Col­umns

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Contents -

An ad­vo­cate for the road less trav­elled, Ash­leigh Kivi­laakso loves noth­ing more than hunt­ing down ad­ven­ture in small towns, dis­cov­er­ing the se­crets of the great out­doors and un­earthing long-buried his­to­ries of Malaysia Not that many years ago, an ex­pat was seen as a high-level ex­ec­u­tive in an in­ter­na­tional bank or MNC who lived in an Am­pang bun­ga­low or an up­town apart­ment. Some still fit this mould, but in­creas­ingly ex­pats are found not only in big fir ms but in SMES; and they even live in PJ! This new breed is also more likely to cre­ate star tups in their host coun­tries, and as a by-prod­uct of glob­al­i­sa­tion, the path lead­ing here is di­verse and their busi­nesses even more so. From fa­cil­i­tat­ing din­ner par ties in a stranger’s home as Plate­cul­ture does, to mo­tor rac­ing event man­age­ment, busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors and co-work­ing spa­ces, they are rad­i­cally chang­ing the way busi­ness done and cre­at­ing com­mu­ni­ties as well.

What is it that draws them here, how has their ex­pe­ri­ence been, and what im­pact has this had on Malaysians?

Ste­fan Pertz came here 14 years ago via Hong Kong and Aus­tralia. Part of a Ger­man team out­fit­ting the new HK air por t he was at­tracted by Asia’s vi­brancy. Ini­tially help­ing SME Euro­pean firms es­tab­lish a pres­ence in the re­gion he later ven­tured on his own. His first busi­ness was to of­fer ef­fi­cient out­sourced mar­ket­ing and brand­ing ser­vices to lo­cal firms anx­ious to man­age costs. Later he set up a South East Asian trade mag­a­zine as a ve­hi­cle for large MNC au­to­mo­tive firms to reach out to the re­gion’ s ex­pand­ing haulage sec­tor.

Early ar­rival An­thony learnt his tr ade in Sil­i­con Val­ley. With two lo­cal part­ners, his startup sought to de­velop a Malaysian­man­u­fac­tured smart­phone with the cost ef­fi­cien­cies of be­ing based in Asia. With features that were ad­vanced for the time, such as a cam­era be­fore the iphone had one, it failed to draw enough in­vestors, lo­cal in­vest­ment cul­ture be­ing risk averse es­pe­cially in the then bud­ding IT sec­tor. His sec­ond re­cy­cling star tup did bet­ter thanks to grants from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice and is a self- sus­tain­ing suc­cess. But en­trepreneurs are of­ten rest­less and he is now look­ing at new pos­si­bil­i­ties.

What do they say about set­ting up a busi­ness? Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore are the clear lead­ers in Asia in terms of lo­ca­tion, ef­fi­ciency and in­tegrity of the busi­ness sec­tor. China is, of course, the great­est mar­ket and source of tal­ent es­pe­cially in IT but the qual­ity of life is not as good as South East Asia. Lo­ca­tion and ease of liv­ing is im­por tant for en­trepreneurs and their key staff which is why Thai­land also does well. The Philip­pines is in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive due to English be­ing the sec­ond lan­guage, its natural at­trac­tions and a cul­ture of ser­vice prompt­ing ser­vice­based com­pa­nies to re­cruit there.

Malaysia is also well placed pri­mar­ily due to the wide­spread use of English, a com­mon law sys­tem, ease of liv­ing and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to the rest of the re­gion. For some the down­side was the ar­chaic rule re­quir­ing lo­cal part­ners. Hav­ing lo­cal eq­uity doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily of­fer that many ad­van­tages and is no guar­an­tee that eth­i­cal be­hav­iour will be ad­hered to.

The pres­ence of this new breed of busi­ness has been of great as­sis­tance to bud­ding lo­cal en­trepreneurs. Dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties have been cre­ated en­abling lo­cal as­pi­rants to learn by os­mo­sis of new val­ues and im­mer­sion in en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tems which weren’t read­ily avail­able be­fore. Lo­cal ini­tia­tives like MAGIC (Malaysian Global In­no­va­tion & Cre­ativ­ity Cen­tre) also sup­ple­ment busi­ness growth. One thing is clear - there will be an in­creas­ing ex­pat pres­ence which should be wel­comed. The pre­vi­ous be­lief that an ex­pat took a Malaysian’s job no longer holds, if it ever did. The re­al­ity to­day is that ex­pat star­tups cre­ate jobs of which Malaysians take up the bulk of. EL

“Star­tups rad­i­cally change the way we do busi­ness and cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties as well”

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