In a seventh guest article written exclusively for just-auto, Dato Madani Sahari, the CEO of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), reflects on investment opportunities in Malaysia, building on its technological strengths. 

Irrespective of socio-political divides, Malaysia has been consistent throughout the decades on one goal – the technological drive for the industry and its people has united us as a nation.

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Once a small agricultural nation, Malaysia has taken bold strides to offer some of the most challenging products and services. While for the last four decades or so, we spurred the manufacturing sector and sparked technology spin-off through locally made vehicles, a thriving E&E (electrical and electronics) sector and strong commodities trade, we are now tackling the challenge of digitalization and Industry 4.0 head on.

Today, Malaysia is within the top 30 most competitive nations in the world from both economic and talent standpoints, and ranks among the top 35 countries in the Global Innovation Index. It is among these reasons, that we are the best country in the world to invest in, according to CEOWORLD magazine.

Despite the economic impacts of COVID-19, Malaysia's Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade & Industry, Dato' Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, called for the acceleration of digital empowerment within businesses. He is addressing the pandemic positively to highlight the opportunities that arise from the lessons the world has learned in the utility of smart digital technologies to progress forward post-COVID19.

To spur digitalisation, the government approach has been consistent. It is introducing attractive tax and competitive investment incentives, developing a highly skilled workforce and spurring significant spin-off within the manufacturing industry.

To spur digitalisation, the government approach has been consistent. It is introducing attractive tax and competitive investment incentives, developing a highly skilled workforce and spurring significant spin-off within the manufacturing industry.

It has also revitalised the industry mindset through a multitude of national level frameworks and roadmaps, including the National Policy on Industry 4.0 (Industry4WRD), National e-Commerce Roadmap, as well as national big data management, artificial intelligence and IoT frameworks.

With global mobility markets trending towards connected and autonomous driving, shared mobility and digital technologies, a priority for Malaysia is the formulation of new industry elements to drive R&D initiatives, creation of business and job opportunities, as well as the adoption of intelligent manufacturing processes as we progress towards Smart Mobility.

The National Automotive Policy 2020 (NAP 2020) remains an important agenda for the country, as one of the main arteries to spur digitalisation as it utilises digital technologies within both consumer lifestyle and business operations.

MARii has also embarked on various programmes to accelerate the digitalisation of the economy. Programmes like the TDP Xpress (Technopreneur Development Programme Xpress) were specially formulated to develop micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to infuse data driven decisions into their business strategies and operations.

They say that now is time for the SME to shine. The barriers of the digital economy allow for start-ups and SMEs to flourish when the right ideas, focus and efforts meet the correct opportunities.

While numerous opportunities exist for SMEs to develop through local publicly funded cradle funds, there is tremendous potential for Malaysian businesses to flourish through direct investment, be it foreign or domestic.

The COVID-19 outbreak further propelled the participation in digital related businesses. It is evident that Malaysia has emerged as one of the world's most resilient nations in combatting the pandemic, thanks to quick adaptation of digital technologies by its consumers – demonstrating that a technologically oriented sentiment truly exists within Malaysia's consumer markets.

According to a report by IDC ASEAN, over 21 percent of Malaysia's GDP will be digitalised by 2022, and is expected to drive an estimated US$82 billion in IT-spending from 2019 to 2022.

The amalgamation of government infrastructure, human capital readiness and abundance of start-ups and experienced digital services developing with the Malaysian economy, makes it a hot spot for investment opportunities within the many sectors that can now be digitalised with the right scale-up partnerships.

A great example of such hot spots is the city of Cyberjaya itself – that is now home to myriad digital businesses that have developed their footing in future industries. Numerous technology cradles and development agencies such as MDEC, MaGIC and MARii included, operate within this area.

Situated close the federal administrative capital, Putrajaya – Cyberjaya is also flagged as the location for the Automated and Autonomous Connected Vehicle (AACV) test bed, which will allow all businesses in the mobility ecosystem to collectively design and validate their products in a single location, in collaboration with all members that contribute to the design pool for autonomous driving.

All the above allows for an important takeaway: Malaysia is emerging as a hub for digitalisation within the region, with opportunities for investments in numerous ventures in potentially scalable digital services and products from numerous start-ups existing within its ecosystem, comprising of promising talent that can be developed further with the right opportunities.

The channels of Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)are open for investors to fully understand their investment options, and to begin their journey in one of the most business-friendly nations in the world.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

See also: Pushing digitalisation beyond consumerism