Ensuring that companies remain sustainable is vital to the nation’s economy, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, with digitalisation being a core enabler in future-proofing businesses.

No surprise that this enabler is a key focus area in the AmBank BizRace, alongside the fourth industrial revolution and halal tracks.

The Ambank BizRace, launched in July, sees AmBank Group taking the lead in spurring the growth of the nation’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The AmBank BizRace Season 3 offers SMEs knowledge, publicity and networking opportunities in three focus areas to help their business grow, ” said AmBank Group business banking managing director Christopher Yap at the AmBank BizRace Season 3 – Top 100 Digitalisation Track Session webinar.

He added that these tracks, which would enable participants to transform their companies and tap into new strategies and ways of doing business, would also guide them in applying for the various grants and certifications available for SMEs.

Following Yap’s welcome note, Microsoft Malaysia small medium and corporate group director Azizah Ali gave an introduction to digitalisation, which was anchored on technology as a key enabler for innovation.

“SMEs, as the engine of the economy, must embrace digital transformation, with technology as a platform and people as the key enabler, ” she said.

“The Microsoft end-to-end tech solutions cover the modern workplace – enabling you to allow hybrid or remote work – business applications that enable process improvement, Cloud infrastructure, as well as data and artificial intelligence.

“We work closely with our partners, including Maxis, through our tailored SME digitalisation offering which enables you to empower employees, engage customers, optimise operations and transform your products, ” she added.

Azizah noted that Microsoft’s technology and efforts could help build the capabilities of employees within companies.

The session also saw Maxis SME channel development head Gerald Lee sharing information on applying for the SME Digitalisation Grant, as well as focusing on how SMEs can digitalise their businesses.

He noted, “In the era of the new normal, the pandemic has forced us to change the way that we live, how we work and how we buy.

“Buying behaviour has changed and spending is conservative, so opening a store and waiting for customers is no longer able to help generate sales.

“We have to go beyond that.

“Competition now is not restricted to a small area and customers have more choices, hence the need to differentiate yourself from competitors in order to survive.

“SMEs have to accelerate the digitalisation of their businesses and consider an omnichannel strategy to create a unique and compelling customer experience, as well as figure out alternative ways to keep customer engagement alive, ” Lee said.

Lastly, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) business digital adoption digital solutions lead Stanley Ho shared an overview of the government agency’s role.

“Our ultimate goal is to make Malaysia the heart of digital Asean.

“We have three key areas that we look at, (including) skills development, empowering businesses by going digital for the brick-and-mortar and traditional businesses and bringing foreign direct investment into the country for new job creation and to spur the economy from the ICT industry, ” he said.

“One of the biggest lessons that most companies learnt during the pandemic was the importance of lowering business costs.

“Digitalisation is a chance for you to increase your competitiveness and one of the good examples is digital marketing.

“Traditionally, companies hire workers to distribute their pamphlets and brochures manually. But today, with digital marketing, everything is very cost-effective.

“Digital marketing gives you the visibility to reach out to more targeted customers as you can set the parameters in terms of customer demographic, spending behaviour, age, location and also interests, ” Ho added.

He also detailed how SMEs could apply for and benefit from the SME Automation Grant for their digitalisation journey.

Themed “The Big Reset: Revive Your Business”, this year’s AmBank BizRace sees the Group partnering with key government agencies such as the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Halal Development Corporation, MDEC and Malaysian Islamic Development Department.

The AmBank BizRace Season 3 runs until March 2021.