Former Second Minister Of Finance Datuk Seri Johari Talks Current M'sian Society & Economy

"I believe that investing in automation and digitalisation is an investment into the future."

Cover image via The Malaysian Reserve

Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani is a Malaysian politician, and leading figure in our financial industry

Born and raised in Kampung Pandan in Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Johari went on to receive his Diploma Perakaunan from Intitut Teknologi Mara, as well as obtaining his qualification as a Chartered Accountant from the UK (ACCA), and started his career as an accountant.

He then went on to hold several senior positions in, and even helmed, renowned Malaysian corporations.

Having formerly served as our Second Minster of Finance from 2016 to 2018, he is currently Chairman of KUB Malaysia Berhad and C.I. Holdings Berhad, as well as the largest shareholder of both companies.

In a recent interview with Malaysia Retailer, Datuk Seri Johari shared his thoughts on current matters in Malaysia's society and economy.

Here are some highlights:

1. E-commerce and its growing influence in today's society

“It has the ability to disrupt the normal retail ecosystem, however, for good e-commerce, you need a strong and efficient ecosystem which includes logistics partners, infrastructure, and warehousing, among others. This calls for digital technology advancement,” said Datuk Seri Johari.

At the same time, he emphasises that physical retail stores will always remain present, co-existing with online stores that are now also available as an additional option.

Here is some of his advice to retailers trying to tackle the issues of poor footfall and sales performance:

- To strategically plan their presence in their respective target markets and locations in order to capitalise on the right target market and consumer groups

- For malls to have their own specific identity, effective mall management strategy, and a strategic combination of tenants that can cater to the needs of the predominant consumer groups in a particular area or locality

- To capitalise on e-commerce and bridge the gap between purchasing online and in retail outlets

2. Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in Malaysia

When it comes to digitalisation, Datuk Seri Johari believes that Malaysia is on track, but not fast enough. According to him, the government has to actively drive digitalisation and IR4.0 in order for Malaysia to successfully embark on this.

It requires good and efficient infrastructure, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, spanning artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, and augmented reality.

“All this can only work with well-distributed infrastructure both in the urban, suburban and rural areas,” he said.

He also added that despite SMEs driving the Malaysian economy, these industries are still labour-intensive, with many SMEs relying heavily on foreign workers.

Using C.I. Holdings as an example, he said, "At C.I. Holdings, we have invested in automation and robotics in many areas of our business. We use sensors and artificial intelligence in our manufacturing processes.

"With automation in place, production volume can be doubled and tripled without having to increase manpower. I believe that investing in automation and digitalisation is an investment into the future."

3. Gaining a different perspective on business and administration of the country through his time in the government

“In business, people are not concerned about the rich or poor, but in running the government where growing the economy is a priority, there is a need to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, where it’s important to create more high income earners to achieve a healthy socioeconomic condition,” shared Datuk Seri Johari.

He further elaborated that the government has limitations, and talked about how it is difficult to strike a balance between the needs of the rich and the poor. He also emphasised the importance of having checks and balances, especially when the government is focused on quickly growing the economy.

“Temptations to bulldoze initiatives to achieve this, regardless of the cost, may well destroy the business ecosystem that we have painstakingly built. Absolute power without the necessary checks and balances can destroy everything," he stated.

Having had both perspectives, Datuk Seri Johari is determined to continue working on initiatives for the betterment of the country and people, with a particular focus on creating more employment opportunities.

On 2 October 2020, Datuk Seri Johari accepted two awards, on behalf of KUB Malaysia Berhad and C.I. Holdings respectively

First, the Excellence Award for Corporate Governance (CG) Disclosure, which was awarded to KUB Malaysia. And secondly, the award for Long-term Value Creation for C.I. Holdings.

Both awards were from the Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group (MSWG), under the MSWGASEAN Corporate Governance Awards 2019.

From a total of 866 public-listed companies assessed through the ASEAN CG Scorecard methodology, KUB Malaysia and CI Holdings were in the top 4% of the Corporate Governance Awards 2019.

These awards are a testament to Datuk Seri Johari’s effective leadership in the businesses he helms.

You can read Datuk Seri Johari's full interview with Malaysia Retailer here

For more insight into the awards Datuk Seri Johari accepted:

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