Monday, March 27, 2006

Digi Does it Again - Smart Mobile Solutions for Businesses

Once again Digi is proving itself to be the most innovative local mobile provider with its new package for businesses. I don't work for them nor am I a Digi user, but surely you can't help but sit up and take notice when they announce such aggressive plans as this:

ZERO Inter-Company Call charges - Pay absolutely no charges for calls between colleagues
ZERO monthly fee - Pay no monthly fee for usage from RM70
ZERO boundaries - 20sen/min flat rate nationwide and international calls to 30 countries - 15sen/min flat rate nationwide calls (DiGi to DiGi)
50% off your bill, guaranteed - Pay half when your bill is above RM600

More on their
website. Despite being snubbed by our government over the 3G license issue, it's nice to see them back in action and rocking the market again. These plans should go down well with local businesses and SMEs.

Of course Jeff Ooi, Maxis' favourite blogger, has already published this piece of news.

Technorati: Mobile phone, Malaysia , SME, business, DIGI

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Approved Permits - Rent Seeking mechanism to be abolished by 2010

Currently only a select(mainly bumiputra)group of companies have been given 'Approved Permits' or AP's to import vehicles and distribute them locally.

At long last this non-productive, purely rent-seeking practice will be abolished by 2010. That gives a good 4 years for current patrons to make their killing before the taps are finally turned off.

In the meantime, the government says they will transition existing AP holders into "other related business activities, for example sales and distribution or component manufacturing." I wonder how many of them will end up actually doing that.

One wonders whether we will finally adopt the
Singapore Certificate of Entitlement or COE scheme for car ownership where market forces determine the prices of certificates.

Technorati tags: cars, Malaysia, Singapore, COE, rent seeking

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hair loss blamed for rising divorce rate in HK

Hair loss caused by stress has apparently been a main reason for the rising numbers of divorces in Hong Kong, which at 41% is the third highest rate in the world after the US & South Korea! (Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong ranks fifth in the Grant Thornton International Business Owners Survey on Increased Stress Levels.)

In this story, the loss of the poor workaholic guy's hair triggered off a downward spiral that eventually led to his divorce. Apparently the fact that he was losing his hair and did not seem to care was a sign that he no longer cared enough for his wife.

Rather mournfully he says : "Traditionally, men in Hong Kong have never been too bothered about their look, especially after they get married. That attitude might have been okay in the 1970s but believe me, it's a recipe for disaster today."

If we aren't careful, we Malaysian men might find ourselves in the same hot soup as our increasingly career-minded women get more assertive about how we should look!

Technorati: business, stress, divorce, Hong Kong, Malaysia

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Southern Bank - Another one bites the dust

Bumi Commerce's takeover of Southern Bank heralds the demise of yet another profitable niche bank that built its success on the strength of its SME and retail business.

I remember the days of PhileoAllied before it was forcibly swallowed by Maybank. They were the first to pioneer electronic banking and stole the lead on lumbering incumbents such as Maybank and Bumi Commerce with their highly innovative personal banking plans. Tong Kooi Ong, the former owner of PhileoAllied, has now brought his magic to Canada where he was credited with turning around timber giant Taiga.

Now that SBB is gone, I can't imagine how things are going to get better for SME's trying to secure commercial loans etc. Perhaps it would be left to the foreign banks to provide some innovative competition to the remaining local banks to ensure they don't slip into oligopolistic stupor.

Competitive Malaysia makes an interesting comparison of SBB with Park May, which was another profitable concern that was swallowed up by a GLC.

Technorati tags: malaysia, glc, business, sme,

Thursday, March 16, 2006

IBM makes another prediction - No More Next Big Thing

image from the Economist

IBM's Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology, Nicholas Donofrio was recently quoted as saying "If you're looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There's no such thing as the next big thing."

I wonder if he would be made to swallow his own words especially as in 1943, one of his ex-chairmen, Tom Watson, made this now infamous prediction, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Strangely enough, the venerable Economist posed the question in 2003 whether IBM itself was the Next Big Thing!

Technorati tags: IBM, predictions, personal computers, next big thing

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Has rampant piracy made us careless about our own Intellectual Property rights?

Our SMEs may be getting more active in exports and investments but they are still quite lax about protecting their intellectual property rights, says the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

I can't help wondering whether the high piracy rates (estimated at about 61% by BSA) have led to this general tidak apa (lackadaisical) attitude about protecting our IP rights. Apparently "Sarawak Pepper" is the only SME product that has registered its "geographical indication trademark" among international pepper traders whereas neighbouring Thai SMEs have registered their products ranging from salted eggs to tamarind and salted fish.

Once Malaysian SMEs recognise the value of intellectual property rights, it should go a long way toward even reducing piracy of any type in this country.

Technorati tags: malaysia, sme, intellectual property, piracy

Monday, March 13, 2006

AMCHAM's YEP - Turning Form 4 Students into Entrepreneurs

The American Chamber of Commerce has this annual program (which they have been running since 1989) called the Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP) where 25 of the best Form 4 students called 'Achievers' are selected from participating schools nationwide to form mini student companies and 'run' & 'list' a business.

The whole program lasts 9 months at the end of which the companies undergo stringent evaluation. Sounds like PUNB should link up with these folks (if they aren't already) for their Prosper Siswazah program to make it more complete. It certainly beats the heck out of rote-learning and will better prepare the future generation for the business world.

Not bad national service from a country which one narrow-minded Malaysian blogger terms as the Great Satan. (No, I won't honour his blinkered blog by linking to it.)

Technorati tags: malaysia, entrepreneurs, business

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mawi vs Firefly - or how M.Mobile could learn some basic marketing lessons

Firefly - or what could have been

Mawi happily promoting our first indigenous phone

So finally our indigenous mobile phone M.Mobile has hit the streets. Beyond Mawi and in-built Azan reminders, I can't see anything else that differentiates this phone from say a China-made Ningbo Bird phone which I can get for a couple of hundred ringgit at Low Yat. No wonder they have resorted to lobbying SIRIM to impose import permits on handphones.

Why couldn't the folks at M.Mobile have thought through their strategy carefully and exploit target markets instead of shooting everywhere? After all, in the global market, M.Mobile is a small player and needs to work on niche marketing strategies to even stand a chance.
Take a look at the folks from Firefly - they've got these great little phones designed specially for kids! A simple idea but when delivered properly the results are incredible and will certainly attract a buying market!

Technorati tags: mobile phones,Malaysia,marketing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


If a mobile service provider, an unproven pay-TV service and a loss-making broadband service provider all applied for a 3G license, who would you think would secure it without any problem? If you said, ‘The mobile service provider, of course!’ then you most definitely are not an inhabitant of Planet Boleh-hood.

In a shocking announcement yesterday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that both MiTV (unproven pay-TV service)and TTdotcom (loss-making broadband provider) were both awarded with 3G licenses whereas Digi, the country’s 3rd largest mobile phone service provider walked away empty-handed.

The official stand was that “the two winners had to work “with DiGi and other service providers as a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) to achieve a win-win situation’’ – Barisan-speak for "Bail out my loss-making cronies."

This is another sad day for Malaysian business. If I were Telenor (major foreign shareholder in Digi), I’d sell my stake in Digi for RM1 and leave this country for safer markets like Afghanistan or Iraq.

Lim Kit Siang, Aisehman & of course Jeff Ooi blog about this outrageous development as well.

Technorati: Malaysia, cronyism, 3G, Digi

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fuel hikes - it appears only the economists are happy.

The topic du jour must be the shocking 30 sen petrol price hike that was announced on Tuesday and as expected most industry groups are up in arms over this sudden increase.
  • The Manufacturing Sector is worried that this would lead to higher transportation charges and employees demanding for higher mileage claims.
  • The Selangor Freight Forwaders & Logistics Association worries that conventional lorry transport companies and warehouse operators will be the hardest hit.
  • AirAsia has upped its fuel surcharge by 50% for its West Malaysia routes.
  • Malaysian Taxi, Limousine and Hired Cars Association has complained that the recent taxi fare hike is now of no use as any gain has been wiped out by the price increase.
  • The Malaysian Retail Association has revised its growth projection for its industry downwards from 8% to 6%.
  • The Pan Malaysia Bus Operators' Association said more bus operators will go bust or reduce their routes unless the Government implements the diesel fleet card subsidy system soon.
  • The MTUC says that the price increase of 18.5% far outstrips the average worker’s pay increase of no more than 5%.
  • The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association says the fuel price increase could lead restaurants to the “breaking point”.
  • Hawkers are beginning to increase prices of their food because of the higher LPG prices.

In spite of all this, the

Business Times quotes a couple of economists to put a positive spin on things:

“The fact that the Government is actually subsidising (petrol and diesel) less is positive,” said Joseph Tan, Standard Chartered Bank’s global research economist. “We want to see as free a market as possible, with minimum distortions,” he told Business Times.

And CIMB Securities chief economist Lee Heng Guie:

“The subsidy cut will enable the Malaysian economy to thrive in a more competitive environment as we don’t really know our competitiveness now.”

Bottom line:
What is the government going to do with the RM4.4billion savings from fuel subsidies? While we wait with bated breath for details of the 9th Malaysia Plan, I’m already making plans to sell my 2-litre car.

Technorati tags: malaysia, fuel prices, petrol

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