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Business Startup Ideas in Malaysia

September 25, 2014 | Sharon Cheong

Malaysia aims to be a fully developed country with a high-income economy by 2020.  In line with this vision, the Malaysian government has initiated a 10-year plan to develop and support high-tech industries in 2010.  The Malaysian government continuously seeks new methods of progression to promote and cultivate information and communications technology (ICT), biotechnology, finance, and other homegrown products and services. 

Help for Malaysian Startups

According to Dr. Gabriel Walter, co-founder of high speed LED startup QEOS (Quantum Electro Opto System) and Jim Buck, a mover and shaker in the cardiac implant industry, Malaysia is one of the top countries to source for tech startup funding. As part of the nation's 10-year plan, the government has set aside $100 million to invest in promising high-technology startups.

Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia is an ICT scheme designed and developed to attract first-rate technology companies and to prepare and prime the local ICT industry.  This program has the full support of the Malaysian government as it has spearheaded the country's transformation into a knowledge-based economy in the last 15 years.  Currently, MSC Malaysia is the tech entrepreneur's access to Malaysia's ICT industry.

Startup Malaysia.org is an NGO that aims to help early stage startups in succeeding both locally and globally. The organization connects young startup entrepreneurs with the right resources to help them launch their business and succeed at the shortest time possible.  Its goal is to start, fund, and accelerate the growth of 500 scalable startups by the year 2015.

Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd has been a big help to Malaysian startups. The company has funded and helped commercialize early stage tech startups under government grants.

Successful Startups in Malaysia

A startup business begins with a brilliant idea. This idea is then studied, explored, funded, prototyped, tested, and marketed - but not necessarily in this order. It is a fact that there are more failed startups than successful ones. There are probably a thousand and one reasons why a startup fails. However, there are startups that boomed. The following are successful startups in Malaysia.

Piktochart is a web-based infographic and design presentation tool company.  Founded in 2011, the company has over 1.3 million users and 2.6 million Piktocharts created as of September 2014. The website is all about cloud-based presentation and infographic solution that are easy and intuitive to use. It has a social component that enables users to share their infographics in other social media sites and embed them on personal websites.

Carlist.my is Malaysia's largest car classified site that connects car sellers, buyers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists in one platform.  The website is unique as it offers a search option that includes information and picture of a particular search.  To date, the company has received funding from Australia's Carsales.com Ltd.

Grab Taxi is a taxi booking app that makes it easy and safe to hail and ride a cab. The mobile app permits users to find the nearest taxi, know the estimated fare before booking the taxi, and know the driver's personal information and contact number before finalizing the booking. The mobile app can be used to book taxis not only in Malaysia, but in the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand.

iMoney is an online personal finance platform that allows users to compare banks and different banking services. Its data bank contains unbiased information for 500 loan packages, 200 credit cards, and over a thousand investment products.  Founded in 2012,  iMoney aims to be Southeast Asia consumers' first-rate online reference for financial matters.

High Potential Startups

Based on a 2014 study of On Device Research, Malaysia has 140% Smartphone penetration where 47% own more than one smartphone. According to the same study, 10 million Malaysians have 3G subscriptions. Malaysia is definitely progressing to be a high tech and mobile nation.  This could be the prime reason why thriving startups in Malaysia are in the ICT space and in the mobile apps space. Taking all these into consideration, the future of high potential startups is in the creation of mobile apps on a consumer niche that addresses a real need and not merely an imagined or anticipated one.

Mobile payment solution. A mobile application that could replace the use of credit card for transactions is a feasible startup idea. The mobile application can link to the user's bank account and he/she can use it to pay for transactions or send money to another person.

Mobile way to book a doctor's appointment.  This mobile application will do away with actually going to a doctor's office to fill up forms and make an appointment. This mobile application will save time, money, and effort for both patients and doctors.

Mobile application to merge all bank accounts of users. Malaysians usually have several bank accounts and are therefore charged substantial fees by each bank. The idea is for this mobile application to merge all bank accounts into one account for easy access and less bank fees by dividing the net interest amongst all the banks involved.

Mobile platform to access information about universities in Malaysia and the rest of the world. This mobile application will provide prospective tertiary students and their parents a convenient and effortless method to gather information about various institutions, browse available college courses, apply for a program, apply for financial aid, and more.

Malaysia is advancing towards a knowledge-based economy - motivated by innovative ideas, originality, creativity, and financial support from the government and other organizations.