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India ASEAN Startup Summit – Malaysia-India Series (Part 2)

In this second part of our series, we continue our engaging conversation with Datin Malliga Subramaniam, a central figure in shaping the ASEAN startup scene. This part of our dialogue with Datin Malliga dives into the evolving Malaysia-India collaboration, as highlighted by the developments at the India ASEAN Startup Summit 2023. She highlights key aspects of this partnership, including growing trade and investment, India's vast consumer market, and strategic cross-border initiatives. Her insights give us a concise yet comprehensive view of the startup ecosystems in both regions, highlighting future growth, networking prospects, and a unified vision for the ASEAN startup community.


Edward: India-Malaysia Collaboration – How does the India ASEAN Startup Summit show the growing collaboration between India and Malaysia in the startup sector?

Malliga: The India ASEAN Startup Summit is a significant milestone in the growing partnership between India and Malaysia, particularly in the startup ecosystem. Here are some key aspects of this collaboration:
  • Economic and business engagement is a key part of the Enhanced Strategic Partnership between India and Malaysia, established during the visit of the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India in November 2015.

  • India and Malaysia enjoy growing trade and investment ties. Bilateral trade has reached US$20 billion in FY 2022-23. Two-way investments have been growing significantly, with startups playing an increasingly important role in bilateral economic cooperation. Currently, there are over 115,000 startups in India recognized by the Government of India, including 110 startup unicorns.

  • India's thriving startup ecosystem has been successfully expanding into Malaysia and further into the ASEAN region. Indian startup companies such as Oyo, Perfios, Pine Labs, and Razorpay are now well established in Malaysia and are exploring opportunities in the Southeast Asia region.

  • IASS provides a platform for showcasing India’s success in the startup space and offers potential opportunities for Indian startups to consider Malaysia as an entry point to the rest of the ASEAN region. IASS will facilitate the exploration of several more cross-country collaborations among startups from India, Malaysia, and other ASEAN countries.

  • IASS 2023 is expected to bring together startups, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and governments from India, Malaysia, and the wider ASEAN region to promote collaboration among all stakeholders in this area.

  • IASS 2023 aims to provide a platform for startups to attract funding from potential investors, and seek complementary collaborations to improve their products or services. Policymakers will be able to articulate the support offered to startups and budding/aspirational entrepreneurs to form new connections and find new opportunities.

Edward: Leveraging India's Consumer Market – Why is it important for Malaysian startups to capitalize on India's growing consumer market, and what strategies can they employ to successfully enter and thrive in this market?

Malliga: Tapping into India's growing consumer market is crucial for Malaysian startups for several reasons. Firstly, India's massive population of over 1.3 billion people presents a vast consumer base and significant growth opportunities.

Secondly, India's rapid economic growth has led to an expanding middle class with increasing purchasing power, creating a favorable environment for introducing new products and services.

Thirdly, the surge in Internet penetration and smartphone usage in India's digital revolution has opened avenues for e-commerce and digital platforms, enabling startups to reach a wider audience and connect with potential customers.

To successfully enter and thrive in the Indian market, Malaysian startups should consider strategies such as:

  • Local Partnerships and Collaborations: Collaborate with local companies or individuals who have a deep understanding of the Indian market for valuable insights, assistance with navigating local regulations, and establishing connections. The Summit also provides opportunities to make connections in India.

  • Adaptation and Localization: Customize products or services to suit the Indian market, considering language preferences and cultural sensitivities in features, pricing, and marketing strategies.

  • Competitive Pricing: Develop cost-effective offerings for India's price-sensitive market to attract price-conscious consumers.

  • Strong Distribution Networks: Establish robust distribution networks across India, leveraging local logistics partners and e-commerce platforms for efficient reach.

  • Marketing and Branding: Invest in marketing to build brand awareness and reputation, using social media, influencer marketing, and localized advertising campaigns.

  • Customer Support and After-sales Service: Provide excellent customer support and after-sales service to build trust and loyalty among Indian consumers.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensure compliance with local regulations, taxation laws, and legal requirements, engaging local legal experts to avoid complications. Remember, entering a new market poses challenges. The IASS Summit's networking opportunities and collaboration platforms aim to assist startups in navigating these cross-border opportunities.

Edward: Networking and Partnership Opportunities – Can you share some insights on the networking and partnership opportunities that will be available at the Summit for startups and investors?

Malliga: Business leaders and government bodies in both India and Malaysia recognize the importance of startups in overall economic cooperation. To this end, the two sides are working towards setting up the Malaysia-India Startup Bridge, facilitated by the India High Commission in Malaysia.

  • The 'Malaysia – India Startup Bridge' will act as a one-stop shop for all stakeholders in the startup ecosystem, offering knowledge exchange and joint programs. For instance, if a startup in India has a product or solution that can work well in Malaysia, the platform will serve as a soft-landing platform and the first point of contact for entering the ecosystem.

  • Salient features of the platform include knowledge sharing, networking opportunities, joint programs, exchange of best practices, and capacity-building programmes.

  • We believe that the Startup Bridge will act as an enabler for startups in Malaysia and India, helping them access markets in both countries and benefit from the various opportunities available.

Edward: Future of Malaysia-India Startup Collaboration – Looking forward, what trends or developments do you foresee in the collaboration between Malaysian and Indian startups?

Malliga: As we look to the future, several key trends and developments are emerging that will shape the collaboration between Malaysian and Indian startups. These include:

  • Increasing cross-border investments: There may be a rise in investment activities as Malaysia and India both focusing on promoting their startup ecosystems.

  • Tech exchange programs: Enhance collaboration between Malaysian and Indian startups through joint participation in events, hackathons, and innovation initiatives, fostering networking, knowledge sharing, and potential partnerships.

  • Incubation and accelerator partnerships: Joint Malaysian-Indian initiatives by incubators and accelerators to support startups with mentorship, market insights, and resources, enhancing cross-country entrepreneurial development.

  • Market expansion and localization: Startups from both countries might seek to expand their operations regionally and tap into the larger South Asian market. Collaborations may involve sharing market insights, cultural understanding, and localized strategies to effectively adapt products or services to new markets.

  • Industry-specific partnerships: Startups from both countries might seek to expand their operations regionally and tap into the larger South Asian market. Collaborations may involve sharing market insights, cultural understanding, and localized strategies to effectively adapt products or services to new markets.

  • Government support and policies: Governments in both Malaysia and India are increasingly recognizing the importance of startups in economic growth and job creation. Therefore, they may introduce policies and initiatives that prioritize fostering collaboration, skill exchange, and investment facilitation between the two countries.

Edward: Message to Potential Attendees – What message would you like to convey to startups and investors who are considering attending the Summit?

Malliga: My message is really simple. It is rare to find government agencies, investors, thought leaders, funders, entrepreneurs and successful business leaders in the same room. This is a unique opportunity for startups to tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise and to capitalise on the opportunity to present their businesses in this forum, taking the next steps in their respective journeys.
We are also providing a fantastic opportunity to 5 finalists in our pitching competition to pitch their businesses to the panel of local and international jurors. All of these finalists – not only the winner – stand the chance of obtaining funding or attracting partners for their businesses.

Besides the Summit's setup with panel discussions and speeches, we will be conducting a number of masterclasses running concurrently during the Summit. These classes will brief Malaysian startups on strategies and tactical approaches to enter the Indian market, and vice versa for Indian startups on how to capitalize on Malaysia’s strategic position as a business hub for the ASEAN region.

Edward: Vision for the Future – Finally, what is your vision for the future of the startup ecosystem in Malaysia and its role in the ASEAN region?

Malliga: 2023 marks the first time we are organizing this momentous Summit. We firmly believe that the 2024 event will be even larger and more impactful. In fact, we have received such an amazing response in both countries that we have decided to hold the event annually.

Our vision is to establish a growing startup ecosystem in India and Malaysia, positioning it as an ASEAN regional hub for startups. This ecosystem will create a platform for startups in both countries to thrive. Recognizing the intrinsic importance of entrepreneurs in the economic success of any country, we believe that by establishing collaboration frameworks, ecosystems, and networking opportunities, IASS will serve as a gateway to economic success for both countries. It is our intention to create opportunities for the next generation of businesses, securing sustainable growth for Malaysia and India in the ASEAN region.

Edward: Thank you, Datin Malliga, for your comprehensive insights. With this conclusion of our second segment, we've gained a deeper understanding of the synergies and future possibilities in the Malaysia-India startup collaboration, illuminated by the India ASEAN Startup Summit's pivotal role in shaping this dynamic landscape.

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