Waving the Flag for Malaysia: Let us believe in the power of the ‘Brand Malaysia’ and aim for a global reputation of being the best.
As I was watching the 56th Merdeka Day celebrations, I was one among the many Malaysians beaming with pride for what we have achieved as a nation. We have come a long-way since the days of our independence to emerge as a small but a country with endless potentials, undergoing metamorphosis of sorts for a positive change while at the same time capturing the mind space of global communities. As I take time to reflect and pen my thoughts in one of the pergolas at the beach side of Laguna Resort & Spa in Bali immediately after the completion of the APEC SME Ministerial meetings, many thoughts came to mind to weave a compelling story of the Brand Malaysia.
During the APEC Ministerial meetings in Bali, we shared with the other Ministers that Malaysia is the 15th most competitive economy in the world according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2013. Many APEC economies enquired how was Malaysia able to maintain the top spot for the fifth consecutive year in the World Bank Report in providing access to credit to Malaysian companies.
The World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 report also ranked Malaysia as the 12th most business-friendly country globally, which puts us ahead of other highly regarded economies such as Sweden (13th), Taiwan (16th), Germany (20th), Japan (24th) and Switzerland (28th). Among Asian nations, we are the fourth most competitive after Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. We were ranked as the 9th hottest real estate market in the world by CNBC last year, based on research undertaken by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank. All these global statistics from credible organisations and reports are a testimony or the proof of Malaysia’s progressive journey towards achieving a developed nation status by the year 2020.
It is a hard-hitting fact that Malaysia is recognised by the world as a believable and credible ‘Brand’, which puts an added responsibility on various proponents of growth -- our entrepreneurs, companies and businesses in high-priority sectors of the economy; our leaders and economists; our government; and private sector enterprises. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the world is not only exposed to but also benefits from the best of our talents, our resources, our policies and programmes, as well as our products and services. Each of these should be able to reflect the power and pre-eminence of the brand that is ‘Malaysia’, which should also resonate ‘quality’ of the highest order to the world at large.
As a central coordinating agency responsible for SME development, SME Corp have always tried to establish the importance of integrating the ‘Brand’ power into SME business models.
Every SME should aspire seeing their brand grow into global Malaysian brands, drawing inspiration from home-grown international names such as AirAsia, Maybank, Proton, Parkson, Axiata, Lewré and Jimmy Choo among others. It is with this intent that SME Corp. Malaysia developed the 'National Mark of Malaysian Brand' in collaboration with SIRIM QAS International in 2009. The objective was to enhance the visibility of Malaysian products and services in both local and international markets through the attributes of Quality, Excellence and Distinction of the products and services.
Through the National Mark of Malaysian Brand, we aim to instil high-level of confidence in our SMEs to represent themselves as a Malaysian Brand ready to take on the global marketplace. Since its introduction, the 63 companies which have been recognised and certified benefited in gaining greater market access as capable suppliers of products and services in markets such as the Philippines, Thailand, China and the Middle East.
The recipients of National Mark of Malaysian Brand fulfil a minimum of 3-stars under SME Corp. Malaysia’s SME Competitive Rating for Enhancement (SCORE) and possess an ISO or equivalent certification. SCORE, a proud invention of SME Corp. Malaysia is a diagnostic tool used to evaluate and rate the capabilities of companies at firm level.
Seven parameters that vary across sectors including the company’s business performance; financial, management and technical capabilities; production capacity; quality system and innovation are used to measure SME performance. The tool enables one to identify the strengths and weaknesses of companies, propose an action plan and recommend measures for improvements, helping them to constantly raise their performance bar and brand equity.
Barangan Buatan Malaysia, on the other hand, complement the National Mark of Malaysian Brand by allowing companies to take that first step towards branding through registering their products under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism. At a very basic level, SMEs must establish their source or origin of products through Barangan Buatan Malaysia, which in itself will command some brand value when associated with progressive countries such as Malaysia.
The recipients of the National Mark of Malaysian Brand, after a very stringent audit and monitoring processes to ensure conformity to the standards criteria, receive incentives up to RM400K (per company) from SME Corp. Malaysia under the Green Lane Policy for Business Accelerator Programme (BAP) to cover expenses related to advertisement and promotions; quality management systems; design and packaging; product innovation; R&D; and product, process and capacity enhancements. In addition, SMEs are also given access to on-going local and international trade and promotional activities undertaken by MATRADE; training programmes conducted by SME Corp. Malaysia; as well as special passes to MICCI-SME Corp. Malaysia Mentoring Programmes.
As rightly asserted by Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, the former Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI), now the current Menteri Besar of Kedah, "...through the National Mark of Malaysian Brand certification and brand recognition, the recipient companies are indeed regarded as our representatives and brand ambassadors of Malaysia - to stand proud and tall, in the eyes of the world".
This brings me to the point about Brand Stewardship, which is a responsibility that we Malaysian SMEs and the citizens must take seriously and do our part in promoting our nation, our "Brand Malaysia". A Brand, beyond an identifiable logo, is about experience, it is about attaining high standards of quality, sustainability and of course, the emotional journey that we consumers go through with.
In a nutshell, brand magic is about making the impossible possible for consumers!
Datuk Hafsah Hashim is SME Corp. Malaysia Chief Executive Officer.