Up to 42 percent of Malaysian SMEs have reduced their number of employees as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns it caused. At the same time, up to 47 percent of SMEs still expressed confidence about future prospects.

According to a collaborative report by Facebook, the World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development entitled the “State of Small Business”, SMEs have remain steadfast, resilient, and agile despite the onslaught of challenges that has been brought up as a result of COVID-19.

The report, which surveyed SMEs across 50 countries and regions, rounds up the economic impact and adjustments being implemented in response to the crisis, while the objective of the research is to amplify the voice of SMEs and assess how their situations are changing.

“We understand that SMEs are and will continue to remain the backbone of Malaysia’s economy. These businesses have always demonstrated resilience and agility, which is further amplified now during the current pandemic. Now, more than ever, the research shows that Malaysian businesses are finding new ways to thrive in the digital landscape amid these difficult times,” the report stated.

Some other key findings from Malaysia included in the report involves cashflow, which was identified as a primary concern, with 63 percent of Malaysian SMEs reporting lower sales compared to the same time in 2019, while 58 percent expect cashflow to be a challenge over the next few months.

The report also found that many SME have made a serious effort to adapt to the changing norm by moving operations online. About 44 percent of operational SMEs on Facebook reporting 25 percent or more of their sales were made digitally over the past month.

Of those operational SMEs on Facebook, 64 percent are female-led, while 80 percent are male-led in Malaysia.

Local tempeh business Tajuddin Tempelicious is one of the many examples of women-led enterprises that have accelerated its digital transformation to remain sustainable and competitive in a post-pandemic era.

As one of the participants of Ministry of Youth and Sports-Malaysia Digital Economy Corp’s eUsahawan Young Heroes Programme, founder Noorasliyati Sukiman shared that 80 percent of her orders come from advertising her products on Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Social media platforms like Facebook have created so many opportunities for many businesses to expand overseas. Since I started digitalising my business, I have managed to expand outside of Johor to other ASEAN countries, including Singapore and Brunei, as well as Europe and the Middle East,” she said.

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