Friday, December 1, 2006

Are we losing out to India?

I'M WRITING this from New Delhi, a city bustling with life. The streets are choked with three-wheelers and motorbikes competing with the ever-reliable Ambassador and Japanese models such as the Hondas and Toyotas. New Delhi is undergoing a transformation - in five or 10 years time, visitors will see yet another new city.

It is exciting and lively, full of history and tradition, existing side by side with an economy striving to feeds the country's millions. Today, a new economic landscape is fast emerging, one that is vibrant and thriving.

Perhaps, the best evidence of the transformation is the marked reduction of pollution. The three-wheelers, the autos as they are referred here, are the common man's cheapest and perhaps fastest form of city transportation. Running on two-stroke engines, they were easily the single biggest contribution to city smog.

But today, the two-wheelers are running on CNG! The Supreme Court ruled about two years ago that every autos must convert to CNG. And convert they did! Overnight, the pollution in the city was reduced. With several million autos now running on CNG, you can imagine how much impact this would have on the environment.

It was on my first night in New Delhi that I met a young Indian man, Manik, a deal-maker-entrepreneur who took some time to have coffee with me and my associate before he flies to London taking the 2am flight.

Manik perhaps typifies today's India's enterprising spirit. This young man, in his late 20s or early 30s, makes a quick flight to London and then catches another flight to cross the Atlantic to the United States. His core business is IT, and he has clients in many places.

He came to Malaysia about two years ago, but that experience wasn't a happy one. He entered into several agreements with Malaysian partners, left for home confident that the seed he sowed would grow into a big tree of abundant profits and a bright future.

Alas, it wasn't to be. His Malaysian partners went through a series of bad luck - one went bankrupt, one couldn't be traced, one owed him money but doesn't look like going to pay him back. Manik shrugged his shoulders and refused to allow that setback to slow him down.

Hence, Europe and the USA. He says the world is his profit centre; he wants and is already positioning himself as a world entrepreneur, operating in a seamless world pursuing opportunities and meeting new challenges. He insists he's on several learning curves simultaneously.

I met a few other ladies and gentlemen, each eager to venture into the big world and chart a new future elsewhere. Uprooting themselves and their families doesn't seem to bother them; adjusting to a foreign culture is considered a challenge that comes with new opportunities; and going global is a mantra they fully subscribe to.

I was compelled to compare them with Malaysians back home. Have we gone soft? Are we ill-equipped to go beyond our shores and look for fame and fortune? Are we too far deep in our comfort zone to rise to new challenges? Are we afraid? Or contented?

I looked at Manik. Puthu and Avy and can imagine their future. They are risk takers, but they are suitably armed as knowledge workers and entrepreneurs who dare to fail to succeed. Some years from now, the whole of India will be connected with super highways and it would be to everyone's peril if they do not cultivate this new, emerging economic power house.

My simple questions are - are we losing out to India? Are we ignoring India's potential as an important and strategic business partner? Have we lost it...?


penganggurpaksa said...

I've been to India and live there for 2 years and within that time in India I've encountered so many experiences that I couldn't get in Malaysia (even by living in Malaysia for 26years)

India had taught me a lot about the simplicity, complications and true meaning of life. Its a hell and heaven together on earth some may called it.

Yes, I agreed that Malaysia is losing out HUGELY to India. India has a lot to offer, some of those Indians when asked "Why India becoming like this?" - Their answer is the population - one can blame the population and one can also appreciate it.

For me there's a blessing of why I got the opportunity to be in India. I can see that even with all the red tapes and hassles in India, there’s always a way to tackle matters. But in Malaysia, there is no such ways and they shut you down just like that if you are not somebody.

I came back from India trying to form up a business into Malaysia market, with a lil capital that I saved, I tried to asks for additional capital for my import business but failed due to one simple line “How are you gonna compete with the existing suppliers in Malaysia?” they shut me down as if competitions was a big reason for Malaysians to fail in business.

Thus, we are losing out now as Malaysians! I've lost my strong urge of doing business just because of the shutting down (by some) and started to work being a slave for others. Now, I regret it that I did not pursue my goal and objective the right way. May be the right way is to lick all those top asses and get to know those top people, then only you can survived in Malaysia.

Malaysia has learned a lot form Indians, kow-tow to the bosses! That’s what we becoming now, afraid of losing our income, we would just say YES to whatever being put to us. I’m getting tired of being in Malaysia. I am losing hope for this country altogether!

There’s a lot more to write, but my few lines here would still not make any senses to those at the why I bother writing...

Fauziah Ismail said...

We're losing to India. We're losing to the the rest of the world as well.
And we're in denial.
That is the saddest part of it all.

Anonymous said...

your blog reminds me of the old nst.
yes, we must embrace change, but even for the worse?
an enjoyable read everyday with a good take on issues.

Ruben Sario said...

the thing about we malaysians is that we are generally not as hungry compared to our counterparts in india and china. the hunger to succeed will push more individuals apart from malaysian corporations to do business internationally.
having said that, i reckon that sort of hunger can only come about when the crutches that only benefit some of us are removed.

steady eddie said...

If we continue at the rate we are going, we will evetually lose out to Vietnam.China and India are global forces.Their economies are market driven.We have seen how Indonesia is doing as far as competitiveness.We are sliding at every instance.I have come across a few major manufacturers who have moved out of Malaysia to Indonesia, some of them have even managed to make a handsome profit after a few years in Vietnam.Here we have the likes of someone at the top saying if you do not like it here you can go invest somewhere else.Come on, we are missing the point, one major and credible rating agency has said that our growth for next year will be only 5 %.After the Asian financial crisis we have managed to overcome other economies, now we have seemed to have become a toothless tiger of sorts, the man in the street be him a taxi driver or the bus driver seems to throw punches at the governing system.All the pr talk won't do.Come on wake up Malaysia and brace yourself,its time for you to do the walk not just the talk,the public isn't too convinced.It's not point arguing about who has what equity and who deserves to be spoon fed for another thirty years or so.Level up the playing field and stop shifting the goal-posts or moving the finishing line.Just get on with the show and show the world what you're made of.

Sovind said...


Your question has a hint of optimism - "losing" implies either was better or a chance of still winning.

The appropriate question is "When did we lose out to India?".

For the last 30 years India had more better educated people than us. When the Indian government opened up the economy in the early 1990s, they hungrily hunted for opportunities world wide.

What about Malaysia? Firstly pathetically educated. The bulk of the graduates shouldn't even be graduates - these are the lost generation that the NEP policy has created. Those true graduates - well they aren't working in Malaysia. Are they traitors? Hardly - they go where they're appreciated instead of having some flunky as their superior.

While the dot-bust was happening - we were only then setting up Mesdaq and the MAVCAP-type funds.

Malaysia doesn't make the pie bigger. Everything depends on pump priming - mega-this and mega-that or else nothing happens. You have Ali Babas Kleptoputras giving to those swill-eating Chinese that Najib said also benefitted from the NEP. Big deal - what about Malaysia?

You mentioned about the use of CNG that reduced pollution in New Delhi.

Here in KL, well what can I say. Incompetents promoted to positions of importance and cannot perform - the rakyat suffers. Case in point is the gradual collapse of infrastructure in the KL PJ area leading to pollution.

Auto related pollution is also a function of how many cars are on the road. How many cars are on the road at a given time is also a function of efficiently designed roads and efficiently aligned lane markings on the road.

Lets take example of the highway from Phileo Damansara to Taman Tun. I find it amazing that a toll is paid to enter into a traffic jam every evening. Why is there a jam? Are there too many cars? The answer is that some incompetent government official sanctioned extending the concrete divider and the road lines just BEFORE the Pizza Hut /Taman Tun turn in and also extending the lines and concrete divider again AFTER the traffic light - supposedly making it easier for the TTDI folks going to Bandar Utama.

All I can say is that, immediately after that small point TTDI traffic turn off point, the traffic clears miraculously. Now who is responsible for the lines? Some incompetent who probably knocks off at 4.00 pm to play golf. Forget the pollution - lets just focus on the millions of unleaded petrol that Malaysia cannot afford wasted there. (I'm told we have about 5 years supply left).

So the answer to your question is: "Haven't we lost yet?"


DMan said...

Yes. Indeed we have.

You know, being a Malaysian abroad used to count for something. But not anymore. Now instead of being featured in William Gibson's SF novels as globe trotting businessmen OR being identified with the country transformed by that amazing and irascible Dr. M, we are featured in the Oddities columns throughout the world press for spending tens of millions in order to send someone to space to play traditional games and make "teh tarik". How terribly embarrassing.

Instead of "berganding bahu" and taking on the world in the face of globalisation, free trade agreements & GATS, we are ignoring that metaphorical tidal wave heading towards Malaysia, and instead, quarrelling with one another over race, religion and the economic pie. While we quarrel, the wave gets closer. By the time we realise, it may just be too bloody late and poof! the Malaysia Dr. M built (the one we let him build) will be dead. Ironically we may find more unity in that "death" then we are seeing now, as nothing binds people together more than common misfortune.

But then again, if the politicos still keep going at it, we may just have a little itty bit of blood-letting and turn into one of those failed African states that we used to laugh at previously, when we were so proud to be Malaysians and standing astride the world.

It may be too late BUT there may be one silver lining to all of this. Those of us who live here but have realised that Malaysia is heading for an economic and social disaster, have started looking abroad for business and other opportunities. Our efforts which would have been focussed inward are increasingly being focussed outward as that is where the business is and where our survival lies. Those who do not have the finances required to operate that way, will migrate to more settled, calmer and rational countries, while deeply missing our “tanah air”. But they do so secure in the knowledge that it is a sacrifice that they must make for the sakes of the future of their children (thankless though the children may be).

As a loyal Malaysian, I am truly, truly sad that it has come to this impasse. I LOVE this country. I LOVE the gentility, balance and traditions of the Malays. I LOVE the go-getting, entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese. I LOVE the Indians (as I am one). I am a Malaysian first and Indian second. I think we had the chance of becoming something truly wonderful. I fear that we are rapidly losing it in the face of belligerent politicians who are stoking the fires of racial prejudice, religious intolerance and economic disparity for their own selfish purposes.

Is the writing on the wall? Are we doomed? Consider the following. Most can't speak English as well as our forefathers could. Not to mention, even write ONE grammatically correct sentence! Fewer and fewer Malaysians read books anymore. Most agree that our local graduates are but a shadow of the quality graduates that our universities used to produce AND it’s getting worse all the time. In terms of our universities, FDI attractiveness, transparency, ecological and conservation ratings, they are in free fall. The academic books and articles submitted for publication and which get published locally are sometimes laughable.

All this makes me really really "geram". Pah!

Instead of measuring ourselves against the best in the world, we measure ourselves against ………… what? Thinking about it, maybe we’ve just stopped measuring ourselves altogether.

Before it is TRULY too late, let us all stand up and do something about it or we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

One parting thought:

Who cares whether you are a Malay, Chinese or Indian? We are judged as individuals in the after life. Why do we spend so much time in Malaysia agonising about our race, the Malays about “ketuanan Melayu” or the Chinese and Indians over their national schools and mother tongues? It’s a total bloody waste of time. Do you see the Chinese in China or the Indians in India doing it? No. They are emphasising the importance of English and improving their command of the language of international business whilst our command of it deteriorates. They are marching forward to seize the day while we sit on our hands and gaze at our navels!! Grow up Malaysia!!

For our future as Malaysians:

Abolish National Tamil and Chinese schools! Open up the sekolah asrama to all races! Give the privileges of the NEP to those from all races that remain economically deprived and not to those who have already made it! Ensure that the teachers reflects the multi-racial composition of Malaysia! Ensure the civil service reflects the multi-racial composition of Malaysia! Stop companies from specifying which race they want to employ or language that is required unless there are JUSTIFIABLE reasons for it! EVERYONE stop making racist remarks at home (Parents are the principle propagators of the racial divide. Realise that children learn to see the world through their parents’ eyes)! Realise that religion is supposed to BRIDGE racial divides and not make it worse (Are Christianity and Islam not each in themselves a brotherhood of MANKIND?)!

Peace upon all ………….

azmi said...

Err.... you actually sound surprised?

It's no longer about who Malaysia wants to consider as a strategic partner (if ever we had the luxury of choices). It's whether other countries will take malaysia seriously enough to do business with -- they would have to "close one eye" to corruption (the whole world knows our corruption index of course), weak leadership, empty promises and race-centric politicians (never mind a keris being waved in their face). Foreigners would rather buy us out then form an alliance. I mean, who in their right mind would want to be partners with a huge malaysian enterprise when they can buy take over the company for 1 euro and not have the incompetent malaysian management meddling in the business thereafter?

Vicvel said...

I have a lot of respect for India. For the record my wife is Indian and we just got married there in january where I spent 3 weeks mixing with the locals, most of whom were my relatives in a village a good 380 KM from Madras.

Simple folks. You'll love India , raw. You cannot go one hundred metres in any Indian town without hearing the cries of a thousand horns. Pedestrians however insist that you honk when they walk by the road. If your vehicle accidentally grazes them, they will literally insult you for being too arrogant and not honking. In Malaysia, a honking such as in India might just end up in a roadside brawl.

If you ever see an Indian in an Indian Airway flight, he might just hand you his passport and say please fill up my documents for me. He does not read or write but he takes a journey of a thousand mile equipped with a simple smile. That is all he will do, smile and nudge you with his passport.

Would a Malaysian who does not know any other language, be bold enough to travel elsewhere for fame or fortune?

Why is it that Indian can do it? It is because, he can always find another indian nor matter what nationality and that Dato is globalisation, fundamentally!

Ya kah, pasal apa? I think, India by itself grew up quite differently. It was wild and so free when it found its roots. Whereas Malaysia grew up very differently. To a large extent, it grew too fast and very learned parents often restricted the young ones to learn experientially. In India's case, lack of jobs and oppurtunity drove people to fight for survival and to go beyond their circle of influence. All this while the common Malaysian child was restricted to wander off even a few metres from his backyard.