Leaders' Dialogue in session.

As the year 2023 slowly winds down, SME CEO Forum 2023 concluded its final sessions with the tagline Empowering Small Business for Growth.

The forum brought together powerful and influential 19-person speakers and panellists to address strings of issues and challenges that Malaysian SMEs are facing today.

The speakers and panellists each addressed the pain points of SMEs and the challenges holding them back, including issues such as supply chain, technology and digitalisation, financing and sustainability.

SME Corp CEO, Rizal Nainy took the opportunity to officiate the opening ceremony of the SME CEO Forum 2023, alongside Datuk William Ng, managing director of Business Media International and national president of SAMENTA.

During his opening note, Rizal said, “One of the reasons our SMEs did not get far internationally is because in terms of exports is still relatively low in comparison to the multinational market. We can only manage about 10.5% in 2022.”

“So, there is a big gap for us to improve in terms of exports for SMEs. That is one of the gaps or challenges that SMEs are facing in the world. That’s why in Malaysia, it’s about how to internationalise our SMEs,” he added.

According to Rizal, Malaysian SMEs also have improved in the labour market. The SMEs employ a total of 7.95 million workers, which is an increase of 8% to 48.2% in 2022 compared to 47.8% in 2021. Therefore, almost 50% of employment in Malaysia is provided by SMEs.

He also added that the productivity of employees has improved to RM76,433 per employee compared to RM71,089 per employee in 2021. This shows that the income of employees within the SME space has increased significantly.

In his welcoming note, Ng remarked, “The biggest challenge of SMEs is to increase the margin and make everything better with our business.”

There were three sessions held throughout the day, but the highlight of the SME CEO Forum 2023 was the Leaders’ Dialogue.

The three-men panellist gave their insights on issues and challenges that the SMEs are facing in terms of execution, balance and compatibility, especially for the smaller or micro-SMEs and that the government need to explain more on both the delivery and execution of the policies.

The first forum topic concluded in the note that digitalisation is all about sales, and how to use it to improve business while going even further.

The session also emphasised that digitalisation is a sharing journey, articulating how success should look like and what entrepreneurs want for their businesses.

The second topic focused on “Are you ready for ESG.” Environmental, social, and governance or ESG investing refers to a set of standards for a company’s behaviour used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments.

The panel members talk about implementing and embarking on ESG. They also agreed that though it would cost a lot of money, ESG is definitely important, essential and mandatory as it can prove to the international market that SMEs are compliant and capable of doing business.

The final session covered the topic “Road to IPO.” An initial public offering or IPO refers to the process of offering shares of a private corporation to the public in a new stock issuance for the first time.

Here, the panellist spoke on the reason for going IPO, the challenge of IPO and what are the benefits of IPO.

The forum also had government bodies such as MATRADE, SME Corp, MPC, MYNIC and MIDA briefing the audience on the government assistance and programmes readily available for SMEs.

The SME CEO Forum 2022 is supported by Baker Tilly Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC), Second CRM, Trinity 42, Federation of Public Listed Companies (FPLC), Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KLSICCI), Malaysia Digital Chamber of Commerce (MDCC), Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (Mybha), Malaysian Interior Industry Partners Association (MiiP), Malaysian Institute of Management (MiM) and The Electrical and Electronics Association of Malaysia (TEEAM).

The event’s sponsors include Affin Bank, Siemens, MBSB Bank, Tokio Marine Insurance Group and Awantec.

Business Media International is a subsidiary of SGX-listed Audience Analytics Ltd, a regional leader in promoting growth for companies in Asia through data-driven brands and initiatives.


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