Opportunities in times of crisis (The Star)

As governments across the globe rally to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 outbreak, businesses are forced to rethink and re-strategise the way they operate.

In response, companies in Malaysia have quickly adopted new operational strategies once the movement control order was introduced on March 18.

This is largely due to our high-speed broadband infrastructure and mobile broadband capabilities that are in place, various robust digital services that are still operating, and the resilience of the local workforce.

The World Health Organisation recently praised Malaysia for its preparedness and response in managing the Covid-19 crisis.

It even selected Malaysia as one of the countries to test the effectiveness of drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients, a testament to the country’s ability to conduct lab work and research.

Speed of response

The speed and scale of how the global pandemic spread caused significant disruptions to organisations across all sectors, forcing an engagement with various digital and technology solutions to streamline their operations and re-evaluate their business priorities.

Nations and corporates are advocating and implementing various measures to stop the spread of the deadly pandemic and keep their citizens and employees safe.

This includes imposing unprecedented lockdowns on businesses, schools and other non-essential services; restricting domestic and international travels; and forcing millions to practise home quarantine.

As companies activate their remote working capabilities and prepare to streamline it further, employees’ health and safety take vital precedence over balance sheets.

What is clear is the global economy is bearing the brunt of Covid-19 and the Global Business Services (GBS)/Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector is not spared.

Many service providers are already struggling to continue operations due to logistical and technical limitations.

Countries that are heavily reliant on BPO are now negatively impacted as they face significant challenges to arrange and manage remote working for its entire workforce.

Beyond developing processes that can be deployed at scale, these businesses need to also consider the quality of infrastructure for broadband connectivity.

Malaysia – renowned for its offshoring capabilities, placing within the top three for AT Kearney’s Best Offshoring Locations, and being first choice as the preferred business continuity hub for the world – has now emerged as a more attractive alternative for these hard-hit economies.

Digital infrastructure

“Reliable and affordable high-speed broadband connectivity is a key catalyst to bringing in direct investments into Malaysia’s digital economy, ” said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

“The Government is committed to ensure the implementation of the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) to improve the country’s digital connectivity, with plans to roll out 5G in Q3 2020 still firmly in place. This is despite the economic uncertainties that the global pandemic brought about.

“One of the direct beneficiaries of this connectivity initiative is the GBS industry in Malaysia. This has undoubtedly empowered their employees to work from home and allowed the industry to continue to operate, ” he said.

Under the people-centric economic stimulus package that the Government recently announced in the wake of Covid-19, RM600mil was allocated to provide free Internet data usage to all Malaysians throughout the MCO period.

An additional RM400mil was also invested in improving network coverage and capacity to provide high availability and quality telecommunications networks.

Other aspects of the stimulus will also help companies reduce operating costs. This includes tiered discount for electricity rates – ranging from 15% to 50% for April until September 2020; reduced rate of employer contribution to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF); and wage subsidy programmes.

Malaysia, home to over 600 GBS companies, has proven its mettle in rising to the challenge of transitioning organisations into remote working arrangements.

For example, contact centres – one of the main components of the nation’s GBS industry – have moved from business as usual to work-from-home mode within a short span of time.

“The key here is our high-quality digital connectivity in Malaysia, ” said Contact Centre Association of Malaysia (CCAM) president Raymond Devadass.

“With the Internet user penetration in Malaysia now at over 85% and having already deployed the fibre network across urban and sub-urban areas, the contact centre industry has been able to quickly integrate work and home domains, ” he said.

This, in many ways, reinforced the notion that the availability of high-quality digital connectivity to homes is very crucial.

For Raymond, that enabled the global customer support industry to start and expand its current transformative evolution with the use of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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The Star

11 April 2020

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