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Boosting Sustainable Digitalisation In Agriculture – Agrobank Optimists In Supporting Entrepreneurs To Restrategies Their Business Model

KUALA LUMPUR – Technologies and digitalisations are gaining its momentum at a pace second to none in transforming agriculture sector to improve efficiency and efficacy.  Adapting with technology, Agroprenuers have slowly gone on board into digitalisation to increase yield and productions and at the same time cater the needs of its target consumer through various e-commerce platforms.     

Sharing insights related to agriculture and digitalisation is Khadijah Iskandar, Covering President / Chief Executive Officer of Agrobank together with Afiq Nazary, Chief Executive Officer of My Fundaction and Bikesh Lakhmichand, Chief Executive Officer / Founding Partner of 1337 Ventures during Agro Talk webinar session entitled ‘Entrepreneurship in Malaysia – Redesigning Business Models for the Digital Economy’ moderated by Karamjit Singh, Founder / Chief Executive Officer of Digital News Asia via Agrobank Facebook Live on Tuesday, 12 October 2021.

“As a development financial institution (DFI) with a primary focus on strengthening the agriculture sector in Malaysia, Agrobank provides holistic financial solutions and beyond banking services to various segments of agriculture community.  Agrobank also aims to support the nation’s agendas in modernising the agriculture sector through various funds received from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry (MAFI) for the development of agriculture value chain such as vessel modernisation financing for fishermen.”

“Agrobank is currently embarking on its new Strategic Business Plan 2021 – 2025 and as part of our vision to sustain the agriculture industry is through our comprehensive financing solutions and simultaneously supporting the acceleration of technology as well as adoption of modern agricultural practices.  In addition, Agrobank recently (April 2021) has collaborated with Malaysia Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) to provide financial assistance amounting RM10 million to support 200 entrepreneurs in agriculture sector for the purpose of accelerating IR 4.0 technology practices into the agriculture sector”, said Khadijah.

She added, “Collaboration with agencies and technology providers in accelerator programmes through sandboxing activities have been installed in our pipeline.  In our business plan, this is part of our initiatives, and we want to do more than just the traditional financing and work with partners that supports the government’s agenda in modernising the agriculture sector.”

Afiq Nazary who started his entrepreneurship during his final year study in New Zealand shared his thoughts in digitalisation by saying that “We have to look into a fundamental thing when we talk about diverting retail business model to e-commerce business model.  e-commerce is not something that everyone is familiar with especially to SMEs and micro entrepreneurs who have  been practicing the conventional method.”

“I am a believer of customer experiences and therefore, we need to set up a few expectations when it comes to customers. When we study the customer segment, most of the customers went to the retail store to feel and experience a certain product by themselves.  Thus, having this kind of experience is really appealing for certain kind of customer segment”.

“When entrepreneurs want to venture into e-commerce business model, they have to make sure that the implementation of omnichannel is practiced by making sure the experience that the consumer have in retail store is kind of similar with the e-commerce platforms. We want to make sure that the expectation of consumer through e-commerce platform is something favourable and consistent with the experience that they have from the retail store.  I believe a seamless shopping expectation is very important. The basic thing is to understand your customer, making the platform accessible and easy to navigate depending on the target consumer when one wants to divert to the e-commerce business,” he added.

Sharing his expert thoughts, Bikesh Lakhmichand says that “Customers today know what they want. You don’t really have to educate them as much as you should because they would have done their facts check and they know what they want.  So, as an entrepreneur you have to be a digital savvy and be where they can find you. If they are looking for something and they can’t find you, you are the only one to be blamed, so make sure you have a digital strategy.”

“Nowadays, everything can be trackable and has a tech component.  If you look into a fish industry, how they feed the fish has come down to that precision and the IOT sensors can basically tell you when to feed the fish, how much to feed, how often to feed to get the most optimum fish. There’s nothing that we found that cannot be enabled to be better with technology and therefore your role as a SME is to go out there and find out what technologies are available for you to use but it has to be at your comfort level. If you are not ready for that, that is where you have to partner up with people to achieve your objective,” he added.

Although the current pandemic has had a severe impact on the global economy, the digital economy has proven instrumental in turning the challenges into new opportunities to make a difference, not only locally, but globally.

All the three panelists, agreed, those who had already embraced internet technology in the past had the advantage of being able to fast-track their business growth; hence the ability to leverage digital tools has become a must for businesses to survive the ongoing crisis and embrace the future.

The playback of Agro Talk can be viewed on Agrobank official YouTube channel – AgrobankTV and official Facebook page