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Greater Kuala Lumpur, an Attractive Business Hub for Future Growth

Muhammad Azmi Zulkifli, CEO of InvestKL

Against a year that has been challenging, Malaysia continues to display immense resilience and growth. The vaccine rollouts are well underway, trade performance remains steady, and we continue to attract foreign direct investments.

With the business landscape shifting the world over, MNCs that have set up their bases in host countries are re-assessing the infrastructure and its relevance to support their growth and expansion strategies, while others are deferring their investment plans to see what the outlook would be like.

In the first half of this year, InvestKL secured RM1.92 billion in new investments from seven global multinational companies (MNC), creating 1,207 regional jobs. Despite the challenging economic environment, this achievement reinforces the appeal of Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL) as a top choice for MNCs and fast-growing companies.

At InvestKL, we continuously engage with our MNCs that have set up their operations in GKL to ensure they receive the relevant support as part of our commitment to foster a facilitative business environment. Despite the prolonged pandemic period, it is positive to note that GKL continues to see MNCs carrying on with efforts to grow, expand, and strengthen their businesses, while contributing towards building a vibrant business ecosystem and creating more opportunities for Malaysians.

Building local ecosystems, creating jobs for Malaysians

Knowledge transfer is one of the core essentials for Malaysia to move up as a knowledge-based economy and become a developed, high-income country. It is also imperative for Malaysian MNCs to be competitive in the global landscape.

International SOS, the world's largest medical and travel security risk services organization, had its Southeast Asia regional hub located strategically in GKL since 1996. The company opened its new Global Shared Services Centre in 2014, which created 150 new jobs, 95% of them Malaysians.

Another success story, Alcon Global Services (AGS), is an MNC based in Geneva, Switzerland with its regional business services hub for Alcon Laboratories located in GKL, specializes in ophthalmology and producing vision care. This hub concentrates on providing business support across various functions that span finance, human resources, procurement, supply chain, enterprise resource-planning, IT, and quality assurance.

Companies like International SOS and AGS are just a couple of the many hundreds of MNCs that don't just create jobs for Malaysians but also build local economies. The spillover effect on the ecosystem not only centers on the industry-specific support but also allows other small businesses to participate in the value chain. This would range from non-technical services such as canteen operations, building security, cleaners and drivers, and other such relevant services, as well as infrastructure development - building of roads and alongside it, businesses for the community.

What is important when global companies such as these set up their presence here is the training and teaching and hiring of locals that companies such as these will do. This means that the Malaysians who would fulfill these new jobs will be able to expand their skills and knowledge that makes them competitive in the future.

This is also where InvestKL plays a role in helping to facilitate local talent inflows into such organizations. We recently implemented a talent training programmer called Fit4Work that helps young Malaysians enhance their skills required for the Global Services Industry. We will then help match candidates with the right global MNCs. Since InvestKL's inception in 2011 to 30 June 2021, we have seen the creation of 15,318 regional and high-skilled jobs, and we are confident this number will continue to grow.

Foreign MNCs in Greater Kuala Lumpur still investing in growing business strength

While the investment context has changed somewhat with this pandemic, what we see now among the MNCs in GKL are their resiliency and adaptability in how fast they can roll out their solutions through digital and Industry 4.0 adaptation.

ABB Group, a Swiss MNC which is a global leader for digital technology, opened their first robotics Digital Centre here in GKL in 2019. The company provides real-time monitoring and tech support for over 7,000 connected ABB robots in more than 750 factories worldwide. They chose GKL because of our growing digital ecosystem, strategic location in Southeast Asia, accessibility, economic diversity, excellent infrastructure and a growing talent pool. When the pandemic hit, they were not as impacted because they had already embedded technologies and remote operations into their business activities, which served them and their clients well.

Air Liquide, a French company and a world leader in industrial gases and technology services, set up their Smart Innovative Operations (SIO) center for the South-East Asia Pacific region here in GKL. They leverage data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics to remotely manage and monitor as well as optimize the performance of their plants in the region.

Both ABB Group and Air Liquide are continuing with their investments and focus on Industry 4.0 and digital transformation through using technology enablers like AI and data analytics to run the operations. Our talents in these organizations will certainly benefit from learning these innovations.

So, we continue to see an expansion in skills and services as well as investments into strengthening their business here, not just from these two examples cited, but also from the many other MNCs that InvestKL regularly talks to.

Upskilling knowledge pool and strengthening local supply chain

While we are currently in a good position to leverage our talent pools, the fast-evolving knowledge and business landscape require us to ensure that Malaysia's bright and hopeful young minds are equipped with the right proficiency for the work of the future.

This is where collaborations between universities and the industry partnership models come in to deliver valuable insights and real-world experience to students who need to understand today's dynamic business environment. At InvestKL, we have helped many of these MNCs collaborate with academia to develop research and innovation through joint research projects, delivery of innovative commercial products, improvements in teaching, learning and enrichment of students' knowledge and their employability. Participating MNCs include Oleon, CANBOT, Vinci Construction, Leviat, and Indra, working closely with University Malaya, Monash University, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), among others.

InvestKL's Greater KL (GKL) Live Lab - a strategic programmer to facilitate collaboration between foreign MNCs and our local players - is a programmer that helps the supply-demand side to tap onto each other to build a more efficient ecosystem. The focus of the GKL Live Lab is on driving and accelerating the adoption of innovation-led and knowledge-intensive activities. Since our announcement in April 2021, we have already secured three companies, successfully achieving our target for the year ahead of schedule.

When we engage these global MNCs, we are heartened to note their exciting plans for the future. Many of our conversations are peppered with their plans to grow their business, invest in technology and digitalization, look at new markets, hire more talents, and strengthen their base here because they continue to find GKL attractive and facilitative for their business to grow.

The long-term value that global MNCs offer to Malaysia is immeasurable as it includes a whole plethora of benefits - creating high-value jobs, elevating industry knowledge, building new sub-industries and ecosystems, increasing economic complexity, extending domestic linkages and improving inclusivity, over and above the foreign-direct investments they bring into the country.

We at InvestKL, are excited at seeing Malaysia transform itself in line with its aspirations to be a high-value knowledge-based economy, and we must start by recognizing the contribution of global MNCs towards this journey.


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