Business

Biotech entrepreneurship flourishing in Malaysia

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Support programs are developing a strong industry but access to qualified staff remains an issue, says Geneflux Director and biotechnology entrepreneur Dr. Prashanth Bagali

by Jon Southurst

It’s been over four years since the Malaysian government formed the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp), an agency tasked with turning Malaysia’s infant biotechnology sector into a global competitor. BiotechCorp is achieving this with a comprehensive array of programs providing everything from education to entrepreneurial support, investment, training and marketing. Large companies and niche players alike would get the kind of assistance they needed to expand internationally. Geneflux™ Biosciences is one company that took its concept global with a focus on local issues under BiotechCorp’s guidance. Dr. Prashanth Bagali, its Director and co-founder, spoke to us about his company’s experience and the challenge for Malaysia in the 21st century’s preeminent scientific sphere.

The term ‘biotechnology’ refers to the science of life itself. It includes research and techniques involving living organisms from microorganisms to plants and animals, to serve specific applications in improving human health and agriculture. At its cutting edge is genome mapping, cell fusion, gene detection, gene transfer and embryo manipulation. It’s a prestigious, high-value industry with rewards in intellectual property, international sales and reputation among the world’s scientists.

The national interest in biotechnology started as early as the 5th Malaysian plan (1986-1990) but was given due recognition and emphasis starting from the 8th Malaysian Plan (2001-2005).  Before 2007, healthcare biotechnology in Malaysia was an embryo itself. The existing industry was driven by traders, equipment suppliers and reagent vendors, with less than 100 local patents filed of any international importance. That was around the time BiotechCorp was just beginning, and it was into this scene that entrepreneurs Dr. Bagali and partner Ir.Balagaru Naidu arrived to set up a business.

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Geneflux Biosciences registered in 2007 with a focus on the research and development of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based testing kits, a faster way to detect and analyze small quantities (or volume) of DNA or RNA without the need for full cloning. Their kits would be available at affordable prices to developing countries in Asia and Africa, vital in combating diseases affecting those regions. (more…)

Singapore may benefit from financial gloom: survey

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Singapore will benefit from the current panic surrounding international markets, growing in stature as a financial hub as economic power shifts to the emerging world. Results from a survey by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) of international financial centers revealed 61% of finance professionals rate the city-state as having grown in importance, well above the global average of 36.

The Global Economic Conditions (GEC) Survey measures the ‘significance’ of global financial hubs and the impact of the 2008-09 Financial Crisis by examining the opinions of 2000+ financial professionals around the world. 46% of all Singapore-based respondents now believe their location is a ‘center of global significance’ compared to the global average 18%, and 34% rated it a center of regional significance.

This is despite a surprising loss of confidence across the Asia-Pacific region, mainly due to disruption caused by the Japanese disasters in March and general pessimism over economic crises in the USA and Europe.

There were also concerns about monetary tightening and inflation, with 32% of respondents claiming to have had difficulty accessing finance and 71% reporting a rise in business costs. Governments around the world would also cut spending in an attempt to reduce inflation.

Darryl Wee, country head of ACCA Singapore, said: “It’s not a secret by now which way the global balance of power is shifting. What’s more interesting are the detailed findings which show a small group of global financial centres, including Singapore, enjoying an ever-growing advantage over their competitors. Going forward we expect that many emerging economies will redouble their efforts to develop global financial clusters.”

source: ACCA Singapore (PDF link to survey report)

More on Indonesia’s entrepreneurial spirit

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Entrepreneurship is a hot topic in Indonesia this week after the Global Entrepreneurship Program Indonesia (GEPI) event in Bali. This article in the Christian Science Monitor adds strength to the BBC’s earlier claim that Indonesia is the best place in the world to be an entrepreneur in 2011.

It’s not Indonesia’s politics or established structures that created this environment, though. In fact, entrepreneurs there seem to thrive despite excessive regulation, poor access to finance and inadequate physical infrastructure. Instead it is Indonesia’s unique cultural environment: a young population, many tech-savvy and with overseas education, leading the way. Young entrepreneurs are looking at their country and trying to solve its problems piece by piece with the resources available.

Indonesia is embracing modern methods and techniques to interact. The country is already home to the world’s second largest Facebook population and its third-largest on Twitter. There’s a proportionately large number of mobile internet users and around 700 active tech start-ups, with a new one each week.

The United States is doing what it can to support the entrepreneurial wave in Muslim-majority countries, and it is Indonesia that has been quickest to make the most of it. The Global Entrepreneurship Program is a US State Department initiative funded in part by USAID and Indonesian partners, and last week’s GEPI event drew at least 11 major US-based angel investors.

source & article: Christian Science Monitor

Selling to Japan is the ‘feather in the cap’: Malcorp CEO

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Malaysian auto parts manufacturers have spent years building a reputation for product build quality and supply reliability, exporting their products to several automakers around the world. Appealing to Japanese automakers, however, is another story entirely. A contract with a major manufacturer there offers lucrative rewards and increased stature, but Japanese thoroughness and taste for flawless quality present extra challenges to suppliers.

Some Malaysian companies were making inroads into the Japanese market even before the 11 March disasters in Tohoku damaged supply chains. The two countries signed a five year Economic Partnership agreement in 2006, with an auto industry component providing a skills training center in Malaysia and a number of trade shows.

 

Malcorp_parts

Since March, many Japanese companies have expressed a desire to diversify their risks by teaming up with manufacturers in other Asian companies and Malaysia has found itself in a prime position. Trade agencies JETRO and MATRADE are aiding firms to find each other and achieve profitable outcomes on both sides. (more…)

Indonesia needs more reform to reach potential

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Indonesia could exceed projections and grow up to 6.4% this year, says another banking report, while adding its voice to cautions that economic reforms must accelerate in order to do so. The country won’t see super growth of 8-9% without infrastructure and manufacturing industry development, continued land reform and increased government spending.

This report comes from UK-based Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart) and is the latest in a string of calls for Indonesia to improve its economic foundations to achieve its potential. Only 5% of US$145 billion in infrastructure projects earmarked for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s first term (2005-09) have been realized, and government spending was a deficit of 1.5% of GDP, less than the 1.8% or $14.5 billion. Even that is an improvement on 2010′s 0.6% despite a budget target of 2.1%, according to the Jakarta Globe.

The World Bank agreed with StanChart’s claims, keeping its growth projections at 6.5% for this year and next, and adding that “poor infrastructure was “one of the biggest obstacles to firms operating in Indonesia.” The Bank’s chief economist Justin Yifu Lin said Indonesia’s destiny was in Indonesians’ hands, and that with more government discipline it could replicate other Asian countries’ emergence from agricultural to developed economies and join the world’s top 10.

source & article: the Jakarta Globe

15 new initiatives announced for Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme

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Malaysia yesterday announced 15 initiatives, including nine new projects and seven recaps, as part of its Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). According to Prime Minister Najib Razak, the ETP is already bearing fruit despite running for only a short time.

Yesterday’s announcement was the sixth regular update of the ETP, and sees the programme reach 50% (or 65) of its 131 ‘Entry Point Projects’ launched. The 15 new initiatives promise to bring in RM2.77 billion (US$913.8 million) in investment, add RM66.31 billion ($21.87 billion) to Malaysia’s Gross National Income and create 36,595 new jobs by the target year of 2020.

The initiatives (with their national key economic areas) are: (more…)

JETRO: Trade fair advice for ASEAN manufacturers in Japan

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Malaysian and other Southeast Asian manufacturers are making themselves known in Japan, and more Japanese companies than ever are looking for overseas collaborations. International trade fairs are a fantastic opportunity to showcase a company’s offerings but adapting to each other’s business culture can make the experience more profitable, says Japan’s largest overseas trade organization.

The Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, has been around since 1958. Its original mission was to promote Japanese exports in overseas markets, but given radical economic shifts in Japan and elsewhere since then, its mission has broadened to include general facilitation of business understanding between Japanese companies and their overseas partners. This happens mainly through trade fairs, seminars, data-gathering, trade missions and publications. It has offices in 73 cities in every world region, of which 24 are in Asia and nine are in ASEAN countries.

JETRO offers a surprising amount of support to foreign enterprises looking to build a position in the Japanese market. For trade fairs it offers prime exhibition space and decoration, pre-arranges meetings and study tours before the fair begins, actively promotes exhibitions through the media and direct mail, and provides several interpreters.

I spoke recently to Ms. Mio Kawada, JETRO’s Director of International Trade Fairs in Japan, who in May oversaw the fifth Malaysian Auto Industry Exhibition (MAIE) in Yokohama. The expo featured 11 Malaysian manufacturers seeking export and import opportunities, OEM arrangements, technical alliances and other joint ventures with their Japanese counterparts. A glance at the Malaysian auto industry’s experience in Japan offers useful and universal pointers to other industries as well. (more…)

New US$5.65bn oil & gas hub for Gulf Petroleum in Malaysia

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The Malaysian subsidiary of Qatar’s Gulf Petroleum (GPLM) has teamed up with a consortium of companies from China, Hong Kong and India to develop a RM17 billion (US$5.65 billion) integrated oil and gas complex near Port Dickson, about 90km south of Kuala Lumpur in Negeri Sembilan state.

Here’s a breakdown of the consortium members and roles: Indian Marmagoa Steel Ltd and Rukmani Finance Pte Ltd have teamed up with local (Malaysian) partner Extrarich Marine Sdn Bhd to undertake financing, construction and supply of steel to the site’s storage facility; Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei Technologies will cover all IT-related elements; and a company from Hong Kong called Oriental Air Energy Investment Corp Ltd will take care of power supply requirements with its patented ‘green air-powered technology’.

GPLM’s managing director Nor Azmi Abdullah has promised even more partnerships in the project, saying official proposals had arrived from banks, government-linked companies and other oil and gas developers from 35 different countries.

It’s hoped construction on the 607.5 hectare project will begin by Q2 next year, and be finished by 2015. Originally intended to be Gulf Petroleum’s Asia-Pacific regional hub, it will comprise a refinery, petrochemical plant and storage facility, capable of producing over 150,000 barrels of oil a day.

source & article: Business Times

Japan promises billions in new Malaysian investments

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More good news of new Japanese investments for Malaysia as Prime Minister Najib Razak completed a short but high-level tour last week. Japanese firms have reportedly confirmed a commitment to RM3.8 billion (US$1.26 billion) in new investments between now and 2012, with another RM5.22 billion ($1.72 billion) to follow from 2013-15.

Key targets for investment are industries specializing in electrical and electronic goods, biomass, metallics and substrates used in the manufacture of hard drives. The total includes Tokuyama Corporation’s RM3.7 billion ($1.22 billion) investment in a polysilicon project in Bintulu, Sarawak state. Polysilicon is a vital ingredient in making electronics and solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.

During the tour, Najib met with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, held discussions with representatives of the Japan-Malaysia Economic Association (Jameca) and delivered the keynote address at the 17th Nikkei International Conference.

Matsumoto apparently asked Najib to consider Japanese firms for major Malaysian infrastructure projects arising from the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), such as the proposed Mass Rapid Transport system. He also expressed support for the new Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology, due to begin in September, and promised a special loan from his government to guarantee its success.

For its part, Malaysia has lifted a travel advisory it issued for its citizens going to Japan after the Fukushima nuclear incidents, and offered its expertise as an intermediary between Japanese firms seeking foreign investments of their own in lucrative Middle East markets.

source & article: Business Times

Praise for Singapore & Malaysia economies, leadership

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Here’s a nice and timely interview on Malaysia and Singapore with Rob Lutts, emerging markets expert and President and Chief Investment Officer of Cabot Money Management in Massachusetts, USA.

Lutts is enthused by what he saw on a 10-day Southeast Asia tour. Singapore’s economy, he says, rises and falls alongside global trade volumes with its dominance in financial services, insurance and property management. Its busy port also serves as a ship management and repair hub. Singapore’s leaders are “very savvy… really great business leaders” with policies that help drive the economy.

While he thinks Malaysia’s drive to achieve developed nation status by 2020 is “a tall order”, he believes the government’s policies are on the right track, are “constructive to capital development” and will grow GDP somewhat.

Inflation remains a major concern for governments right across Asia with no signs of success yet, he says, but hopes that higher wages will help drive inflation. He also thinks Asia offers some lessons for the US: governments that destroy capital will see investment go elsewhere, while Asia’s leaders seem to know how to balance budgets and keep debt to a minimum.

 

source & article: International Business Times

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