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Surina Shukri, former CEO of MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation), passed away this morning. Aged 48, Surina’s family released a statement explaining that she passed away following her long battle with cancer at Ampang Puteri Hospital.

She’s survived by her husband, Jasmin Ong Rashid, and three children, Ean, Arianna, and Zac.

In light of Surina’s passing, we’d like to offer our condolences to her loved ones and also celebrate her achievements throughout her life as a businesswoman.

She leaves behind a legacy of innovation and leadership in both the private and public sectors. As a woman who has held many roles in her life, Surina’s tenure at MDEC is just the tip of the iceberg in a long international career. 

A notable professional background

Decades ago, Surina ventured beyond Malaysia to forge a career in Wall Street at the esteemed American bank JP Morgan Chase & Co. According to her LinkedIn, she took on various positions there including Head of Strategy for Business Management and Innovation, Middle Market Banking, and Specialised Industries for two years. 

Afterwards, she founded SheNovation Ventures in New York in 2018. It’s a transformation and growth venture studio where she would advise fintech and blockchain startups on growth strategy and capital raising, as well as provide business consultation on culture change and transformation. 

During that period, she was also a part of 37 Angels, an angel investor network where she would help screen and invest in startups. 

Then she got a call from the Malaysian government that changed her life. From January 2019 up until August 2021, Surina served as the CEO of MDEC. She governed during the turmoil of the pandemic’s onset and adapted to the leadership of three prime ministers in two years.

In her memory, let’s look back at some of Surina’s achievements and contributions to the local digital economy and beyond, during this tenure.

Image Credit: Surina Shukri

Reflecting on her achievements and contributions locally

1. She helped local SMEs move online through MyDIGITAL

As the CEO of MDEC, one of Surina’s most notable contributions was helping Malaysian businesses to shift into the digital realm during the pandemic. This includes eRezeki that was introduced in 2020 to assist low-income groups earn additional wages.

By completing digital projects via crowdsourcing platforms, 339,000 participants collectively earned an income of RM1.1 billion.

The Malaysian Reserve also reported that 489,000 SMEs adopted ecommerce platforms, while 378,000 SMEs were trained to utilise them. In terms of growth, the number of companies utilising ecommerce grew from 1,800 to 27,000 under her leadership.

2. She assisted local businesses in global reach

When Surina was appointed CEO, she adopted the previous administration’s Go-eCommerce programme that helps businesses embrace the online space.

Under this programme, MDEC also launched Project DESA, which encouraged rural-based merchants to shift their businesses online. SMEs were also advised to expand into markets beyond Malaysia. 

As a result of this, 4,367 SMEs engaged in cross-border ecommerce via the Digital Free Trade Zone. Another 130 local digital companies grew into global players under the Global Acceleration & Innovation Network (GAIN).

3. She educated thousands of businesses on the benefits of going digital

Image Credit: Surina Shukri

To speed up digitalisation amidst the lockdowns, MDEC hosted e-Dagang Expo during Surina’s tenure.

A five-day virtual event, it aimed to educate 500,000 local businesses regardless of size on the benefits of ecommerce. MDEC achieved this by hosting webinars and panel sessions that gave practical advice to succeed in the digital marketplace.

As a result, the e-Dagang Expo attracted over 23 million participants over two weeks. 

There was also an eUsahawan entrepreneurship programme that onboarded micro-enterprises onto ecommerce platforms. Running from January to June 2020, it trained 41,789 entrepreneurs and generated RM65.4 million in total sales value.

4. She provided financial services to the underserved

Another contribution of Surina’s while in MDEC is eBerkat. An online platform, it helped to increase awareness of digital financial services (like loans and investments) to SMEs and B40s. 

Consequently, the agency onboarded 2,000 MSMEs where 13% successfully secured funding. 

Following her tenancy at MDEC, Surina lent her financial expertise to Accelerate Global, a Malaysian social enterprise aimed at tackling youth unemployment issues worldwide. There, she served as a board member and oversaw its finances and growth.  

5. She advocated for the enhancement of cybersecurity

With the adoption of digital solutions, Surina made sure to also push for better cybersecurity. 

Image Credit: Surina Shukri

Under her leadership, MDEC began working with SME Corp to help businesses adopt cybersecurity solutions. The agency also partnered with other industries to provide cybersecurity startups with access to technical mentoring, business support, and advice.

MDEC also helped cybersecurity professionals upskill in domains like Cloud Security. 

In 2019, it also conducted a reskilling programme called Empowering Women in Cyber Risk Management to encourage women to return to the workforce. Out of 232 applicants, 42% ultimately joined the workforce again.

6. She was recognised as one of the World’s 50 Most Influential People Revolutionising Governance

In December 2020, Surina was named as one of the World’s 50 Most Influential People Revolutionising Governance in the Agile 50 list. 

Compiled by Apolitical and The World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council, this list seeks to laud politicians, civil servants, and entrepreneurs driving agility in governments across the globe. 

Not someone that shied away from responsibility

According to reports, she was chosen out of 300 nominations that consisted of individuals from international governments and organisations, NGOs, and corporations. 

Following Surina’s departure from MDEC in 2021, she went on to join various other organisations in overseeing their growth.

Image Credit: Surina Shukri

In January 2022, the former CEO became part of CIMB, specifically as an Independent Non-Executive Director for its Investment Bank division.

By the next month, she was a part of Capital A (formerly known as AirAsia Group). Her role was also as an Independent Non-Executive Director for the airline company.

In November that same year, she joined as a governing board member of UNESCO’s MGIEP (Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development). For context, this is a research institute focused on transforming education through programmes advocating for social and emotional learning. 

At the time of her untimely departure, Surina was still affiliated with these three organisations.


Although she wasn’t as well known for her entrepreneurial life, Surina did share a timeless piece of advice that others should pay mind to:

“If your why is not strong, you’re not purpose driven, mission driven, then you’re not going to be very successful and you will have trouble with most challenges.”

As the digital and global governance communities grieve the loss of a prominent figure, Surina Shukri’s impact will be honoured through the positive impacts of her work. 

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

Featured Image Credit: Surina Shukri

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

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