How To Scale Beyond Malaysia?
If you missed it, here is a quick recap of the key takeaways from the event! We have had some wonderful insights by battle-hardened entrepreneurs like Eric Cheng, Joanne Kua, HY Sia, Suresh Thiru, Chris Leong, Simone Lee, Adlin Yusman and Aaron Sarma.
Here’s a quick recap of their insights on scaling beyond Malaysia:
Why and how to expand beyond Malaysia?
To get serious VC funding, you need to aim for a regional presence at the outset. “Malaysia only” ambition is not enough.
Malaysia is a great test market. Once your metrics in Malaysia are looking promising, activate your regional plans (BTW, Singapore is not a good test market, incomes are too high to be reflective of other ASEAN countries e.g. Carsome’s experience in Singapore).
Segment and adapt your business model according to the local market environment. Don’t assume what works in Malaysia can work in Thailand or Indonesia, etc.
Some large population countries like Indonesia cannot be treated as one market. Determine the addressable amount of each segment, choose your preferred segment and then deliver a product that fits the segment.
In unfamiliar markets; to partner or go it alone? Eric offered an interesting insight: If it’s a standard product that everyone understands, partnering is an option (think Starbucks partnering with Berjaya Group in Malaysia). But if your product is new, which requires education or underpinned by a new business model, you should go it alone, as local partners would find it hard to educate the local market
How to deal with your partners and investors
For partnerships to succeed, make sure you and your partner set out your expectations fully up front, like a prenuptial agreement. Don’t hold back, better resolve now then when the business is running (Simone and Chris gave interesting insights on Japanese investors/partners, discussions are protracted and slow e.g. there’s pre-meetings before meetings, but once they become partners, they are partners for life).
When dealing with potential partners, put yourself in their shoes. Chris pointed out whether partnerships are sustainable or not depends on how important your business is to your partners. If your business is insignificant to them, expect it to be not a priority.
As entrepreneurs, be a “good person”. Don’t be transactional. Aaron gave the example of the downtrodden entrepreneur he met who became his angel investor many years later.
If your business fails, don’t hide. Come clean to your investors and explain what went wrong (Adlin and Simone gave personal accounts of coming clean to their investors). Investors invest in people first, businesses second. Indeed, the fact that you have experienced a business failure is seen by many investors as a positive sign - you are battle-hardened and unlikely to make the same mistakes.
We hope the summary was useful for your own efforts in scaling beyond Malaysia and in your future dealings with potential investors and partners.