12 September 2008
The working culture in Malaysia is actually quite pleasant... It is like having Indian, Chinese and Western working together with good infrastructure. It is like Singapore but at a slower pace and about five years behind.
Currently there is a lot of political turmoil in this country.... the main political party the Barisan National has just lost its two third majority after 50 years of politics on their March 8 General Election. Business and economy are affected, Several majority projects were put on hold or cancelled. The economy is slowing down. I felt however the country is very resilient - remember the 1997 financial crisis and how Malaysia did not swallow the IMF medicine unlike Indonesia. The country is strong in agriculture, it is one of the main producer of palm oil in the world.
Depending on which part of Malaysia you are working. In KL you will find that English is the language of business even though the official language is Bahasa Malaysia. Most of the official document is in Malay but there is always an English translation. As a predominately a Muslim country, Islam over here is not so imposing like some other Islamic countries. If you happen to be on a business trip to Kuala Lumpur, you will noticed that they are more Chinese in their business district than Malays. Generally the business district is dominated by Chinese, some Malaysian may not agree.
What are opportunities open to you people, one is the agriculture related industry, education and call center. Until today, I still feel that this is the few places in the world where you can find people who can speak English and Chinese fluently, ideal to tap both China and the western market. For those who are into Islamic financial services, Malaysia has the pre requisite due to their Islamic culture.
The lesson you want to take away from my learning experience in Malaysia, is that "in Rome do what the Roman does". You may not agree with a country with protectionism so prevalent, you have to work and adapt to this culture. In this trip I visited a old client who have transferred his production in to KL. many years ago. Just two months ago, a government official came and ask him to give up 30% shareholding to him. If not he will withheld the work permit renewal for his staff, he also demanded a monthly payment of S$500 retainer........
I will be back to Singapore tonight.
I do hope you enjoy the little write up and I will be off in Indonesia next week.... will talk about succession and family business.