Malaysia, at the heart of the ASEAN group of nations, is ranked among the world’s top 15 most competitive countries. It has become a magnet for European SMEs from a wide range of sectors keen to do business in this burgeoning region. Euronews’ Business Planet team travelled to Kuala Lumpur to learn the secrets of setting up an enterprise in the Asian powerhouse.
In just four years, the European consultancy Neapoli has become indispensable in the green building design sector in Asia. The architectural projects it works on have the highest environmental standards and are the most energy efficient in the world. The company has collaborated on the design of Kuala Lumpur’s new Petronas Towers.
“Malaysia has a booming construction industry and offers great opportunities for research and development, because the sector of energy and environmental optimisation of buildings is still in his infancy,” says Managing Director Stellios Plainiotis, who is recognized as one of Asia’s top experts in green building design.
The company’s 14 staff members, representing seven different countries, work on projects in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia and Singapore. Such is the growth in the green building sector in the region that the firm aims to triple its business over the next five years. European SMEs are well placed to capitalise on their expertise here.
“We are not afraid of competition or of being copied. By sharing our knowledge, our methods and our experience, we are leading development and we are helping the market grow,” adds Plainiotis.
So what help is available to European entrepreneurs who want to set up here? Primarily, there is the support of the European Commission’s Enterprise Europe Network, which brings together hundreds of organizations within Europe and elsewhere.
However, SMEs need to do their homework first, cautions Minna Saneri, General Manager of the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “Find out about the sectors, find out about the market, the competitors and the IPR regime – do your home work properly. Find out how to get support from the chambers on the ground, and don’t forget that it will take time – two to three years – before anything happens.”
Malaysia ranks highly in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ survey, with particularly easy administration and bureaucracy. It is also at the heart of the ASEAN Economic Community, a potential single market of 620 million people.
“In Malaysia, we have an English speaking and skilled work force, we have good infrastructures, we have a pro-business government… It’s a very good place to start the penetration of the ASEAN market,” says Saneri.
After his own company’s highly positive experience in Malaysia, Neapoli boss Stellios Plainiotis believes the key to success in Asia is “to understand and respect the local culture. For example, in Malaysia we have three different ethnic groups, that means three different ways of doing business.”
Evidently, these difference have enhanced rather hampered business in the country.