Meet the new Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador to Malaysia, Gunn Jorid Roset.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - ANRIKE VISSER

As one of Malaysia’s seven for­eign mis­sions in South­east Asia, the Malaysian em­bassy in Kuala Lumpur is a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant body in pro­mot­ing Nor­we­gian busi­ness in­ter­ests not only in Malaysia but also in the rest of the re­gion. As am­bas­sador, it is Ms Roset’s job to as­sist and sup­port Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies’ in­ter­ests in Malaysia. “The em­bassy is the of­fi­cial foot­print of Nor­way in Malaysia,” ex­plains Ms Roset. “We have around 50 Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies present in Malaysia and our num­ber one pri­or­ity is to work with them and as­sist them in their op­er­a­tions in the coun­try.

Un­til re­cently, Nor­we­gian busi­nesses in Malaysia re­ceived sup­port and as­sis­tance from Innovation Nor­way, the Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment’s agency for innovation and de­vel­op­ment of Nor­we­gian en­ter­prises and in­dus­try at home and abroad. How­ever, innovation Nor­way’s Malaysian of­fice closed ear­lier this year and its day-to-day tasks are now un­der­taken by the em­bassy.

One of Ms Roset’s main ob­jec­tives is that the tran­si­tion will be as smooth as pos­si­ble. “With the clo­sure of Innovation Nor­way, the most im­por­tant thing for the em­bassy is to com­mu­ni­cate that we still of­fer ser­vices and ad­vice to busi­nesses.”

So far, no changes have been made to the num­ber of diplo­matic staff at the em­bassy, which com­prise of the am­bas­sador, a deputy head of mis­sion and an ad­min­is­tra­tive em­bassy sec­re­tary. “The full scale of the con­se­quences of the clo­sure in terms of work pat­terns is not yet known; we have to look at the work­place and eval­u­ate how we are go­ing to use our re­sources to make sure we are able to do what is re­quired of us. Over the com­ing months, we will be in close di­a­logue with the Malaysia Nor­way Busi­ness Coun­cil and the busi­ness com­mu­nity in or­der to set clear ob­jec­tives and find out how best to sup­port Nor­we­gian busi­ness. The main mes­sage is that busi­nesses can feel con­fi­dent that as­sist­ing them is our num­ber one pri­or­ity and that we are al­ways here for ad­vice and as­sis­tance.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Roset, the em­bassy is in a unique po­si­tion to as­sist com­pa­nies in for­eign coun­tries. The am­bas­sador is the for­mer Di­rec­tor of the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs’ Sec­tion for East Asia and Ocea­nia and has worked ex­ten­sively in the re­gion. “Em­bassies have the abil­ity to build lo­cal net­works and dis­cuss with the Malaysian govern­ments any con­cerns or in­puts from the Nor­we­gian busi­ness com­mu­nity,” says Gunn Jorid. “It is our job to know about places where busi­nesses can find the sup­port they need.”

A per­ma­nent fix­ture of the Nor­we­gian busi­ness com­mu­nity in Malaysia has been the Malaysia Nor­way Busi­ness Coun­cil (MNBC). Formed in 1990, it is in­de­pen­dent or­gan­i­sa­tion whose ob­jec­tive it is to pro­vide a fo­rum for dis­cus­sion and ex­chang­ing views on busi­ness con­di­tions, both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional, af­fect­ing Malaysian and Nor­we­gian firms. The coun­cil reg­u­larly

hosts events – the lat­est one took place in the end of Septem­ber – some­thing that Ms Roset prom­ises will con­tinue. “We will still or­gan­ise reg­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties,” she says. “We are very open to host­ing reg­u­lar events in the res­i­dence, for ex­am­ple net­work­ing events, MNBC board meet­ings or if the com­pa­nies want to or­gan­ise sem­i­nars, work­shops or so­cial events. Our plans for next year is to have events five times a year, but we will dis­cuss this with the MNBC and see if we are on the right track.”

The Nor­we­gian busi­nesses in Malaysia have tra­di­tion­ally been con­cen­trated in the oil and gas in­dus­try. “This hardly comes as a sur­prise, given our ex­per­tise in this field, and the ma­jor­ity of Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies in Malaysia will be op­er­at­ing in this and re­lated fields for many years to come,” pre­dicts Ms Roset. “But I think we will see an in­crease in Nor­we­gian busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in other sec­tors.”

Tele­com is a good ex­am­ple. Te­lenor owns 49 per­cent of DiGi, which is the third largest mo­bile op­er­a­tor in Malaysia, with more than 12 mil­lion mo­bile sub­scrip­tions and a rev­enue of more than NOK 13.3 mil­lion (USD 1.6 mil­lion). The com­pany has also been suc­cess­ful in adopting as­pects of Nor­we­gian work cul­ture. It was the first com­pany in Malaysia to in­tro­duce six months fully paid ma­ter­nity leave for em­ploy­ees last year. In a com­pany where 45 per­cent of the work­force are women and with strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions – the board com­prises 43 per­cent women, well be­yond the Malaysian gov­ern­ment’s tar­get of 30% women par­tic­i­pa­tion in Boards of public listed com­pa­nies – the ini­tia­tive was seen as a way for the com­pany to keep talent, re­gard­less of gen­der.

Ms Roset ex­pects to see more di­ver­sity in the type of Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies com­ing to op­er­ate in Malaysia. In Sin­ga­pore, Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing heav­ily in tech­nol­ogy and ed­u­ca­tion, and the am­bas­sador be­lieves a sim­i­lar trend will be seen in Malaysia. “We would like to pro­mote and dis­cuss the po­ten­tial for other types of in­dus­tries in­vest­ing in Malaysia,” ex­plains Ms Roset. “Of course busi­nesses will al­ways base their de­ci­sions on eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, but there are in­dus­tries out­side of oil and gas that have been do­ing very well in re­cent years. For ex­am­ple, fin tech (fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy, red.) saw strong growth in 2017 and we be­lieve the in­dus­try will con­tinue to see strong growth in the fu­ture.”

Ms Roset points to other new es­tab­lish­ments in Malaysia such as Nor­way Con­nect, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is ac­tively help­ing Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies ex­plore in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in South­east Asia. Ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, Nor­way recorded at to­tal of MYR 19.1 bil­lion (USD 4.5 bil­lion) worth of in­vest­ment in Malaysia in 2016, mak­ing it one of the top 10 for­eign di­rect in­vestors in the coun­try. In ad­di­tion, Nor­way’s ex­ports to Malaysia to­talled MYR 1.1 bil­lion (USD 260.8 mil­lion) in 2016.

One of the com­pa­nies that is look­ing to in­crease its pres­ence in Asia, start­ing with Malaysia, is Nor­way­based OB Wilk (OBW). The com­pany is a lead­ing sup­plier of fab­ric cov­ered build­ings, sports halls and steel build­ings, as well as tar­pau­lins and even­tre­lated prod­ucts such as tents, ta­bles and chairs. Re­cently, the Nor­we­gian em­bassy hosted OBW and Kuala Lumpur-based agent Sal­con Petroleum Ser­vices (SPS) for the sign­ing of a so-called Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment with the aim of build­ing lo­cal client re­la­tion­ships and sup­port­ing the sale of OBW prod­ucts in Asia-Pa­cific.

This is the kind of ac­tiv­i­ties that Ms Roset will con­tinue to sup­port in the fu­ture. “When we look into plans for the next three to four years, it is that kind of con­nect­ing com­pa­nies and scop­ing work that will be im­por­tant to as­sist busi­nesses in Malaysia. There is a lot of ac­tiv­ity, the econ­omy is do­ing well and we are very op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture.”

PHOTO: ROYAL NOR­WE­GIAN EM­BASSY, KUALA LUMPUR

H.E. Am­bas­sador Gunn Jorid started as Nor­we­gian am­bas­sador to Malaysia on 31 July this year.

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Above left: H.E. Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador to Malaysia, Ms. Gunn Jorid Roset. Above: The bustling sky­line of mod­ern Kuala Lumpur is dom­i­nated by the Petronas Tow­ers. Petronas Tow­ers was the world’s tallest build­ing from open­ing in 1998 to 2004, when it was sur­passed by Taipei 101 in Tai­wan.

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