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The man to lead SME Corp into the 21st century

SME Corp’s newly minted CEO Noor Azmi, in an exclusive interview with MALAYSIA SME ®, reveals his plans to propel the SME sector into the digital age

We are planning to undertake a new long-term plan to chart entrepreneurship and SME development beyond 2020.”
— Noor Azmi

As the SME sector forms a total of 98.5% of all establishments in Malaysia, it’s fair to say that the country’s economic future hinges on the growth of SMEs. The sector is expected to assume a greater role come 2019, being the key driver of growth. Naturally, SME Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp) is planning to undertake a new long-term plan to chart entrepreneurship and SME development.

The task now falls on SME Corp’s new chief executive officer (CEO) Noor Azmi Mat Said, who took over as the top executive in the agency effective December 3, 2018. Taking over from Datuk Hafsah Hashim who helmed SME Corp for 15 years, Noor Azmi has big shoes to fill.

In the interview with MALAYSIA SME®, Noor Azmi reveals his immediate and long term plans for SME Corp.

“We will continue to strengthen SME Corp’s successful track record, credibility and commitment to meet the goals and targets of the SME Masterplan, as to spearhead Malaysia’s transition by the year 2020.

“Going forward, SMEs are expected to assume a greater role, not only as an enabler, but as a key driver of growth. We are planning to undertake a new long-term plan to chart entrepreneurship and SME development beyond 2020.”

He points out that the proposed SME Masterplan 2.0 will, among others, look into aligning SMEs to reap the benefits from the megatrends, Industrial Revolution 4.0 and digitalisation, as well as to explore new business models arising from new emerging financial technology, inclusive business, sharing economy and circular economy.”

“Our unyielding efforts are focused towards improving the competitiveness, innovativeness and productivity of our critical mass of SMEs, with the establishment of new policies and initiatives aligned with the latest developments in the global economy affecting businesses,” says Noor Azmi.

When asked about his aspirations for SME Corp, Noor Azmi mentions, “I hope that SME Corp will continue to assume greater responsibility in ensuring the growth and sustainability of SMEs as our core impetus.

“We are steadfast in our pledge to empower the critical mass of SMEs with the right tools, policies and solutions, as to advance the development of SMEs as a compelling force that will accelerate the country’s economic growth and transform Malaysia into a fully-developed nation, and further to be among the top economies in the world.

SME Corp is the central coordinating agency under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development (MED) that coordinates the implementation of development programmes for SMEs across all related ministries and agencies. Resonating the MED’s objective, SME Corp aims to play an active role in adjusting any programmes dedicated to the development of SMEs and align them to the recently launched National Entrepreneurship Framework (NEF).

Particularly, SME Corp has been tasked to mainly lead two strategic objectives highlighted in NEF. The first task is to figure out an alternative source of financing for SMEs, which brought on the cooperation between the MED, SME Corp and Bursa Malaysia. Together, the three entities will organise market awareness sessions beginning December 2018 onwards to encourage more entrepreneurs to participate in listing their businesses on Bursa Malaysia.

The second task involves encouraging B40 entrepreneurs to get on board with e-commerce and adopt digitalisation methods. This would require the MED and SME Corp to continue providing guidance and training for entrepreneurs to promote and sell their products and services via online platforms.

In particular is the new SME Masterplan 2.0 (2021 – 2030), which aims to assist SMEs in reaping the benefits of current megatrends, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) and digitalisation, among others. The proposed masterplan will also explore new business models arising from emerging trends such as financial technology, inclusive business, sharing economy and circular economy.

“The current SME Master plan will reach its end in 2020, bringing on board the new SME Masterplan 2.0. It can ensure that local SMEs would remain competitive in the domestic market and globally as well,” adds Noor Azmi.

According to him, the new plan was developed based on hindsight, insight and foresight of the current SME landscape. It also takes into account the changing demographics, global economics, business landscapes and business models,
while identifying new opportunities and challenges that needs to be addressed by SMEs.

“As SMEs are the endogenous source of growth and the main driver of economic growth, a new SME Masterplan 2.0 will ensure the continuity of SME development agenda for the country,” says Noor Azmi, adding that the proposed SME
Masterplan 2.0 will also boost SME contribution. Although, even before the SME Masterplan 2.0 is being implemented, the SME sector has high hopes for the coming years, as revealed by a survey from SME Corp.

Observing and developing SMEs Being the Secretariat to the National Entrepreneur and SME Development Council (NESDC), SME Corp conducts surveys during the first and third quarter of every year. The survey is meant to assess the performance of SMEs and identify issues faced by SMEs in the business environment.

The latest survey, which is for the third quarter of 2019 (3Q2018), gathered 1,721 SME respondents to participate with the majority coming from the services sector (67.6%). Preliminary findings showed that 44.9% of the respondents experienced higher sales during that period.