsidising self-contributions made by its Ultimate partners (Grab’s top performing driver- and delivery-partners).

However, there haven’t been as many advancements as we’d like to see. For one, there hasn’t been updates on the Gig Economy Commission Malaysian (SEGiM).

This commission was something that our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reportedly said in July would be established as soon as possible to improve social protection and the welfare of workers in the industry.

That said, Budget 2024 has seen some allocations for the gig work economy.

RM35 million went into the Career Building Programme through SOCSO which helps ensure informal workers, especially those in the gig economy, can develop their careers and access micro credential skills training programmes.

The government’s share of contribution under the Self-Employment Social Security Scheme (SKSPS) will also be increased to 90% with an allocation of RM100 million. The prime minister also urged gig economy companies to cover the remaining 10% of the contribution on behalf of gig workers.

Another win for the industry is that some familiar yet lesser-known startups in the gig economy have gotten funding this year. There’s Kiddocare and Qwork, both being platforms we’ve featured in the past.

Image Credit: Kiddocare

Caregiving platform Kiddocare had closed a seven-figure pre-Series A round in September.

Meanwhile, Qwork announced mid-November that it’s in the midst of its series A and closed an investment from Artem Ventures. Qwork is a hiring platform that provides relevant skill training to gig workers and matches them to companies. One of its aims is to create more sustainable benefits for all giggers.

While we’re happy to see these startups scale up, we hope so see more options and solutions for the gig economy especially from the bigger players in the coming year.

6. Social commerce will become a preferred alternative to regular online shopping: Came true!

Image Credit: COSRX Malaysia / Fancy items / BLS Home Deco

Success for social commerce comes most prominently in the form of TikTok Shop. The platform has become such a powerhouse in the Malaysian ecommerce scene this year. Although it launched April last year, it’s really picked up momentum this year.

TikTok Shop Malaysia told Vulcan Post that it saw a 78% increase in SME sellers onboarded between January to June 2023.

However, in October, TikTok Shop shut down in Indonesia to comply with the country’s decision to essentially ban social commerce (AKA ecommerce transactions on social media platforms).  

So, will this sentiment also enter Malaysia? It was announced early November that the communications ministry would be looking into TikTok Shop regulations, so perhaps 2024 might see some changes in the social commerce sector.   

7. Agritech will see a renewed appreciation and newer, younger entrants: Not true, but still good!

While we haven’t necessarily seen a lot of new entrants in the agritech scene, it seems like startups in the field have been growing and expanding this year.

Image Credit: Agroz Group

During our visit to Food & Drink Malaysia, we got to catch up with many agritech startups we’ve spoken to in the past and learn about how much they’ve grown. It appears that startups like Kairos Agriculture, a smart vanilla farm, has been able to sustain itself and expand into agritourism.

Another business that we had kept our eye on, Fresh Growcer, has expanded into Utama Farm, another agritour-based business. Seems like educational and experiential activities have been all the rage in 2023.

Image Credit: Utama Farm

We also got in touch with companies like Agroz Group, which has partnered with AEON to open vertical farms in its malls. Aside from scaling massively via this partnership, the agritech company also has bold ambitions to go public on NASDAQ next year.

So, while we haven’t seen many new startups, it’s great to know that many businesses in the scene are scaling up.   

The search for the next unicorn remains elusive, but is it really that important?

Last year, we had wondered whether a new unicorn startup would grace the Malaysian scene, but that hasn’t come true, at the time of writing, anyway.

However, how much of a marker of success is a unicorn anyway?

Instead of a highly valued company, perhaps high-growth or sustainable companies are much more attractive nowadays, as explored in our article that looks into “zebra” and “camel” startups as opposed to just unicorns.

With 2024 just around the corner, looks like it’s also time to pen down our predictions for the next year, so stay tuned for our forecast for trends for the coming year.

  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Tesla Malaysia / DJ Aina / Utama Farm

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)