Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Web-based accounting: Google's next service?

Google is making an aggressive drive into the software world with its slew of web-based offerings which, aside from its core search-engine & email service, now includes a word processor, spreadsheet and even 3D Mapping!

This ZDNet
article asks whether Google's next sights will be set on launching a web-based financial and accounting application to counter the likes of Intuit's Quickbooks and Microsoft's newly launched Small Business Accounting.

While a free service might be a boon to SME's, the issues of privacy and personal data integrity continue to
haunt Google - especially when it involves companies' financial data.

Accounting & finance software is generally hard to mass market across different countries due to differing standards. Companies like Intuit and Sage have grown big because they succeeded in dominating their home markets (US & UK respectively) and expanded globally from that strong base - and even then, that expansion was largely fuelled by acquisitions of local software vendors (e.g. Sage swallowing up UBS in Malaysia).

In the virtual world, Google has demonstrated its capability to dominate in applications which are generic in nature and do not require too many degrees of customisation to make them work. According to the same ZDNet report, their foray into the cash register business with Google Checkout is proving to be a bit of a nightmare for them.

For now, it appears local accounting software companies can still rest assured that their increasingly-arcane way of selling boxed software will probably remain secure for some time. Even more so in Malaysia where SME's are still in the early stages of using the internet for business.

Technorati tag: Google, Intuit, Microsoft, Sage, Malaysia, SMEs

Ugly Mint Hotel gets new buyer

Many KL-ites would be all too familiar with this giant shed bearing the unusual name of Mint Hotel.

The Mint Hotel stands in all its crass ugliness at the southern gateway to KL, being probably the first major building motorists see from the KL-Seremban Highway toll.

For some time now, this hotel has been under receivership and I for one was eagerly hoping some white knight would step in, level this eyesore and put up a more decent design worthy of its southern gateway status.

Then comes the
news that the Lotus Group of restaurants has succeeded in its bid to buy over the hotel. Now while I can vouch for the good food the Lotus Restaurant serves, I honestly can't comment much about their hotel management abilities though they do have a 2-star hotel in Jln Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

I only hope they will do something about the building - heck even a giant lotus would be better than the shapeless hulk that is currently there.

Technorati tag: architecture, hotel, Malaysia

Monday, August 28, 2006

Building strong local brands? Look at these logos!

Have any of you ever stopped to look at some of our local corporate logos and building designs?

Amid recent calls by our government to take 100 local brands abroad, I think they better consult an expert in anthropomorphism before developing their logos.

Here are some classic examples:

1) Ericsson's Cyberjaya buildings and traditional chinese coffins

2) Inokom's Corporate Logo and a Middle Finger

Imagine driving your inokom in town and people see this in the rearview mirror. Someone had better do a market study on whether Inokom vehicles cause more road rage than others!

3) Kurnia Insurance logo and a shark's fin.

A terrible choice of logo especially for an insurance company. Sign up with us and be prepared to be eaten alive!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rafidah to foreign investors: Can't accept the 30% bumi stake? Go elsewhere

Malaysia's so-called Iron Lady, International Trade & Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz has advised foreign investors that if they can't accept the 30% bumiputra equity requirement, they "can go elsewhere".

Strong words indeed which may have been spurred by news that under the Second Industrial Master Plan, Malaysia had attracted total investments of RM260 billion in manufacturing activities, exceeding its target of RM250 billion.

Her new-found assertiveness could also be derived from the fact that foreign direct investment into ASEAN rose to US$38 billion - the highest level in a decade.

She would do well to remember that China, India & Indochina are all waiting in the wings, eager to become the "elsewhere"foreigners can take their money to.

Technorati: Malaysia, ASEAN.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blackberry Addiction similar to drugs!

According to this report, these ubiquitous portable email devices can be as addictive as drugs!

What started out as a convenience for business people on the go, has developed into a dangerous addiction where sufferers are able to survive only a few minutes without checking for new mail and only being able to focus on their Blackberry, ignoring those around them.

The phenomenon is still relatively new in this part of the world but with recent promotions by both Maxis & Celcom, it looks like Blackberry addiction is going to hit our business people sooner than later!

Technorati: Blackberry, hooked on email, addictions

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Malaysia wants its Jimmy Choos to come home

Could this latest call for Malaysia's celebrity fashion designers and creative personalities to return home, have been prompted by the news that David Gan, well-known stylist to local celebrities, is now a Singaporean?

The call might be a bit more convincing if KL possessed the same haute couture draw as say Paris, London or New York. Heck, even if we had the same draw as Shanghai, we might stand a better chance.

Jimmy Choo by his own admission was inspired by his father who "was not just making shoes... he was creating something to do with his heart and his mind, and transferring it to the human feet. He told me that it was not just about making shoes and money. It was about being an artist. There is no point if it is not art."

You can read more about him from this 2003 Telegraph interview.

Technorati: Jimmy Choo,David Gan, Malaysia.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In Malaysia, when car prices drop, so do sales

What was supposed to be good news for car buyers in Malaysia, has instead turned out to be a case of bitter irony.

Sales of cars in this country have dropped ever since the government announced sizeable reductions in duties of cars assembled in ASEAN, under the new National Automotive Policy (NAP).

The latest to fall victim to this unfortunate phenomenon is Tan Chong Motors, local distributor of Nissan cars, which despite cutting the prices of their cars by as much as 15% have just reported a drop in car sales
in the second quarter of 2006 to 5,496 units from 6,705 units a year ago.

And it's not just the distributors/manufacturers that are feeling the pinch. Former poster-boy-bumiputra company and automotive harness wire maker APM Industries Holdings has fallen under receivership due to the failing fortunes of its major customer Proton, as the latter chopped its list of component vendors.

One can only guess how the smaller component vendors are faring in such difficult times.

Timing could not have been worse for the introduction of the NAP. Effectively, a trifecta of issues have emerged to counteract the potential benefits of the reductions in duty: Skyrocketing fuel prices, rising interest rates (and therefore cost of vehicle ownership) and falling used car prices.

While the first two are either
finicky or impossible to control, the government can still try to turn things around by introducing a car scrapping policy into this country. Removing old cars from the market should stir demand for new cars.

Our southern neighbours already have such a system in place where car owners are allowed to use their vehicles for a period of 10 years after which they must be sent for yearly inspections to qualify for an annual license. Then, to use their cars for another 10 years they will have to get a new Certificate of Entitlement (COE) at the prevailing price.

An additional plus side is that scrapping will help to remove the smoke-belching old jalopies and rusting scrap heaps from our roads.

The major down side of introducing a scrapping policy is the idea that you no longer 'own' your vehicle, but rather you lease it from the government for that particular period. (Not that many of us really own our vehicles now of course since Malaysians are well known for their loooong car loan tenures).

The government will have to think long and hard about introducing such a scheme as it may prove politically suicidal especially if it impacts the rural population (and their votes).

79% of Malaysian SMEs are Micro enterprises

The results of the first comprehensive census on Malaysian SMEs are out.

An overwhelming 99% of firms surveyed are SMEs and though they obviously do contribute to the overall economy, their productivity levels are very low, recording value-added per establishment of RM0.3 million compared with RM41 million for large enterprises.

The other interesting fact is that many of these businesses are micro enterprises, hiring fewer than 5 employees. Understandably, they have greater challenges getting funding from financial institutions, which is why 84% of the SMEs relied on their own, or internally generated funds from friends and family members. In contrast, 50% of large enterprises turned to financial institutions.

The government's take-home points for the various sectors are:

Manufacturing: Upscale and transform businesses into strong knowledge intensive and value creating entities

Agro: Focus on development of "New Agriculture" including Biotechnology.

Wholesale & Retail Trade: Provide a comprehensive supporting infrastructure for businesses in this sector including provision of business premises and services. Hopefully the Ministry of Domestic Trade & Industry won't smother this vibrant industry by vigorously pursuing its agenda against those retail businesses with 15% foreign equity and forcing them to give 30% away to UMNO supporters.

Technorati tag: smes, Malaysia

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Singapore muzzles FEER & other International papers

The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) has now been classified as an 'offshore paper' in Singapore which means its circulation will be capped at 10,000 copies.

The Ministry of Information, Communications & the Arts stated that "it is a privilege, and not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore. They do so as foreign observers of the local scene and should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore."

Evidently FEER had yet again pissed off Big Brother by carrying an interview with opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan and calling him Singapore's 'Martyr' (with apostrophes intact). In it Chee proposes that the ruling PAP party is so paranoid of any form of opposition to its absolute rule because of 'skeletons in the closet'. The writer also asks whether Singapore deserves its 'squeaky-clean government' reputation by rexamining the National Kidney Foundation scandal again.

Other papers affected by this reclassification include the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Newsweek and TIME magazines.

Our JB newsvendors should be doing a roaring trade soon with these limited circulation publications!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Milky Way to excellent Customer Service

My recent experience with Malaysia Milk deserves a mention here.

My wife had recently bought a fresh carton of HL milk from a nearby 7-11 but when we poured it out, we found out it was rancid. A call to the 1-800 customer care line was courteously and efficiently handled and by the next day, a replacement carton of milk PLUS a bonus pack of orange juice was hand delivered to our house!

Talk about service recovery!

And as if that wasn't enough, I receiveda follow-up call from another representative yesterday explaining that they had followed up on our case and that they had discovered the refrigeration system at that particular 7-11 wasn't running at the recommended temperature. Remedial action has been taken she assured.

Great job Malaysia Milk! We need more companies like you in this country who understand the value of customer delight.

technorati tag: customer satisfaction, smes, Malaysia

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