By Joy Lee The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Asia News Network
Entrepreneurs make up an important component of any economy.
They create jobs by starting businesses and they give the economy a boost through the new ideas and technologies that they introduce.
While entrepreneurs may not have the advantages enjoyed by bigger companies, such as economies of scale and deep pockets, they keep industries invigorated. And many small-medium enterprises (SMEs) have grown to become successful larger firms with strong exports and solid credentials.
Successful entrepreneurs have, no doubt, inspired many to follow in their footsteps by starting their own businesses. And with stories of small start-ups being acquired for large amounts of money, such as Instagram, hopeful entrepreneurs are always emerging.
Today, it is not as rare to hear someone introducing themselves as an entrepreneur.
Some say, there is no better time than now to venture out on your own, particularly when the Government is also encouraging the development of entrepreneurs in Malaysia. This was evident in the announcement of Budget 2014 earlier this year.
"We will train and nurture more young entrepreneurs so that they will become successful businessmen. Thus, the government is committed to ensuring that entrepreneur development remains a key element in generating economic growth," pledged the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
Earlier in October, at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2013, Najib had urged entrepreneurs to dream big.
He added that the government has continuously worked on providing a better environment for entrepreneurship here and has since announced several initiatives to provide a better support system for the entrepreneurial community.
One of the major initiatives proposed is the establishment of the National Entrepreneur Development Office under the National Strategy Unit of the Ministry of Finance.
This new entity will look into the formulation of an entrepreneur development plan to provide a conducive ecosystem that emphasises the generation of ideas that can be commercialised, infrastructure for training, entrepreneurship modules, financing facilities as well as marketing.
The prime minister had also announced the setting up of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) as a one-stop centre to empower entrepreneurs and assist them in obtaining funding, developing incubators, registering intellectual property and mentoring among other things.
The 1Malaysia Entrepreneurs (1MeT) programme was also launched to expose entrepreneurship to youth who are interested in venturing into business. The government has targeted 5,000 young entrepreneurs to be trained yearly under 1MeT.
Entrepreneurship has also been identified as a means of reducing graduate unemployment in the local market. The government is encouraging more graduates to venture into entrepreneurship with a RM50mil allocation under the Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund, which will provide soft loans of up to 500,000 ringgit at an interest rate of 4 per cent.
There are also various other schemes and measures in the pipeline to position Malaysia as an entrepreneurial nation. Even educational institutions are now providing entrepreneurship courses.
With all the attention given to grooming entrepreneurs, more opportunities will surely open up for them to grow and thrive. And with more entrepreneurs vying to be successful, stiffer competition may bring about the emergence of more quality start-ups.
And quality start-ups are bound to attract investors who are constantly on the lookout for the next innovative idea to invest in. If well implemented, Malaysia's ambition to be an entrepreneurial nation will create more investment opportunities here.
Note that Singapore's move to be an entrepreneurial nation some 10 years back has seen the country move up the ranks to the top of the World Banks's Ease of Doing Business Index. Malaysia ranked an admirable sixth in 2013.
Small enterprises will continue to play an important role on both the economic and social level in our country. With small and medium sized enterprises heralded time and again as the core of the private sector, and the economy at large, it is good to see facilities and support systems put in place to help these entrepreneurial organisations realise their potential.
Success stories have more often than not come from other parts of the world, but having the right policies, infrastructure and attitude here could see more success stories coming out of our own backyard. And having success stories from this region to emulate would certainly boost not just local entrepreneurs but also those from the region.