Feature Articles

MARK KOH - CEO & Co-founder, Supahands


1) Can you describe the SME market in Malaysia from your perspective?

As I see it, the SME market has definitely been growing and gaining momentum. As an example, I do see more startups entering the market and raising sizeable amounts in a single funding round. I believe this goes to show that Malaysia is doing well to provide innovation solutions to its citizens and to Southeast Asia as well; as seen with Grab, DahMakan, StoreHub and more.

With that being said, I believe that we’re still playing catch up with Singapore. What I see is that Malaysia is now moving into its ‘digital transformation’ age which Singapore has beat us to. The adoption of new technologies is still relatively low in Malaysia- even the thought of using SAAS platforms or cloud-based tools are not options for many SMEs still. However, I do believe that this is something that will change very soon as the government has been introducing many initiatives like Cradle, MaGIC, & MDEC to help SMEs become more tech-driven.

2) Can you share the primary obstacles that SMEs in Malaysia face from your perspective?

I believe the primary obstacles would be the adoption of technological improvements within their businesses. A big bulk of the SMEs within Malaysia are a bit more traditional, which means that their digital presence might be lacking compared to that of their international competitors. Other than that, in order for the SME industry within Malaysian to grow leaps and bounds, there is a great need to serve the international market in order to increase the size of their addressable market. Looking at things from a crossborder perspective will allow us to think global while still playing to our strengths of being local. Finally, I do find that there are still many that are not aware of the option of taking up funding to grow their business faster, so growing awareness on that issue would be beneficial.

3) How do you think the introduction of the LEAP Market may affect those obstacles?

It’s great! As an SME one of your main challenges will always be the lack of capital. So providing more access to capital via the LEAP market will provide a good alternative to the traditional ways of raising funds. This additional capital will be beneficial to businesses in many ways. It will allow them to invest in technology, digitize their business and deepen their competitive edge. This will also provide a lower barrier to list on BURSA which will propel the business further.

4) What are the innovations that SMEs today should get familiar with?

The buzzwords that we’ve been seeing a lot of last year and this year would be Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Cryptocurrency and of course Blockchain. Even if you might not classify your business as being in the technology industry, I think it’s important to be familiarise yourself with these concepts as they might impact your industry in the near future, like what is happening in the Fintech, Medtech, Edtech and Legaltech industries. This might be slightly biased as it’s relevant to what we do, but we also see a surge in the notion of ‘Crowdsourcing’. It’s especially huge in the USA & EU but there is a great growth potential for Southeast Asia, as can be seen from the adoption of platforms like Grab and Airbnb.

5) For your company, what is the immediate innovation that you wish to integrate into your business structure?

It might not be so much of something we want to start, but we do want to continue focusing more resources into applying Machine Learning across our different tech products. We currently have one Machine Learning algorithm which we call DIANE that is being used to intelligently route projects to the best-fitted SupaAgents (our taskforce) based on their previous ratings received and previous tasks completed. So for 2018, we’re aiming to dive deeper and refine that technology further and to also apply Machine Learning across our different solutions like image annotation, content moderation and data management.