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http://www.thebo rneo po st.co m/2011/12/11/techno preneurship-a-pro mising-call-fo r-the-unemplo yed/

Technopreneurship: A promising call for the unemployed


T he call f or the Malaysian society to be a highly-technocratic one is not a new notion. In his Vision 2020
working paper in 1991, f ormer premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad highlighted the need to establish a
scientif ic and progressive society as the sixth challenge out of nine outlined in the national agenda.
In Budget 2011 tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last year, the government would provide
the Entrepreneurship Enhancement Training Programme to train 500 new technopreneurs and attract more
investors.
Additionally,the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MT DC) would be provided with a start-up
f und amounting to RM100 million to f urnish sof t loans that allowed loan repayments only af ter companies
had generated income.
Obviously, the government wanted to see more technopreneurs running the small and medium enterprises
(SMEs) in the country.
SMEs had to grow at about 8.5 per cent annually in order to contribute about 41 per cent to Malaysias
gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, stated SME Corporation Malaysias (SME Corp) chief executive
of f icer Datuk Haf sah Hashim recently.
She added that towards achieving such a goal, SMEs had to grow unexceptionally dif f erent, meaning they
must have that leapf rog growth.
To be able to do that, we need to ensure that they are growing on the premise of innovation, creativity and
higher productivity. One of the ways is to encourage SMEs to use ICT, she stressed.
Currently, there are over one million SMEs in Malaysia, employing 56 per cent of the nations workf orce and
generating 32 per cent of the nations GDP.
If the f igures presented in a recently-published research by Indonesias Agency f or the Assessment and
Application of Technology (BPPT ) were to go on by, the number of technopreneurs in Malaysia could well
be over 800,000 individuals, or three per cent of the 28.68 million population close to the nations
unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent.
Imagine if those 3.4 per cent jobless individuals took the same steps as that of the three per cent
technopreneurs; the country would ideally have zero-unemployment rate.
With technopreneurship, the world is the market. You just cannot go wrong, said Muhammad Abdullah
Z aidel, f inance lecturer f or the Faculty of Economics and Business at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas)
to BizHive Weekly.
Understanding the concept
As f uturistic as it may sound, a technopreneur is basically an entrepreneur with both business and technical
training background; or one who applies technology and innovation as the business core operating model.
In Malaysia, this branch of enterprise is usually represented by ICT and multimedia SMEs, either at seedlevel or already over the start-up stage. According to Bank Negara Malaysia, a general def inition of an SME
ref ers to an enterprise with shareholders f unds of less than RM10 million.
On the other hand, SME Corp stated that an entreprise that generated an annual sales turnover not
exceeding RM25 million and with f ull-time employees not exceeding 150 people was considered an SME.

Notably, SME Corp also specif ied the def inition of techno-SMEs as a sub-services SME with annual sales
turnover of not more than RM5 million, with a f ull-time workf orce strength of 50 employees or less.
SMEs in Malaysia still account f or over 90 per cent of total business establishments in the countrys three
core economic sectors of manuf acturing, services and agriculture, stated SME Corps Haf sah.
Its contribution to the countrys economy remains signif icant, she added.
Prospective career choice
However, the general state of any businesses in the world SMEs or corporations was that it was highly
competitive.
In his view on this, Muhammad Abdullah said technopreneurship would be a good bet f or unemployed
graduates as well as those thinking to kick-start their own businesses.
With todays economic globalisation alongside the booming inf ormation technology age, I think we should
encourage our unemployed youths and graduates to develop entrepreneurial spirit through
technopreneurship.
Additionally, the Unimas lecturer said within the stif f business environment, it would remain crucial to
introduce policies and activities that could directly improve the competitiveness of Sarawakian youth in the
f uture.
Listing weak marketing channels and limited capital as the main obstacles f aced by young entrepreneurs,
Mohamad Abdullah pointed out that awareness amongst these young bloods with regards to assisting
channels remained low.
All the while, our government and its various agencies seem to have been providing direct support f or the
brick-and-mortar entrepreneurship development f or novice entrepreneurs.
However, it remains a f act that most of our youths, especially the Bumiputeras are still weak souls when it
comes to entrepreneurship.
Empirically, entrepreneurship is a skill that can be learnt and taught but most importantly, one must have
the passion and discipline with a clear objective of his or her goals.
Stressing f urther on the need f or the country to develop a weightless economy in its journey towards
economic transf ormation, Mohamad Abdullah believed technopreneurs could be the solution f or a sparselypopulated state like Sarawak, where new business ventures should rely on innovation.
Computer sof tware, new media, electronic databases and libraries, as well as Internet delivery of goods
and services business is a classic example of technopreneurship.
T hus, technology-based SMEs in Sarawak should be induced f urther by which, it will eventually drive job
opportunities in major industries in preparation of impending inf luence of any major global economic crisis,
he underlined.
Statutory role Nevertheless, a techno-SME would still need a comprehensive development base that could
f urther drive technopreneurs towards success.
According to Mohamad Abdullah, a synergistic technopreneurship would ideally comprise a technopreneur
as the business initiator; research institutions as centres of innovation of new technologies; and a venture
capital (VC) company as competent f inancier.
He added that the learning structure f or technopreneurial development must be designed towards
combining 20 per cent theory and 80 per cent application of various f ields of competence.

To achieve this, we need a business incubator to serve as a centre of learning, with a conducive business
atmosphere supported by adequate laboratory f acilities.
A VC will come in as a f inancial assistance to the business f rom start-up, research and development right
to marketing and distribution.
Viable channels
In the middle of this year, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), the custodian of the Multimedia
Super Corridor Malaysia (MSC Malaysia) initiative, launched the Icon2 Second MSC Malaysia Integrated
Content Development Programme the sequel of the f irst content development programme that was
completed last year.
Similarly to its predecessor, Icon2 would f urnish local developers with the skills and means including the
start-up capital to create content-based products.
T he programme was also initiated to provide a platf orm f or the younger generation to play an active role in
the countrys transf ormation into a f ully-digital economy, f ollowing the target outlined in the Economic
Transf ormation Programme (ET P).
Closer to home, the Sarawak Inf ormation Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains) had modelled a successf ul Rural ICT
Guide Home-based Technopreneur (RIGHT ) programme, which trained rural youths to be ICT anchors and
home-based technopreneurs in their respective communities.
In Sabah, the Sabah West Coast Techpreneur Association (Sata) established on August 30 last year
became the f irst NGO there to f ocus on IT-related entrepreneurship development.
Interestingly, the adoption of the word techpreneur without the syllable no in it was done on purpose to
add a more positive character in the name.
Looking to the f uture, all these channels and means are directed towards preparing our youth to love
innovation.
Hopef ully with the emergence of a technopreneurship generation, it can provide solutions to the problems
of the countrys youth unemployment, observed Mohamad Abdullah.
It also can become an arena to improve the quality of human capital in science and technological mastery,
so that we can prepare towards having a powerf ul f orce to stand up against global competition, he
underscored.
Seed-up stage
With the burgeoning development of technology, it is just natural f or entrepreneurship to evolve into an
advanced level that enables it to grow even more enterprising than a decade ago.
Starting with Vision 2020 as the springboard, MSC Malaysia was conceptualised in 1996 to become the
countrys thriving and dynamic global ICT hub much like the established Silicon Valley in Calif ornia, the US.
It was exactly modelled af ter the Silicon Valley, said Sun Microsystems Inc co-f ounder Dr John Cage back
in 2005, adding that the nations success would be an example to f ollow f or many emerging countries.
T hey will learn f rom Malaysia, Dr Cage emphasised.
Overcoming obstacles
T he MSC initiative, while considered as being successf ul in terms of attracting large f irms and multinational
companies (MNCs) into the cluster, had not been as successf ul in terms of being a support system
towards spurring the growth of SMEs in this sector.

In overcoming these gaps, the government launched a developmental promotion strategy called the MSC
Technopreneur Development (MT D) Flagship programme.
In a 2008 interview, MDeCs chief executive of f icer Datuk Badlisham Ghazali highlighted several measures
taken by the agency to ensure that MSC Malaysia would contribute signif icantly to the goal of making
Malaysia a developed, knowledge-based economy by 2020.
Towards this end, one f ocus of MSC Malaysia is to increase the Bumiputera participation in the ICT sector
through various programmes that not only evolve young Bumiputera entrepreneurs, but also improve the
competitiveness of the existing Bumiputera ICT f irms, he said.
T hrough the introduction of Bumiputera Technopreneurs Development (BIT E) and Technopreneur Academy
(TAP) programmes, the government and MDeC would be aiming to create at least 400 Bumiputera ICT
entrepreneurs in the next f ive years under a programme that had been contracted to Alam Teknokrat Sdn
Bhd (Skali).
Overall, MDeC put a projection f or MSC Malaysia-status techno-prises to achieve a 21-per cent increase in
gross domestic product (GDP) contribution to RM42 billion by end-2015, under the MSC Malaysia Phase 3
plan.
In comparison, the plan recorded RM34.57 billion in GDP contribution during Phase 2, which ran f rom 2004
to 2010.
By end-2015 also, the agency put f orth a target f or these MSC companies to increase their revenues to
RM142 billion f rom the RM103.8 billion recorded in Phase 2; while a 75-per cent increase in exports to RM58
billion f rom previous RM33 billion, and a 47-per cent increase in job creation to 160,000 f rom 111,367 would
be expected.
Over the years, MSC Malaysia has enjoyed remarkable success, viewed Badlisham.
From 2003 to 2009, the number of companies with MSC Malaysia-status grew 15 per cent annually,
bringing the total to 2,520 companies.
Of this f igure, total exports amounted to US$2.2 billion.
MSC Malaysia accounted f or 1.7 per cent of the nations GDP, with the larger ICT sector accounting f or 9.5
per cent, he underlined.
Most likely, the number of MSC Malaysia-status f irms in the country could easily be close to 3,000
companies.
Additionally, the total accumulated revenues of MSC Malaysia-status companies were more than RM20
billion close to its annual revenue target of RM27 billion.
T he other field
If MDeC is responsible f or overseeing advances in ICT-based technology companies, the Malaysian
Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp) is tasked with developing another key knowledge-based industry
biotechnology.
When we talk about biotechnology, we talk about it as a business, said f ormer BiotechCorps chief
executive of f icer Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood.
If an ICT-based company can boast of having an MSC Malaysia-status, then biotechnology f irms can be
accreditated with a Bionexus-status.

Awarded by the government to qualif ied companies participating in value-added biotechnology activities, a
BioNexus-status company can enjoy a set of incentives contained within the BioNexus Bill of Guarantees;
at the same time, receiving continuous support and assistance f rom BiotechCorp on immigration-related
matters, intellectual property (IP) advisory and regulatory services, as well as employment-related and
taxation issues.
BioNexus is an integral component of the national biotechnology policy, stressed Iskandar.
Since its establishment in 2005, BiotechCorp has f acilitated the development of 204 BioNexus-status
companies in the country with a total approved investment of RM2.102 billion.
Going techno With all this development going on, is it easy to become a technopreneur? Technically, yes.
Early this year, Prime Minister Najib launched a RM100-million Business Start-Up Fund to promote
technopreneur development under government-backed MT DC, slated towards paving the way f or
youngsters to come f orward and take the risk of venturing into new f ields.
Targetting new technology-based start-up companies, these techno-prises must be 70 per cent owned by
technopreneurs, or a group of Malaysian entreprenuers who must operate the company f ull-time.
Under the management of MT DC between 2006 and 2010, a total of 159 projects with early-stage f unding
of RM295 million were approved under the commercialisation of research and development f und (CRDF).
Further, MT DC f igures showed grant recipients had generated sales totalling RM637 million and that 199
intellectual properties were f iled over the f ive-year period.
Meanwhile, government agencies namely MT CD, SME Corp, Malaysia External Trade Development Malaysia
(Matrade), Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development (MeCD), Ministry of Science,
Technology and Innovation (Mosti) and Credit Guarantee Corporation (CGC) have been of f ering grants
specif ically f or local SMEs and small/medium industries that meet the criteria.
Statutory body Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) under its entrepreneurial development
division, has been organising series of pre-seed technopreneur workshops, with supports f rom MeCD and
MDeC.
In reality, however, many aspiring technopreneurs remained unaware of these f acilities.
With numerous programmes set up by the government to develop ideas into products, all parties should
team up to take these ideas to next stage of f ull commercialisation.
On the support providers side, the government and its respective agencies should promote these
programmes more aggressively.
On the recipients side, they should explore more which meant they must ask around, seek around and act.
Prime Minister Najib summed it quite poignantly during the the launch of the 23rd MSC Malaysia
Implementation Council Meeting in October.
Do we want to just be achieving what is expected; or do we want to springboard ahead of the pack?