Saturday 20 Jul 2024
main news image

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 1): China is increasing investments in Malaysia and its local tech companies, as Malaysia finds itself attracting the attention of many potential international investors, especially within the Asean region. This has primed the country into a position for growth despite a weakening currency, said Danesh Jothiprahasam, the head of domestic digital investment of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). 

Danesh was speaking at the 5th Retail Innovation Showcase (RIS) organised by Shopper360 Ltd, a shopper marketing expert group, at the Sime Darby Convention Centre on July 12. 

The RIS showcased companies seeking to improve the retail store experience, both physically and digitally.

Outside of the show floor, speakers from across the industry came together to share their contributions to the industry.

MDEC's Danesh spoke of how Malaysia, thanks to the actions of the past and current-day events, had made it the preferred country for investment, especially within Asean — from fair trade agreements like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to Malaysia remaining neutral in the US-China trade conflict.

MDEC has established goals to further drive investments to push Malaysia’s digital economy forward, through its Digital Investments Strategy to raise RM50 billion in investment, and create 50,000 jobs by 2025. 

To accomplish this, MDEC has launched an analytical programme focused on nine areas called the Malaysia Digital Catalytic Programmes (Pemangkin). Two Pemangkin initiatives have already been launched: DE Rantau to help the tourism industry recover after the pandemic via digital nomads; and Digital Trade to improve supply chain transparency.

Danesh revealed that in a recent mid-year review, MDEC surpassed its milestones for investments and job creation — providing 3.2% of the country’s gross domestic product, and reaching 90% of localisation of tech workers like software developers or customer service.

“Industry has really become mature, and Malaysians can pick up those global capabilities moving forward, which is good for investors, either foreign or local.” said Danesh. With MDEC surpassing its initial goals, it has begun taking the next steps.

To boost talent development further, MDEC introduced grants to businesses in May, added Danesh. These are Digital Content Grants for start-ups, Digital X-Port for the global market, and Digital Catalyst for innovative solutions.

MDEC is also working on a Digital Acceleration Grant, which aims to accelerate the growth of digital and tech companies locally, he said.

Smart retail solutions for SMEs

If adopting digitalisation costs your business more, especially in this era of technology, something is wrong. Digitalisation is supposed to lower costs and raise profits, said Rex Yeap, a co-founder and the president of RiVERSE, a Web 3.0 solutions provider, who was also speaking at the conference.  

Tencent Cloud International is the technology enabler of RiVERSE. 

Tencent, a renowned cloud provider specialising in media solutions, such as commerce and live streaming, has recently expanded its cloud services in Malaysia at a rapid speed, with a focus on transforming how businesses run and interact with their consumers.

Leveraging on cloud, said Yeap, businesses stand to benefit plenty — like with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that uses cloud-stored consumer data to for e-commerce solutions, like lead generation, as well as utilising the blockchain technology for stocks to prevent counterfeits and missing stocks.

Yeap also addressed the common worry about Tencent selling customer data to the Chinese government, clarifying that the Chinese use a different app called Weixin, which follows China’s laws. Malaysians use WeChat. “When I say WeChat, then we're complying with Malaysian regulations and compliance. If you are in Singapore, we will do the same,” said Yeap.

Merging physical and online shopping

Many retailers spend money on billboards or online ads. But if a shopper visits a physical store, what are retailers doing to attract consumers already there? This was a question Chew Sue Ann, the executive chairman and group managing director of shopper360, posed to retailers at the RIS.

Speaking from experience, Chew said she started RIS after visiting Germany to check out the EuroShop. Inspired, Chew wanted to bring this experience to Southeast Asia, creating the RIS. 

In a post-pandemic world, Chew believes there is a role for retail stores and a need to merge with the digital.

Online shopping is appealing for its convenience, but shoppers still go to physical stores to find more niche products, and when they go to a store, appealing to their five senses is key to engaging them, and collect valuable consumer data.

This idea of merging retail stores with digital solutions to engage consumers was the main topic for the next speaker, Lee Jun Ling, the general manager for shopperplus Malaysia. Shopperplus has developed a completely customisable platform just for that purpose.

The platform, Wonderlah!, was created for consumers to play simple games either physically or on a smartphone to earn rewards for a promotion, with the idea that the complete gamification of the promotion would increase engagement and brand loyalty, and with data of consumers stored on the platform for easy access. 

A cash-and-cashier-free retail experience

Eddie Chew, the founder and chief executive officer of Potboy Group, closed the day’s line-up of speakers, as he expressed his vision of AI self-service kiosks replacing cashiers for a truly cashless and cashier-less shopping experience.

Potboy begun as an online-only supermarket seven years ago before opening up its first physical store in 2021. Since then, Chew has encountered many new challenges, with its now 80 outlets throughout the Klang Valley. One of the biggest problems that stuck out to him was long queues from slow cashiers, due to many factors like cash transactions.

It was then that Chew decided to find a solution through AI. This was what started the PotboyGo self-service kiosks that Potboy Group launched in June across 18 MRT stations.

Unlike other self-service kiosks that use RFID, the AI self-service kiosks use a camera that detects what items the consumer takes, and charges it directly to their e-wallet. 

The learning nature of the AI means that it can continuously learn tricks consumers may use to fool the camera into charging less than what was taken, ensuring that no trick will work more than once, with an emergency hotline available to appeal for a refund if the AI was wrong and overcharged the consumer.

Through this, Chew envisions a cash-free and cashier-free shopping experience. Though now the technology only applies to chillers at the MRT stations, Eddie hopes to implement this technology store-wide in the near future.

When asked how those without e-wallets would be able to shop, Chew said that the technology to charge directly to consumers' bank accounts based on biometric data is in development and will be implemented when ready, not wanting to limit consumers based on e-wallets or special apps.

Potboy Group aims to have these AI self-service stores to replace all PotboyMart stores in five years, and to expand all around Malaysia, with cashier workers now free to focus on inventory, stock and other jobs around the stores.

Edited ByPathma Subramaniam
      Text Size