In this latest guest article written exclusively for just-auto, Dato Madani Sahari, the CEO of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), considers the readiness of smaller Malaysian firms and startups for the southeast Asian auto sector’s transformative times ahead.

Many of the guests featured on MARii’s podcast channel, Plug-in with MARii, are business owners of startups that work on new technologies and applications needed to complete the Malaysian ecosystem for electrification and connected mobility.

New local market players and brands in Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) based applications such as Slurp!, SERV, JomParking, are emerging, signalling SME interest – most importantly market realisation and capability – in the changing landscape of transportation within the Malaysian and regional ecosystem of the future.

MARii takes pride in the fact that our podcast is published through independent editorial freedom given to our hosts, to ensure that the subject matters discussed highlight all angles and opinions of the various issues that surround the development of the technology sector.

Recently, a lot of discussion has taken place within the Malaysian scene – industry, government, media and the consumer regarding the short-term future of mobility, particularly surrounding the introduction of electric vehicles. While this reflects a positive sense of enthusiasm within the market, any push towards electrification within the region needs to be treated with careful strategic planning.

In my previous article in this column, I highlighted that the “race” towards electrification is not a short sprint to the finish line, but a long-distance journey that provides a place for strategic thinking, careful planning and internal development.

The conditions for electrification, particularly in the ASEAN region, have to be carefully conditioned to ensure an ecosystem that progresses electrification sustainably.

I opined that the conditions for electrification, particularly in the ASEAN region, have to be carefully conditioned to ensure an ecosystem that progresses electrification sustainably. This conditioning includes standards and regulations, funding and infrastructure and technology penetration and consumption along the entire value chain.

Historically, automotive industries have been the engine to industrialisation for many countries, and in principle, the notion of pushing our local industries towards electrification should do the same for the next phase of the industry.

While such industries are key to pushing technological boundaries, they are also heavy weights to move and modify. Therefore, before we load these weights for industrial progress, we must ensure we put them in the right place to reap maximum benefit.

It is for this reason, the National Automotive Policy (NAP2020) stipulates the development of critical components and systems for Next Generation Vehicles (NxGVs), Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) and Industry 4.0, including systems and components within AACVs, Industry 4.0 technologies, light-weight material technology as well as hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles.

With that said, an important aspect of the development of electrification and future mobility revolve around developing various businesses that support the deployment of the overall electric mobility user experience.

These businesses will be key players in the deployment of the required products and services within the electromobility framework, including charging infrastructure, battery manufacturing, charging networks, fleet management, charging station management, battery management, battery end-of-life services, vehicle to grid technology, and many more.

There are also numerous support services that complete the EV ecosystem, including EV rentals, vehicle sharing platforms, parking services, and others – many of these are open markets for startups and small businesses with an aptitude for technology with lower barriers to entry.

In 2019, MARii launched the MARii Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) Scale Up Programme to facilitate the adoption of MaaS related technologies and services in the domestic mobility industry to enhance the e-commerce ecosystem for mobility.

The programme aims to facilitate the adoption of MaaS-related technologies and services into the domestic mobility industry.

Participants of the programme (some mentioned at the start of this article) revolve around five MaaS focus areas, which includes – Sharing Concept (motorcycle/bicycle sharing system, car sharing, person-to-person car rental), Multimodal Transportation (autonomous transport system, personal travel planner), E-Payment (smart payment system, smart parking, road user charging), Connected Living (telecommuting, e-health, e-learning) and Telematics (real-time traffic management, connected vehicles, connected traveller).

The NAP 2020 continues on the principles of prior policies to spur incentivisation of investment in the entire value chain within the connected mobility sector. There are many companies residing in Malaysia today – with strong foundation and capabilities – that are looking for opportunities to scale up their businesses through pairings with the right partners.

Please contact us at MARii to know more about the opportunities available.

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