One in four Malaysian small businesses surveyed in CPA Australia’s Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey 2021-2022 are planning to introduce a new product, process or service to the country, or indeed the world, this year.
This innovative small business culture is critical to Malaysia attaining a ‘high technology nation’ status by 2030, supporting long-term growth and improving the competitiveness of Malaysia’s small businesses.
CPA Australia’s Malaysian Digital Transformation Committee Chairman Bryan Chung FCPA (Aust.) said the findings on Malaysia’s innovative culture are encouraging when compared to small businesses from Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.
Bryan said that business owners’ mindsets have shifted, which augurs well. Business owners are now motivated to pursue technological innovations for long-term growth as opposed to short-term survival.
“The findings are indicative of a new generation of entrepreneurs who are tech-savvy, innovative and eager to promote what their business has to offer, both to the region and the world. Malaysian respondents are typically younger with 55.9 per cent under 40, compared with the survey average of 45.2 per cent.
“The focus on technology is reflected in cybersecurity preparedness, with 40.1 per cent of local small businesses reviewing their cybersecurity measures in the past six months, while 38.5 per cent expected their business will be cyberattacked in 2022,” he said.
Bryan also observed that the reasonable rate of technology investment is heartening against a highly challenging business environment where survival and sustainability is paramount. Of the businesses surveyed, close to 40 per cent invested in technology and said their investment improved their profitability. While for some it may have been a knee-jerk response, the positive business outcomes will to a large extent, validate continuous investments.
“This demonstrates that Malaysia’s small businesses are generally pretty good at adopting technology into their business, however there is room to improve. We suggest that more small businesses seek information and advice to ensure they adopt the right technology solutions for their business,” said Bryan.
Reflecting the tech-savvy nature of many Malaysian small businesses, eight in ten earned revenue from online sales and 62.5 per cent received more than 10 per cent of their sales through digital payment options such as Grabpay, Alipay and iPay88.
Given the impact of COVID-19, it’s not surprising that of those that sought external finance in 2021, close to 55 per cent sought it for business survival and nearly half found that accessing finance was challenging.
Malaysia is also the only market where businesses found it more difficult than easy to pay their debts in 2021. These solvency problems are expected to continue this year with Malaysian small businesses again more likely to expect difficulty repaying debt than easy repayment conditions.
Despite facing a difficult 2021, during which Malaysia’s small businesses were more likely to report that they shrunk than grew, most are bullish about their expected performance this year. Just over 66 per cent of businesses expect to grow, which is higher than the survey average of 61.9 per cent.