Posts Tagged ‘malaysia’

The relation between tolerance & prosperity

Excerpt from a post by Fred Wilson titled Tolerance and Prosperity (highlights are mine):

William Penn was a Quaker and when King Charles II gave him a large piece of his land holdings in America, Penn created the colony of Pennsylvania and grounded it in the notions of tolerance and religious freedom. Instead of limiting Pennsylvania to Quakers, they welcomed all comers. And the result was that Philadelphia became the fastest growing city in America with a vibrant economy and lifestyle.

The neighboring colonies, which were initially centered around a single religion, reacted to Pennsylvania’s and Philadelphia’s economic success by opening up their cultural norms and becoming more tolerant as well.

Paul told us this story as a lesson in why cultural norms, even more than laws, are a determinant of prosperity and economic development. And tolerance is one of the more important cultural norms in this regard.

When I read this, I immediately drew a parallel to the situation that Malaysia and Malaysians face in general. Malaysians as a whole lack freedom of expression (try talking about religion, the royal family, etc.), freedom of religion (Muslim-at-birth-Muslim-for-life), and tolerance to diverse communities (no deviant cultures like LGBT and that has great effects on computing & opensource for example). I can look for more flaws but that isn’t the idea of this post.

People go where they feel welcome. People go where they are tolerated. People shy away from places that say “you can’t cook curry next door because it makes my apartment smell” (ok, that’s Singapore, not Malaysia). Of course you outweigh the pros and cons of a location.

But for Malaysia to become prosperous we need to become tolerant. We always claim we’re truly Asia with our “different cultures”, but that relationship is built on thin ice. We need to be united as Malaysians before we start welcoming outsiders/Malaysians-living-overseas and together become prosperous.

pitchIN, the Kickstarter for Malaysia

I’m a huge Kickstarter fan. I enjoy backing creative projects and seeing the outcome. I prefer outliers, not surefire success stories like the recent Kickstarter by Seth Godin (25 days more to go, $221,259 reached out of a $40,000 goal). The only problem with Kickstarter? It allows projects from the USA only. The world is bigger than the US and there are projects elsewhere that can benefit from this crowdfunding phenomena. 

How does Kickstarter work? You pledge a certain amount to a project. You hit the Amazon Payments gateway. It confirms you may make a transaction at a certain date. Then you can follow the project updates, etc. before the pledge date closes. If pledging is reached, when the closing date arrives, your credit card gets charged. Otherwise, you can forget that you even made a pledge! (read more). Read more about why Amazon Payments as well (this becomes important for pitchIN later).

pitchIN | Crowd Funding in Malaysia funny error messageI read about pitchIN on June 12. I believe that I was so excited I hopped on over to the project to take a look at it. I browsed every available pitch. Then I decided to plonk down some change on one project. pitchIN uses PayPal so the pre-authorization happens on your credit card, basically immediately. With Malaysia now telling you everytime there’s a transaction, you get an SMS telling you about this “charge”. You’ll only know its not a charge when you visit Paypal and notice this is just an authorization, nothing more. I’m glad the pitchIN team contacted me within 24 hours to tell me about this via a Facebook message as well, but it isn’t the best “first experience”. PayPal Website Payment Details - PayPal pitchIN

A few suggestions:

  1. Forget this USD thing. I’m sure you want international pledges, but USD for Malaysians is just prohibitive. People think in MYR and the USD fluctuates on a daily basis. Questions like do I get the pre-auth USD$100 rate on June 12 versus July 11 which is closing date? Who makes the difference in currency exchange? Will I get the pre-auth amount returned to me if the pledge doesn’t make it based on a different currency exchange rate? I have no idea, and I’m willing to bet Team pitchIN doesn’t either.
  2. The interface needs to work. It is currently very raw. Lots of “sorry matcha” error messages.
  3. Pitch videos need improving.
  4. A paypal email address like wtf@wtf.my (which really is WatchTower & Friends, the company name) doesn’t inspire great confidence.
  5. Fix the SMS from the bank. PayPal might have a better way to do pre-auth. Or banks shouldn’t send SMS’s during pre-auth. It turns customers away (first pitch shouldn’t be an issue, what about the next?). I hate to imagine this being a regular customer service question.
  6. Got to iterate faster. Its 10 days since I last visited the site. Nothing has changed.
  7. If you’re starting a project, remember that pitchIN charges a 5% fee in addition to PayPal’s 3.5% processing fee. This is exactly like Kickstarter, but worth keeping in mind.
  8. PayPal notice about seller and buyer being in Malaysia… well I’m using a Malaysian account and I’d presume wtf@wtf.my is Malaysian too… So odd message to contend with.

All in, I’m hoping pitchIN succeeds in getting Malaysian creative projects funded not only by Malaysians but by the vast Malaysian diaspora. Best wishes and I’m looking to further try this out when its iterated upon. So far nothing is “bringing me back” to the site, so that’s something that clearly needs to be worked on…

On why Singapore

Nathan Tinkler (young Aussie, rags to riches story) has decided to call Singapore home. Why?

Aside from the country’s low taxes, clean government and pro-business environment, wealthy foreigners are also drawn by Singapore’s low crime rate, highly developed infrastructure, and its lack of local tabloid media excesses.

Following my themes a little, no? Malaysia needs rebooting and it has to come from the people.

Malaysian diaspora, safety, and rebooting Malaysia

“And since I made it here,
I can make it anywhere
(Yeah they love me everywhere)”

– Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

There are more than a million Malaysians working abroad. Malaysia’s population stands at about 29 million now.

Generally it is safe to assume that the million living overseas are all educated. Countries gaining from the loss toMalaysia: Australia, Brunei, United States, Britain, Canada and Singapore. I’m willing to believe that most are moving for a better future.

Better futures include but are not limited to: fair working hours, fair wages, fair maternity rules, great public school education for children, freedom to practice religion, social security, safety, better healthcare, a level playing field (meritocracy).

Out of these one million Malaysians (net loss of great minds), apparently 680 have applied to come home with TalentCorp (I think TalentCorp is missing out the fact that many left on their own accord and don’t exactly want to come back & people should focus on the talent that stayed back, but thats a point for another post). That’s 0.68% success rate. How many will leave to go back to their new adoptive countries?

Malaysians are resilient. The vast diaspora proves that. As I listen to Empire State of Mind, I see how all the countries above benefit from having Malaysians. Malaysians work hard, and if you can make it in Malaysia, you’ll work hard to make it in your new adoptive land. And you will succeed. The level playing field ensures this.

I speak as someone who spent years living abroad and coming home. I came back on the premise that I will use nothing that isn’t private (hospitals, international schools, etc.). There is however something that I can’t quite control and that is safety/security. (see totally cop-out response from home ministry about perception issues.)

The recent spate of attacks have gotten the Twitterverse at least talking about migrating. I think given the chance, many people just want to leave Malaysia. Anecdotally, many just say that Singapore is safer (and they have 46% of Malaysian migrants!). And this is truly sad because Malaysia is a beautiful country. There are so many pros of living in Malaysia. We also have one of the best passports in the world (in where we’re all Malaysian!).

I keep on thinking its time to change Malaysia. I’ve had this thought most of this year. We need better branding. We need better civic consciousness. We need to be Malaysian and united as one people. We need to be proud Malaysians. This change cannot come from the bickering politicians. It has to come from within. It has to be a people driven movement to reboot Malaysia.

Pulling strings in Malaysia

This weekend was an example of pulling strings while in Malaysia, something that I completely do not like to do, and think should be unnecessary in a service-based economy.

The Samsung Galaxy SIII (S3) just launched in Malaysia. The ads have gone up and people have been queuing since 4am to buy phones. Generally stores sell up to 300 per day, and these are just at the telcos that have them. Samsung themselves do not sell it at their flagship stores. Mostly telcos are encouraged to sell it with a contract, but you can generally buy them outright.

On Saturday, we had to go to MidValley. I was told the best store to get it at would be the Celcom Blue Cube. Maxis had run out of stock for the day. I figured that while Sara sorted out the groceries, I would pay the store a visit. I got a queue number and waited. And waited. And waited. Thankfully I had my BlackBerry with me and was clearing a tonne of email. 45 minutes passed and the queue number did not move! It was not because people were buying the S3 alone, it was because the Celcom store just seemed very inefficient.

Groceries done and no phone in hand, I go home feeling a little dejected. I text my contact at Maxis, who says there will be no problem reserving a unit for me tomorrow (Sunday). Things are starting to look up. I tried it the regular way and failed; now it’s time to be a typical Malaysian and pull strings, right?

My friends and I go to the store at about 7pm on Sunday. We meet one sales guy who says they only have one unit available. At this stage, we want three. Apparently the daily quota had been met, and my friends would have to come back tomorrow. One more call to my contact and lo and behold, there can be three units available. Sales guy says that we have to queue to make such a purchase and it would set us back up to two hours. Two hours to get service?!?

Another call to my contact and we’re out of the store within minutes with three units of Samsung Galaxy S3 phones. In pebble blue as well, which is apparently the color that is a lot harder to get.

Why doesn’t everyone get similar service? Why must strings be pulled to get service? In an economy where one has to win customers, why is it that the focus is on frustrating the customer at every possible instance? Where is the customer centric nature that fuels a service based economy?

No longer affiliated with MNCC and TeAM

Its worth noting that I’m no longer on the councils for the Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC) and the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM). For MNCC, it was a retirement at the end of a term, and for TeAM it was a resignation during the term. Yes, both allow you to stick around for 2 years in general. I wish the organizations much luck in their future endeavors. 


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