While uncertainty seems the only surety in these days of the coronavirus pandemic, Malaysian companies are increasingly turning up the digital transformation dial buoyed to some extent by government support.
As the COVID-19 pandemic eases, the priority for all businesses and governments will be to rebuild fast and rebuild strong using the vital component of flexible, scalable digital technology solutions, according to Chia Yong Wei, Executive Director, Omesti Berhad
At the time of writing, the Malaysian government announced another economic stimulus package on 5 June 2020 to address a steep decline in Malaysia’s GDP economic growth projections for 2020, from 4.8% to -2% to 0.5%. The RM35 billion short term recovery plan comprises 40 initiatives which encompasses three goals – to empower the people, propel businesses and general economic stimulation, and includes a focus on digitalisation.
EY (formerly Ernst & Young) Asean and Malaysia Tax Leader Amarjeet Singh in a statement pointed to the government’s intention “to substantially increase the use of technology by the Government in interactions with the public and delivery of services in the new normal. There are also various measures aimed at encouraging local entrepreneurship and promoting investments. For the SMEs, measures have been introduced to spur the setting-up of new businesses.”
During an interview, Chia Yong Wei, Executive Director of public listed Omesti Berhad offered insights into current activities during Malaysia’s Covid-19 lockdown called movement control order (MCO).
Established 35 years ago by Dato’ Mah Siew Kwok, the technology solutions group started life as Formis Computer Services and has evolved through layers of the local and regional markets. In its early days, the company helped global companies such as Oracle (when known as Sun Systems), and IBM, break into the region. Earlier milestones from early 2000’s include the development of a proprietary digital court solution, which has revolutionised judicial operations in Malaysia, helping to reduce the backlog and expedite cases through electronic filing and online processes.
Continuing the brief outline, Chia said the company’s changed its name in 2014 to Omesti [chosen because it means ‘disrupt’ in Serbian] as this aligned with their digital transformation strategy to work with customers through their digitalisation journeys.
This included building solutions currently for key verticals such as regulatory bodies, telecommunications, judiciary, government organisations, financial services, media and entertainment, transportation and logistics, and utilities.
Surviving through lockdowns
When considering the impact of the Covid-19 related lockdowns, Chia, highlighted the pressing need for businesses in the region to rebuild their operations coming out of the pandemic, gave a customer example of Omesti’s of the legal sector.
“Given that the majority of court operations were suspended during the lockdown, many will be dealing with a very large backlog of cases to be processed. Digital court technology – with electronic filing, digital case management and more – can help mitigate the situation and expedite the disposal of cases, taking many of the procedures online, including the ability to conduct hearings online,” he says, adding that the company is currently in discussions with a number of jurisdictions for its digital courts solution.
Chia also expects that corporate registry authorities, many of which are still running on predominantly manual systems, will be looking to ensure that businesses can get back up and running as fast and as efficiently as possible and in turn restart the economy and begin attracting investment again.
“Switching to a digital platform will help companies be able to manage the corporate compliance aspects of the business online, freeing them up to devote as much attention as possible on the vital need to generate revenue,” he said, alluding to Omesti’s modular digital business registry platform.
Solutions for other business operations cover many industry sectors such as – a digital HR platform, a virtual banking solution, which provides banking facilities for the unbanked, and an e-payments ecosystem will provide that vital springboard for companies to get back on their feet.
Coming closer to the present, 2019 was a challenging year for many businesses in Malaysia.
“In the first half of the year, the pipeline of opportunities for ICT projects was severely impacted due to local market conditions with a number of digitalisation initiatives being postponed, in some cases indefinitely.”
“Some notable positive points include the development of a business process management solution, CorCentra, which helps SMEs base keep control of the multiple task load associated with a large client base”, he said, adding that one use case example is for, corporate secretarial firms that handle the affairs of multiple firms, with a range of compliance deadlines.
“Another innovation we rolled out during the year is the highly innovative royalties management platform, Maestro, which enables licensing bodies to digitally track and collect fees and then distribute royalties to artistes in a timely and equitable manner,” Chia explained.
Customer advances also chalked up further milestones. “In the oil & gas sector, we secured a more traditional project to implement and configure the database for the Petronas RAPID Pengerang Project in Malaysia, using Exadata Oracle Hardware and Software.”
“We made good headway in the digital HR space with a number of wins for the HCM Cloud platform,” he said, adding that Omesti’s joint venture company with MiHCM of Sri Lanka, the developer of the HR platform, holds the distribution rights for East Asia/South East Asia, has established a presence in all countries across the region.
Rebuilding fast, rebuilding strong
As the Covid-19 pandemic eases, the priority for all businesses and governments will be to rebuild fast and rebuild strong using the vital component of flexible, scalable digital technology solutions.
Digitalisation and enhancing productivity are essential enablers to help kick-start the economy at large, agreed Chia.
In recent months, Omesti was selected as an authorised system integration partner of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s. He pointed out that, “We are one of only five such partners globally, placing us among the world’s tier-one implementers.”
This partnership has brought in fresh opportunities. “We are now engaged on a major two-year RM95.6 million project for Telekom Malaysia [the national telco group] to build and roll out a new Business Support Systems (BSS) platform using Huawei Technologies’ software. The BSS platform will deliver a range of benefits for TM and its customers, combining as it does CRM and billing into one system. A key feature is the fact that the BSS platform supports 5G, a major enabler for digital transformation and the full implementation of smart, interconnected solutions.”
Omesti is also working with the national exchange, Bursa Malaysia, to migrate and upgrade its existing HR systems enabling 600 existing users to a new platform.
“All of these developments are a clear indication that despite current uncertainties, Malaysian companies are serious about transitioning to digital,” Chia pointed out.
“If the pandemic has brought anything into sharp focus, it is that businesses cannot return to the way things were,” he elaborated. “There is a pressing need to pursue and adopt new ways of operating, to help build up greater resilience and be future-ready.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that digitalisation and technology can enable countries to respond swiftly to the crisis and minimise disruption to businesses. South Korea and Taiwan are just two examples.”
Even the usually conservative and slow-to-change public sector is accelerating to adapt the new norm, he said. “In an unprecedented move, a Penang local council recently expanded its cyber counter services from 13 to 134 categories after the easing of the MCO [a conditional lockdown].”
“In China, the rapid need to adapt to ensure public safety saw street vendors start to provide QR codes for payments via smartphone. Although initiated due to the pandemic, this practice may be extended to much greater use by other businesses such as local convenience stores.”
The sudden jump forward in digital adoption is hampered by certain challenges such as changing social behaviours as a result of social distancing, and a strain on the healthcare system, and the following fundamental issue.
Chia pointed out that while those in urban areas were well-served by good connectivity, those in poorly connected areas need attention.
“These include 5G infrastructure that will enable smart city connectivity, charging stations for electric vehicles, solar energy and telemedicine,” he added. “Our partnership with Huawei and our position in telco-neutral transmission towers enable us to become a leading player in this area.”
There needs to be immediate investment in smart infrastructure that can be deployed to help drive digitalisation, he concluded.” The digital divide needs to be bridged if all in society are to progress into the new normal.”