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Gearing up for a new wave of automation post-pandemic By Dr Norida Abd Rahman

Publish date: Thu, 25 Mar 2021, 04:28 PM

ADOPTING the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4) for cost-effective technology solutions is critical for businesses to thrive in the post-pandemic economy.

The unveiling of the Strategic Programme to Empower the People and Economy (Pemerkasa) by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently demonstrates the government's continuous commitment and focus to strengthen the economic recovery efforts and subsequently, turbo-charging the economic growth.

Some of the initiatives in the sixth stimulus package will propel Malaysia's preparedness to adapt to the post-pandemic economy that will see automation and digital economy taking centre stage and potentially resulting in a broader recovery led by enhanced productivity and technological innovation.

The focus on automation and digitalisation initiatives under IR4.0 would certainly encourage local companies to immediately step up their investment in automation in order to remain cost-competitive and innovative, a strategic imperative for businesses to survive and thrive in this new post-Covid economy. 

Last year, the World Economic Forum published a report revealing the rise of machines and automation that would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025, but at the same time it expects to create 97 million new jobs. Herein lies the need for an upskilling of the local workforce to ensure they are sufficiently equipped.

With focus on job creation, efforts towards rationalising automation and digitalisation to help businesses make effective use of resources and importantly equip their manpower with capability to improve productivity, technology deployment and importantly speed is a critical progressive move forward to not only achieve cost-competitiveness, but also ensure the current workforce remain relevant in targeted highly skilled and higher income job segments, in line with the country's move towards a high income economy.

Even before the pandemic, VentureTECH has been actively promoting the deployment of IR4.0 particularly automation and digitisation among its portfolio companies in the high value-added and emerging industries, and has also invested in areas such as remote sensing, communications, automation and robotics in areas such as smart energy, smart manufacturing and mobility, and other manufacturing-based and agro-based sub-sectors.

During this pandemic period, we also reached out to other government agencies such as Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and The Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) and also financial institutions to consolidate efforts and initiatives in helping these local companies sustain and grow.

Our portfolio of Bumiputera and local companies made up of technology leaders in their respective fields are not excluded from the adverse effects of the pandemic. However, moving into the recovery phase, we are confident that they will bounce back faster and stronger, riding on new technology applications and innovation of IR4.0, that will now be advanced by the Pemerkasa programme.

As the government encourages local SMEs to boost their automation by providing loans and incentives to finance the purchase of machinery equipment, our investee companies with automation & robotics and IoT solutions are very well positioned to be leading providers in this segment, benefitting from the market demand and trend; in addition to the investees operating within the healthcare sector that have already profited from the outbreak since it first started a year ago.

In the first imposition of the movement restriction order, we have has extended various supports to all of its investee companies through its own initiated Recovery Measures, complementing the government's initiatives, with an aim to ease the financial burden of its investees, of which include automatic one year moratorium, interest-free shareholder advance and focused value creation efforts.

To chart the country's economy on a stronger and more competitive pathway via the 12th Malaysia Plan, this "favourable recession" phase is critical as the economy is experiencing productivity-enhancing transformation, and that companies offering the most current and competitive technology solutions will be at a vantage point as the economy improves.

As an impact equity investor targeting socio-economic outcome, it is our hope for our investment activities in the current situation will continue to generate highly skilled employment, promote innovation and encourage strategic collaborations and business synergies via our investees.

We plan to continue to empower Bumiputera's economy and socio-economic development by strengthening internal technological and operational competence, while identifying new business opportunities during this recovery period of the pandemic.

The writer is Managing Director, VentureTECH

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