Quo vadis Iskandar Malaysia?
RIVERRIA ISKANDAR MALAYSIA CONDOMINIUM
It's good to know that the land area of Iskandar Malaysia has been expanded from 2,217 sq KM to 4,749 sq KM as of 2019. It also has a new name called 'Greater Iskandar Malaysia' which now includes part of Kluang, Pontian and Kota Tinggi. But what does it mean? Does it mean that it has expanded because of a business boom? Or does it mean there is something missing? If we were to look at the figures, yes, the figures showed that indeed there is great progress. We are talking about or the IRDA (iskandar region development authority) people talking about them realising 57% of their targeted investment by 2025; RM 172.2 billion (realised) as of first half of 2019. The Greater Iskandar Malaysia region will now include agricultural development regions in Kluang, Kota Tinggi and Pontian. However, we must look at the types of investments for us to know whether we are indeed on the right track or maybe we were in a wide goose chase. Out of the total of realised investment as until the first half of 2019, 39% were foreign direct investment, mainly from China (RM 40.65 billion) and Singapore (RM 20.57 billion). Chinese investment were targeted at property developments (Green Garden and Forest City) whilst Singapore were on manufacturing and logistics. Then now we are hearing that Legoland is seeking for a buyer and also Pinewoods getting out of the woods. They also did not build first housing in Shenzhen! There was however very little technology investments (so important for us to break away from low cost producing country mentality) to shout about. There lies the short fall and so what are we going to do about it post COVID-19?
Obviously we will need to do a rethink, a serious rethink at that in order that Iskandar Malaysia will have a future. We are all aware that countries around the world are trying to outdo each other in embracing Industry 4.0 elements in their manufacturing business. That is because we will need to beat the other guys when we are talking about doing business with a lower cost and a better efficiency. Now, the big guys are doing it and are introducing automation technology (the industry 4.0 kind), with some even talking about full automation (China, Germany), so what is Malaysia, and in particular Iskandar Malaysia going to do about it? Could we just wait it out and hope that some kind souls will come knocking at our doors to set up shop to do high technology? Well, it’s not going to happen any time soon because first of all we have a small market and second, we don’t have the people (creators, producers). Furthermore it is made worse due to our parochial educational system. And the people don’t seem to know what to do or worse, the majority just hoping that there will be some saints to come charging in with some good ideas.
It would therefore be foolish to wait for that someone to come and invest in technology. We would be better off doing the thing ourselves. So how do we go about doing it?
First of all, we will need to look at what we have. Do we have the people (creators, producers)? Yes, we do have but we will really need to look deep into our eco-system to find them. There are two main types of people with producing thinking. One is those that are already producing something, albeit in a small scale. If we look hard enough, we will find them. These are the ones that have great courage as they normally venture into the unknowns with the little bit of savings (or borrowings from their friends and relatives) that they can command. Another are those that have good ideas (market oriented) but are put off because they just don’t have the means to or even saving up enough to go venture one day. These are the types of people that we need and in most probability, they are the ones that have not benefited from the many supporting schemes that are available in the market. But one way to find out is to ask the banks. Yes, the banks hold a lot of information on their clients but sad to say, they are not supposed to reveal them. Banks can do a big data analysis of their clients’ accounts so that they can get useful insights. But they will need to get the opinion of industry players who would be the better person to know what is going on the market. As it is, banks know very little of the kind of business (other than money in money out) that their clients do, so that is something that the authorities need to think about in order to identify innovative entrepreneurs. Maybe MITI knows a little bit more but they normally don't act on it! The banks really need to do an out of the box thing, otherwise it would look like business as usual; there is something wrong if you are thinking that it is business as usual with this COVID-19 thing affecting our lives thereon.
When the banks have identified those on the innovative scale, then they will need to organise something like a weekly afternoon tea chat session. Do go and invite your clients to come for tea. Bring in big timers as well so that there can be useful discussions. Ideas, especially those that have technology contents and are deem market viable should be given opportunity to leap forward with the backing of IRDA. Assistance from the government is needed here because you need to give proper support to sun rise enterprises so that they don’t fall victim to the valley of death! We are all facing trying times now that the Covid-19 thing has overpowered us and we will need to really doing things thinking out of the box. Do not look at what others are doing for they are usually followers rather than producers. Time is not on our side for the economy is in tatters after all these terrifying (to the business community) lockdowns. For a start, there is no money so we will need to rely on our great minds to figure something worthwhile doing. But if we focus on technology, then we are on a safe track because we are a small economy and we cannot go about producing those things (which China has flooded the market) as cheaply as we possibly could. We should look at Switzerland or Ireland, yes, small economies but full of innovations. We should wean ourselves off from doing cheap labour business; we will need to properly house the migrant workers or else face the same situation like Singapore Post-COVID-19.
When we talk about technology, we will need to look at what we have in the country. We cannot expect someone from another country to come bringing in money and technology. Why should they? Looking at the many new technologies showcased by university researchers (local) in the many trade exhibitions, you would not want to think that we do not have technology. But truth be said, most of those technologies belonged to the science labs as they are not conceived with the market in mind. But still, there is something to work on and in the hands of an innovative guy, there is no telling what can become of it. Again, when we talk about technology, we do not hope to look at leading edge technology coming out of MIT or Harvard. We can tweak the technology to suit what we want for Iskandar Malaysia. And we have to do it fast. But first we will need to have the input from our banks as they will hold the trump card as far as viable ideas are concerned. There is no use of high technology when you cannot find the buyers, so it is still the market (or supposed market) as it is fool hardy to first create the technology, then create the market; it would be very costly to create the technology first and create the market second.
That being said and because technologies come in waves, it would not be wrong to even talk about technologies that nobody can relate to a market niche. We have to have future thinking as we are often confronted with facing failure even as we are sure that there is a demand for certain technologies. If you have a small crowd and when you feed them with an idea (it could come from one of them or an able initiator) and you have them talking, it will soon enough turn it into something viable to do, yes, from a marketing point of view, in contrast to what a group of academics is capable of doing (from experience). So when we are talking about the market, let the marketing guys talk. Someone with an acumen and money might then want to jump in as an investor. There is no need to go to other shores to market our Iskandar Malaysia because there is really nothing much to shout about. Let us build from what we have here. If it is technology, even baseline technology for that matter, then let it be. The future of Iskandar Malaysia, or for that matter any other economic zones, is in our own hands, if only we feel helping thy neighbours in terms of investment (FDIs) is appropriate in these era of Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Now, because we have been severely decimated by COVID-19, new opportunities have arisen from the ash of those who had died. And we are not talking about advance technology either. COVID-19 has taught us that there are dangerous virus lurking at all corners and we have been taught to be careful of what we touch. Indeed, germs and bacteria have been hosted all around but we were fortunate not to have succumbed to it because we have somehow developed immunity. One of those viruses that have managed to kill us is the flu virus. We do have flu epidemic every now and then. H1N1 Flu Pandemic made 274,304 to be hospitalised in 2009 and killed 12,469 and continues to affect us sporadically. COVID-19 beats them all being the most virulent of the kind. We will not know what is next but we do really need to make changes to our lifestyles in order that we can survive with these kinds of onslaught. So what can we do about touching things that might be contaminated with virus? Don’t touch them, you said! Well, of course it is not that easy. We will have to redesign all those things that we have to touch on a daily basis like for example your hand-phone or the public touch panels that dotted all over the places or the ATM when we run out of cash. It is no more for convenience sake.
As a result of coronavirus spreading its virulance in China, we have a chance to look at the shortfalls of our supply chain system. When China implemented the total lockdown in Wuhan, and also partial lockdown in many other provinces, we were made aware of the disruption of the global supply chain system when the supply of spare parts came to a stop. Vehicle spare-parts, machinery spare-parts and many others were made unavailable. Because China being the world's manufacturing center and the begining of the world's supply chain, we could see what will happen when something goes wrong. The world was caught by surprise and with its pants down when vital parts could not be supplied. Do we then learn our lesson that we could not have to depend on only one source for our spare parts? Globalisation, it seems have shown its weakness, in particular when the chain suddenly breaks. Because the COVID-19 was spreading so fast, no one had any inkling of taking an alternative route to secure vital parts. So we should really take a look at the short commings of our supply chain system and in particular how we ensure that we will not be disrupted again.
One of the course that we have to take is to rejuvinate our local supply chain sources which was destroyed when all the manufacturing went to China because of its low cost regime. In this respect it would be wise to re-start small enterprises who were once upon a time supplying our spare parts. A good show example will be our school shoe supplier Bata. Bata used to sourced its shoe parts from local entities in the seventies but changed its supply chain to China where it now even source its completed shoe. As a result of that move, most of the small local suppliers centered around Klang and Ipoh went bankrupt. And now there is no more of these small entities anymore. Looking at what Wuhan did to us, we should now encourage the built up of our own little supply chain eco-system even if the government were to fund it. America is beggining to see the light of their local supply chain eco-system and so will the rest of the world. Industrialisation and globalisation if left to its own devices will bring about ills of the kind that is very expensive to cure. This is one up for IRDA to figure up as all the parts (people) is in our own back yard! And on a lighter note but not the least of importance is that we have to impress on the small and medium enterprises to have a proper online platform to sell their product and services in times of lockdowns (could happen every now and then without warnings); do not just only having a facebook prescence!
Well, there then arise new devices so we should look at it as soon as possible, seeing that these ever so infectious diseases will dominate our lives and we do need to redesign our devices so as not to touch them. So for a start, no more touch buttons on the lifts and no more elegant touch panels to show you the way! Even door knobs will have to go or perhaps it is redesigned with proximity sensors to sense what we are supposed to touch. We are lucky if we can touch our other half without their granting consent! Or we wear gloves that send out signals when we go out? But what about the air since we do need distance socialising? You will find air full of germs as people talk out laud unconsciously spewing out their venoms. Not only that we do share the same air in our office buildings, in our trains and hospitals and because we do not see these germs, we however treat it as per normal.
Here is an insight to what Japanese giants are doing for the no-touch era.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Fujitec has launched an “elevators of enhanced public hygiene” type of elevator which comes with an optional add-on contactless panel feature that taps on infrared sensor technology to be able to detect a user’s destination user floor when they hover their palms over the reading board. Although the marketing was first targeted at food manufacturing and hospitals, there was an increasing amount of enquiries from offices and public concourses. The new elevator also comes with anti-bacteria lift buttons as well as a congestion indicator to tell users as to how crowded the elevator is so that users might decide whether to take the next lift .
Meanwhile, Fujitsu is conducting a three month trial of a contactless multi-biometric authentication and payment system and it is especially targeted at shopping malls that do not have a check-out counter. To use the system, you have to register as a member which the system will then use its palm-vein authentication combined with facial recognition technology. Another firm NEC is also testing its security gate technology where you will not have to remove your face mask or sun glasses nor do you have to tap your employee ID. NEC says it is using Artificial Intelligence to read that part of your face that is exposed to check against a captured image stored in its data base. In a similar vein, Glory, based in Hyogo Prefecture is dishing out its face recoqnition technology which it claimed that they can now detect your face even with the mask on! Fellow Japanese sensor maker Optex Co.has produced a contactless control button that opens and close doors which they intent to target food processing plants and hospitals. We are also aware that other types of contactless technology is comming to the market. Not far off is the ultimate contactless technology called 'mind control' tech which is a technology using our mind to give command; it is still at the lab stage.
Well, we need to change. For a start, air conditioning system needs an overhaul. No more closed spaces; you need an open window to bring in fresh air (might not necessary to be fresh). For that you will need to change whole buildings; just that you can have open windows to bring about air circulation. It might be a simple concept but then, we are talking about buildings, homes, vehicles, transport and so on. Indeed it is a huge undertaking to redesign theses spaces where we spent most of our awake times in, but something we have to do just so that we can stay alive. With COVID-19 becoming endemic we will have to live with it even if we were to change many of the things that we do in our daily lives. Engineers, architects and constructors, you have a huge task ahead until we can have a solution to bring these germs to a halt. Well, for Iskandar Malaysia, you don’t have to look far as the solutions are all near our home, you just need to organise a little bit of discussion and loft and behold, you become the pioneer to show the world how to combat diseases. And don’t go to far-off destinations to look for these costly but non-performing experts or investors; look at your own backyard for once. Then how about face masks? Well, we will address it in another article then.
What about infrastructures? Do we have enough of it?
There has been market buzz ever since the sugestions of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) and the High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting Singapore, Johor and Kuala Lumpur. People (house owners) were really excited because if the proposals were implemented, then it will give the Iskandar Malaysia economy a boost. Infrastructure wise, Iskandar Malaysia is well endowed as it has ports, airports and a well connected roadway system within the city. But as most city states expands, and with an increase in population and economic activities as well as with an ever increasing number of workers having to travel to Singapore for their work, then whatever infrastructures that we have is inadequate and efforts must be made to expand on the linkages between the two neighboring cities, be they through air, land or sea. Unfortunately, the RTS and HSR has been stalled (further stalling because of covid) because of various reasons and the people has been left really stifled in one way or another, in particular through the entry points to Singapore.
And when COVID-19 came along with the Movement Control Order (MCO) it was evident that much got to be done in terms of infrastructures, especially the ones that handles people movement across the causeway. Greater Iskandar Malaysia is supposed to have a population of four over million by 2025 with most of people centered around the city of Johor Bahru. And now with COVID-19, will the authorities need to scratch their heads to get enough of money to fund the building of roadways even as we are sure that the RTS and HSR will be further delayed? We will also need to look at the kind of transport systems to build because we will have to prepare for the day where infectious diseases become endemic. We may not be able to put people in a concealed space like that found in our present day vehicles simply because the air conditioning system is not suitable for the time. Vehicles and to a lesser extend buildings will need to be redesigned so that we can have open windows to help recirculate fresh air. No more closed windows; sane people would not want to be cooped up with others in a confined space. Airships, Elevated Walkways, Passenger Drones (autopilot), Ground Effect Planes, Wind Assisted Boats should be considered in this time of change. Anyway, with the coronavirus becoming endemic around the world, we will have to make changes to our lifestyles. It goes without saying that things will also have to change. Perhaps IRDA should take this opportunity to help start the begining of new industries that can institute the redesigns of vehicles, buildings and the way we do air conditioning! If we don't do it then perhaps others will do it. And we will have more people going over the causeway to seek good paying jobs! It is a big job though and one that do not need advance technology and plenty of funds to implement.
Airlines Grounded because of Covid-19 Lockdown!
Things will not be the same again and here are some industries that will need redesigning in order to cope with Covid-19.
You will not want to spend your leisure time at the shopping mall because the air there is infested with germs and viruses, right? The fault is with the air conditioning system there as fresh air is not brought into the building. You just breathe in sick air that's all but you don't realise it until this thing called Covid-19 thing comes along. But of course a lot of people gets sick after visiting the shopping mall (yes, we loath there for hours on end enjoying the free air conditioning) even before this covid thing came along. Colds and flu just love to be spread in those comfortable environment and nobody bothered to make a study of how bad the shopping malls were designed. So now, going into a shopping mall will require you to be body temperature taken, name taken and contacts traced! And if there were someone who fell ill there, then you will be contacted and have all your other close contacts (which will include your family members) be placed under quarantine for at least fourteen days. Just imagine how troublesome it is! This will go on even after we have succeeded in producing a vacine for the virus (virus do mutate though).
We will probably see a paradigm shift in the design of shopping malls then; it will entail an open space system where fresh air will be drawn in and stale air exhausted. This new system is called the 'In-Out Flow' system where fresh air is filtered and sanitised, then inducted into the space and a similar process is being performed when it is exhausted out. Off course it will add to the cost of ventilation but it is better to be safe than otherwise. It will be a real beating as old buildings (includes all building with HVAC systems) cannot be redesigned without having to incur a huge cost. Maybe then for new setups which will be able to incorporate new designs. With people looking at online shopping, and a tumbling of business, old shopping malls will have little choice then. Either rebuild or shutting down.
Food Delivery - Revival of milkman
Due to the lockdown orders, there is a significant revival of home delivery services like that of the ubiquitous milkman that was the rage in the sixties. Of course we now have the new food delivery order system via motorbikes popularies by Food Panda and Grab Food. But soon enough there will be more models as people have no other choice because they have to work more from home. Small grocery stores might want to take advantage of this to have online presence from where people can put orders and have their goods delivered to their doorsteps. Great opportunities here, just like the revival of the British milkman. Say you are free because you are out of a job; you can now offer a delivery service using just a bicycle!
Here are some industries that will survive the coronavirus lockdowns; lockdowns might be declared from time to time as the coronavirus will mutate every now and then!
Virtual meetings provider
Home grocery deliveries from small grocers
Cybersecurity and spamming
E-learning; cooking lessons and celebrity chefs
Legal services; bankruptcies
Movie streaming services
Medicines and Pharmaceuticals
Personal protective gears
Eco friendly tech; things that consume less fuels
Remote medical services
You might want to take a look at what Board of Innovation has to say about Post Covid-19 Life