Photo (file) - Dato' Yasmin Mahmood, CEO of MDeC
In addition to attracting FDI, national ICT agency Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) is helping to boost ICT's role in driving Malaysia's digital transformation plans.
MDEC chief executive officer Dato' Yasmin Mahmood, who took over as CEO 17 months ago, said the agency is one of the key forces driving the nation's digital economy transformation, which was kick-started in 1996 with the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).
Addressing questions about MDeC and its current role, Yasmin said a major part of what it does involves attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs).
"We are part of the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) which rolls up into the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). Malaysia has ranked in the top 3 in AT Kearney's Global Services Location Index for 10 consecutive years, with only China and India ahead of us," she said.
MDeC has been responsible for securing RM285 (US$67.72) billion worth of investments into the country. Yasmin pointed out that last year produced sterling results, with an 11 percent increase in revenue to RM38.52 (US$9.15) billion, a huge turnaround from the marginal increase of 3 percent previously.
Meanwhile, total export sales from MSC Malaysia companies also grew to RM13.73 (US$3.26) billion, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, she added.
Yasmin, who has extensive senior corporate experience in the IT arena, including stints at Dell and Microsoft before heading the government agency, said MDeC's role extends beyond bringing in FDI. The corporation also ensures that investments yield successful outcomes.
She brought up the example of Scope, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank. It started operations in Malaysia back in 2001 and since then, the company has grown to a local workforce of more than 4,000 people. Last year it announced further investments in Malaysia, setting up a 24/7 "Collective Intelligence and Command Centre" here for Standard Chartered's global operations.
Another example is Scicom, a home-grown MSC company that was supported by MDeC since its beginnings in 1997. Now it is listed on the KL Stock Exchange and employs close to 2,000 people, servicing more than 40 million customers in 90 countries, in 30 different languages.
Scaling up local companies into global icons
Yasmin also touched on the importance of scaling up local companies into global icons.
Though Malaysia may not have yet produced a Microsoft, it has produced the likes of Silverlake, an established solutions provider for the global fintech industry; and Fusionex, a multi-award winning analytics and Big Data company that is based in Malaysia and listed on the London Stock Exchange.
There are other examples, said Yasmin but many local ICT companies "suffer from a start-up ceiling syndrome, that is, they stay in start-up mode, unable to scale-up."
"Smaller local companies with technologies at the heart of today's digital disruption need help to scale up," she said, giving two examples: Speedminer, which delivers sentiment analysis technology, and Neuramatix, a pioneering machine learning company.
MDeC's mandate to help these companies grow and to meet the national agenda has to be accelerated, said Yasmin.
To meet this objective, MDeC recently launched GAIN (Global Acceleration Innovation Network) initiative, where it has identified companies that have the potential to be accelerated into major global icons, such as Sedania Innovator and iPay88.
"Through our newly set up Silicon Valley office, we connected 21 of such companies to the SV ecosystem of mentors, accelerators and venture capitals (VCs). It was an eye-opener for me when one of them, whose company is currently looking at a valuation of US$30 million, was in fact valued at US$150 million by one of the VCs! This goes to show that we have gems amongst our companies," she said.
MDeC's role was widened in 2011, when it was given the mandate to go beyond MSC and look at the Digital Economy of the country in a more holistic manner, towards a Digital Malaysia agenda, said Yasmin.
Digital Malaysia is a national programme to advance the country towards a developed digital economy by 2020 and is driven by MDeC with other agencies under the stewardship of the Minister of Communication & Multimedia.
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