SAMENTA – Malaysia’s Oldest Association Celebrates 35th Anniversary
SAMENTA – Addresses Pandemic Concerns
To say that the SME communities throughout the nation have been struggling to deal with the impact of COVID-19 is a severe understatement. As a driving force of the economy, and a vital component to the sustainability of countless markets, they strive to deliver the services and products deemed necessary and in-demand for various consumers. Yet, the pandemic has stifled innovation and growth, creating disruptive ripples among supply chains and restricting resources needed for businesses to operate efficiently.
In truth, the collective journey of SMEs has always been an uphill battle. Establishing sustainable businesses in competitive markets is a struggle in and of itself, with few thriving beyond conventional achievements while many smaller entities survive on a day-to-day basis.
When the pandemic struck, it didn’t take long at all for lockdowns, regulatory restrictions and a general change in consumer behaviour to set in, wiping out a massive level of traction for so many businesses in Malaysia as well as other parts all around the world. This left countless SMEs in dire situations, scraping by and pulling through in any way possible.
Now, SAMENTA (Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia) – Malaysia’s oldest association for SMEs – is addressing the many pandemic-related concerns related to business growth and success. They recently celebrated their 35th Anniversary with a cake cutting ceremony graced by Tan Sri Noh Omar, Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Co-operatives along with Datuk William Ng, chairman of SAMENTA.
Supporting The SME Ecosystem
SAMENTA’s humble beginning took place in Penang. Its date of establishment was 1986, and its formation was initiated by the consolidation of SMEs supporting the then-nascent electronics industry. 35 years later, the SME association has grown into the largest of its kind in the country with about 3,000 members spread out across independent chapters spanning the north, south and central regions throughout Malaysia.
For the most part, SMEs act as full-fledged drivers of the economy that spur on consistent growth during good times. In tough times though, SMEs find themselves being the last in the queue to receive support. This is a big reason why associations like SAMENTA exist – as a vital mouthpiece for a fragmented SME sector that yearns to be heard.
The association strives to address major pain points that directly correlate to the success of SMEs, including aspects like market access, business amplification, capacity building and policy consultation – all strong pillars that determine the progress of companies throughout the nation. Above all, SAMENTA stands as a strong advocate for proving how important SMEs are for the economy and employment. At the same time, the pandemic has also emphasized the fragility of the SME ecosystem, with a total loss of approximately RM40.7 billion being garnered by SMEs in 2020 alone.
The clear contrast in characteristics between being extremely important yet severely delicate further reiterates the need for more focus and support towards SMEs in general. This is why SAMENTA resisted the call for full lockdowns early on during the crisis, with the first full lockdown being dubbed MCO 3.0 in June. In fact, it was the first association to express resistance to lockdowns that impeded the complete operational capacity for SMEs in Malaysia.
Resisting Lockdown Measures
According to SAMENTA Chairman Datuk Willian Ng, the process of stricter self-regulation combined with a mass test and isolate approach would have been enough. These solutions would enable SMEs to keep the lights on while adhering to the necessary precautions for fighting against the pandemic.
As a direct consequence of the complete closing of selected sectors, the economy could suffer greatly in the long run as more and more businesses are essentially killed off by operational deadlock. Many business owners that manage to keep their companies afloat may do so not because they are doing well, but because they are supplementing capital through personal savings or relying on other last-resort funding options to survive.
Rejecting Sector Segregation
The association was also the first in calling for an end to the segregation of essential and non-essential sectors, which it believes to be ultimately contributing to the crippled state of SME health and economic stability. In essence, SAMENTA sees all operational businesses as necessary or essential in some shape or form, especially in regards to the overarching success of Malaysia’s economy. They all work in conjunction to provide and cater to various intricate market demands, and the pandemic alone may not necessarily justify the complete desolation of certain sectors.
Pushing Past The Pandemic
For now, SAMENTA’s efforts are heavily focused on equipping the SMEs of Malaysia with much-needed tools, resources and guidance as they find their footing throughout the pandemic. This includes the adoption of sturdy digital infrastructures to accommodate the growing transition towards online measures for enterprise growth, the steady move towards stronger automation capabilities so businesses can run more efficiently, and a better understanding of new standards for ESG (environmental, social and governance).
As productivity and competitiveness within the free market continue to suffer from pandemic effects, rapid changes in technology and fluctuating market trends, the best that all SMEs can do is fight against stagnation by persevering with innovation, grit and cooperative spirit.