Monday, 28 November 2011

Think global or you lose out ! Malaysians consumed too much with local affairs!

Malaysia (dark green) / ASEAN (dark grey)

ONE MAN'S MEAT By PHILIP GOLINGAI

They (Malaysian businessmen) don’t think global. They don’t want to even think Asean. For them, they are in a comfort zone and it is enough to do business in Malaysia.

NINE years ago, Datuk Ilyas Mohamed’s businessmen friends laughed when he asked them to invest in Indonesia.

“Malaysian economy was at its best until 10 years ago. We were at the peak. After that, it started to go down,” recalled the Cartrade Group executive chairman.

And Ilyas decided to enter the Indonesian market. His first deal was to buy Mandala Airlines.

The deal, however, fell through when a Singaporean company outbid his group. It put more money on the table.

But the setback did not discourage him.“I am very fortunate as I have a business partner there, who is one of the richest men in Indonesia,” noted the 50-something businessman.

His silent partner is a low profile multi-billionaire (we’re not talking about rupiahs but in US dollars).

“He is by name my partner. But he is not interested in my business as it is too small for him. Half of Jakarta belongs to him,” Ilyas related.

(Who? Google: Artha Graha Group.)

Now, 20% of Ilyas’ business is in Malaysia and the rest overseas, mostly in Indonesia; coal mining in Kalimantan and property development in Surabaya and Jakarta.

And his friends, who laughed at him as they thought he would be conned in Indonesia, are now following his footsteps.

“Indonesia is THE market. They have 245 million people. Can you go wrong in a market with 245 million people? And the Indonesian Govern­ment welcomes Malaysian companies,” he explained.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Indonesia. They are not even developing. They are just about to develop. If you go in now it is the best time. You can’t piggy back when they are (already) up there.”

Ilyas, however, cautioned:

“Of course, the important thing is to find the right partner. Many people go there and find the wrong partner, they get conned and then they say Indonesians are ‘penipu’ (conmen).”

The Malaysian market is small as the country’s population is 28 million.



“You can do small business (in Malaysia). But if you want to think big, you have to go out (of Malaysia),” the businessman said.

How big is Indonesia?

“Out of the 245 million Indone­sians, about 10% are super rich and that’s the total population of Malaysia,” Ilyas said.

How rich is “rich”?

“Oh, they are very, very rich,” he said and gave a figure (in ringgit) which I thought was unbelievable.
The thing with Malaysians, according to Ilyas, was we think small.

“They don’t think global. If not global then think Asean.

“But, they don’t want to even think Asean,” he said.

“For them, they are in a comfort zone. Sudahlah (it is enough) to do business in Malaysia.”

Most Malaysian businessmen (and we are not talking about the bosses of CIMB etc) do not want to venture.

For example, Ilyas said, “Sri Lanka is a good market now. Their trade minister, chief justice and banker (with a bank equivalent to Maybank) came down to talk to our businessmen. But they were not interested.”

It is the opposite for Singapore entrepreneurs. With their rock solid Singapore dollar, they are rushing into Sri Lanka.

“They know that their local base is small and they have to do business outside of Singapore,” he said.

The Philippines’ economy is also booming.

“Over the past 30 years, Filipinos are fed up with politics. And they work and work, building the economy themselves. And if we are not careful, we might be sending maids to the Philippines soon,” Ilyas said.

It is politics as usual in Malaysia.

“Instead of coming up with ideas on how to create business opportunities, our politicians come up with all sort of (political) issues,” Ilyas contended.

“They are creating issues for cheap publicity. For example, you can take 10 Chinese, 10 Indians and 10 Malays and sit them down together and there will be no racial issue among them.

“But it is the politicians and not the rakyat that come up with all sort of racial issues.”

“How to be a global player when you are thinking of politics 24 hours a day?”

Ilyas flies in and out of Indonesia spending about 15 to 16 days a month in that country.

So I asked: “Why don’t you relax and do business in Malaysia?”

His eyes gleamed. “Of course as a businessman, you are an opportunist. When you see so much of opportunities (in Indonesia) you just can’t resist.”

Ilyas assures that the Indonesian market is not as hostile as its fans during an Indonesia vs Malaysia football match.

Consumed with local affairs

One Man's Meat By PHILIP GOLINGAI

The Philippines looms as the next big Asean entity and Indonesia is the place to ‘park’ one’s money, but we would rather not know that the barbarians are at the gate.

THE barbarians are at the gate and yet Malaysians are more fixated with whether a mentri besar was caught for khalwat with a girl from Pasir Panjang.

Not true, says the MB. But tongues still wag.

Perhaps we should be more concerned with the fact that the Philippines will be the next big thing in Asean.
I remember reading a report saying that if we are not careful, in two decades or so we will be sending maids to Manila.

The thing about us is we are more consumed with domestic affairs than foreign happenings.

Yes, from my Twitter timeline, Malaysians are also interested in the fact that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested on charges of fraud and Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam was captured.

But we are more intrigued with when Parliament will be dissolved, and whether Parti Kita president Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will contest in Petaling Jaya Utara or Petaling Jaya Selatan.

I, too, am guilty of paying too much attention to local politics and not enough to global issues.

Yes, I’m aware of the eurozone debt crisis. But don’t ask me to get into specifics.

However, I’ve become a specialist on Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang’s challenge to DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua: he will consume a mug of Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia’s (KR1M) Chocolate Malt if the Petaling Jaya Utara MP donates RM1,000 to charity.

The challenge came after Pua claimed that KR1M’s 1Malaysia Growing Up Milk contained eight times the permitted amount of Vitamin A and was missing essential nutrients such as Omega 3, Vitamin B1, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and folic acid.

There was so much excitement in TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian twittersphere) over the issue, with some twitterers milking the issue with clever tweets such as “Pray for @TanKengLiang because he is going to drink 1Malaysia Choco Milk”.

Another big issue on TwitterJaya has spawned the mother of all puns and has also something to do with milk.

So syiok I was to absorb these comments like SpongeBob SquarePants, until I read a tweet by @Art_Harun (the lawyer) on Wednesday.

He tweeted in Malay: Malaysian politics – last month it was about molesting breast, this month it is about cows. When will we discuss the maximum impact of the eurozone on our economy?

Ouch. Time to come out from under my coconut shell.

So I decided to find out what the barbarians (Malaysia’s foreign rivals) were up to.

On Friday, I met a 20-something think-tank director at Coffee Bean in Bangsar Village to pick his brain.

The cerebral hotshot, who wants to keep a low profile at the moment, listed three challenges that Malaysia faces.

“Population wise, we are too small. We have a population of 28 million. Compare that with Indonesia’s 245 million, Thailand’s 66 million and the Philippines’ 103 million,” said the animated man, still wearing his maroon Friday prayer shirt.

“In terms of economies of scale, our enterprises will not grow so big because our market is small. We don’t have any option but to invest outside.”

Malaysian enterprises, he said, should think Asean to survive and grow.

“We should be on the forefront of ‘big’ Asean,” he explained.

He noted that Malaysian companies such as CIMB and Khazanah were investing in vibrant Indonesia, the country to “park” one’s money.

And through Twitter, he understands how important Indonesia is to the United States by reading the tweets of the American ambassador to Jakarta.

“Food security,” he said. “Many Malaysians do not realise that Malaysia imports almost everything – rice, fish and even chilli.

“Imagine chilli! I did not know that we imported chilli until I attended a briefing by Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit).  
    
“We are also overly dependent on foreign workers. Free movement of people is important in a globalised world.

“But certain industries, such as palm oil and construction, should train Malaysians to work in these sectors.

“Suddenly they are finding it difficult to recruit Indonesian workers as that country’s economy is booming. Indonesians would rather work in Malaysian-owned palm oil plantations in their own country than in Malaysia.”

Note to myself: download the Economist iPad edition that has, as its cover story, “The magic of diasporas: Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy”.

In the meantime, I wonder what will happen to Tan should he drink the 1Malaysia Chocolate Malt.