At a recent event organised by this magazine, a speaker proclaimed that Malaysia has no international brand other than Royal Selangor. Of course, he is not entirely correct.
We have many companies, both in the consumer and business-to-business sphere, that are world renowned. One out of four medical gloves in the world are produced by Top Glove. One out of six condoms in the world is made by Karex. JobStreet, a Malaysian brand that has now been acquired by Australia’s Seek, has presence in some 10 countries. These may not be household names to the average consumer, but as companies, they are international brands on their own right.
The better question is why are there so few world-class companies and international brands originating from this country? This cannot be from the lack of ingenuity or courage, for Malaysians have plenty of both.
One of the reasons, if I may suggest, is the abysmal number of Malaysians who have tertiary education. Only 1 out of 3 Malaysians have gone to university or college. Contrast this to almost 1 out of 2 Singaporeans and Thais. Or 90 percent of Koreans. China, which has a three-decade handicap behind us, now sees 1 in 2 young people attaining a college degree. Among our entrepreneur cohort, this percentage could even be lower.
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