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  • Sandeep Juneja

Can Malaysian Companies unlock their growth, scalability and global potential?

As we approach our 67th year of independence, what is holding Malaysian companies back? Why have we failed to produce even 1 global brand?

In the wise words of Peter Drucker, the father of modern management and business consulting: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” 

This quote resonates profoundly when we examine the business landscape of Malaysia, a country with untapped potential yet to make a significant mark on the international stage with a global brand. 

After decades of independence, Malaysia's representation in the global market remains unsurprisingly sparse, given the negligible amount of innovation that is carried out in the country. This scenario isn't just a matter of chance but a result of several critical factors undermining the growth and international reach of Malaysian companies, these include:

  1. Underinvestment in Brand Assets: A startling reality is that most Malaysian companies lack distinctive brand assets. The importance of investing in building a unique brand identity cannot be overstated. Brand assets are the cornerstone of recognition and differentiation in a cluttered marketplace. Without these, businesses struggle to carve out a unique space for themselves, let alone compete on an international level.

  2. Accidental Managers: The landscape is dotted with marketing managers who, more often than not, lack formal training or education in marketing. This absence of foundational knowledge and the rarity of continued professional development cripple the strategic direction and execution of marketing efforts. Particularly in smaller companies, managers often do not even have a marketing background, which severely impacts the effectiveness and innovation in marketing strategies.

  3. Lack of an Evidence-Based Marketing Plan: Far too many businesses rely on hastily put-together marketing plans, crafted in a vacuum of a brainstorming session without a holistic view of the business or a deep dive into a marketing or brand audit. This approach is akin to setting sail without a compass, where strategies are not grounded in evidence or aligned with broader business objectives.

  4. Absence of Strategy: Perhaps one of the most significant issues is the lack of a clear, well-defined strategy. It's not uncommon to hear leaders equate making money with strategy. However, this oversimplification overlooks the essence of what a strategy should be: a coherent plan that takes into account the current market position and outlines a pathway to a desired future state. Without understanding where the business stands (its current market 'position') and where it needs to go ('repositioning'), achieving sustained growth is virtually impossible.

These challenges are not insurmountable. They call for a conscious shift towards prioritising marketing and innovation as the core functions of a business. This shift involves not just investment in brand assets, marketing and marketing training but also embracing a strategic mindset that goes beyond the immediate goal of profit. It requires a detailed understanding of the market, the creation of distinct brand assets, and fostering an environment where innovation thrives.

By addressing these fundamental gaps, Malaysian companies can grow to effectively compete, scale and eventually even carve out a significant presence on the global stage.

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