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Titans of Tomorrow
The common thread between all major corporations in the world is that they started small. These corporations, before they went on to conquer the world, were SMEs first. SME Day is envisioned to show that no matter how small or how large an SME is, they matter.
By Zul Izwan Hamzah

This year, on July 4th, Malaysia celebrates SME Day, a day to honor and celebrate that business makes the world go round. But instead of celebrating cold corporate gods, SME Day was envisioned to celebrate people. Bold people, brave and visionary people, who defied the odds and endured hardship in the spirit of entrepreneurship. 99.2% of all registered business establishments, amounting to about a million companies in Malaysia, are SMEs. The corner store, the mom-and-pop shop, the gerai tepi jalan, mamak shops, dim sum stalls. More than the big brands, these are the real shops that touch our lives. Individuals more than entities, that we as a society interact with every day. You buy a brand, but you live with these small and medium enterprises.

But even the largest of corporations began somewhere. In a garage [Microsoft Corporation], in a saddlery [Alfred Dunhill Ltd], in a bicycle repair shop [Daimler AG]. On the home front, we have Public Bank, which started with the bank manager who built his own bank, Habib Jewels, which began as a small shop on Pitt Street, Penang, and Jimmy Choo, a Penang boy turned world-renowned shoemaker.

The common thread between most (if not all) major corporations is that they started small. These corporations, before they went on to conquer the world, were SMEs first.

Every first Wednesday of July from now on will be a day to acknowledge and recognise all SMEs in Malaysia – the one million heroes who are the backbone of our economy.

SME Day will become a great platform to promote SMEs in Malaysia and around the world as well as create an awareness of their immense contributions to their local economies. Not only does this day act as a tremendous platform to promote SMEs around the world but more importantly, it creates a greater awareness of the immense contributions of SMEs no matter how small or large to their respective nations.

Historic occasion
Celebrating and dedicating one day to SMEs has been the vision of Wayne Lim, the Group Chief Executive Officer of MALAYSIA SME® – a day conceptualised and conceived in Malaysia but which goes beyond Malaysia, to be celebrated regionally and globally.

To bring this idea to life, Lim has received the endorsement of many successful SME entrepreneurs, SME-related Chambers of Commerce and Associations as well as chiefs of business-related government agencies.

Lim’s vision is destined to go beyond Malaysia, with SME Day becoming an iconic day of celebration on a global scale.  As Lim says: “Besides Malaysia where SMEs account for more than 99% of the total business establishments, they are also the driving force of the global economy.  Most of the world’s largest enterprises today were once SMEs.  Given the significant number of SMEs, SME Day will soon be observed and celebrated by the hundreds of millions SMEs worldwide, just like the Labour Day, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day,” he told reporters during an informal press conference.

He believes that all big things have small beginnings and SME Day began with the idea of paying tribute and commemorating all SMEs who truly deserve recognition, as they are the driving force behind our growing economy, as well in the economies of all countries.

“This idea [for an SME Day celebration] came about last year in February,” said Lim. He said that in February, people celebrate Valentine’s Day, Labour Day in May, and so on. “Why is there no SME Day? Why is there no one day in which people commemorate and recognise the achievements and contributions of all the SMEs?”
“Even the largest companies today, like Google or Facebook were once SMEs, so we feel that SMEs deserve a lot of recognition, so we mooted the idea,” said Lim. Why the first Wednesday of July? “There are no celebrations in July,” laughs Lim. “We felt that it was a perfect time of the year to dedicate to SMEs.”

He said that celebrating SME Day doesn’t have to be a formal affair. “How a family celebrates Father’s Day or Mother’s Day is up to them. Some stay at home with their parents, some take their parents out for dinner. What is important is the feeling behind the day; that you remember their contributions, and you feel grateful for their presence. And for fathers and mothers out there, whose children celebrate Father’s Day or Mother’s Day with them, feel great. They feel recognised and appreciated. They feel remembered.”

“Therefore, what we are doing is making people remember the contributions of SMEs to society,” explained Lim. “Most of our daily routines and transactions are with SMEs, from buying the newspaper to going to lunch. We see them so often that we take them for granted, or we as a society don’t pay them any attention, when in fact, they are very important to us.”

Lim said that before he reached out to the general public about the idea for SME Day, he reached out to SMEs first. “They are our word-of-mouth ambassadors to the public. As it is their day, they should be the ones to spread the word too.”

The launch of SME Day coincided with MALAYSIA SME®‘s SME Congress 2012, a one day conference bringing together entrepreneurs and role model speakers. One thousand SME entrepreneurs, VIPs from government ministries and agencies, presidents of various business chambers of commerce and associations as well as other stakeholders from the SME community were in attendance.

Ambassadors are role models
Four ambassadors were chosen from among Malaysia’s most well-known entrepreneurs to publicise SME Day as well as to serve as role models for SMEs to follow. The four are Nelson’s Franchise founder Datuk Nelson Kwok,  Erican Education Group founder Eric Chong, Noraini Cookies Worldwide founder Noraini Ahmad, and A Cut Above founder Winnie Loo.

The four ambassadors are well-known celebrities in the SME business landscape, and have a long list of accolades to their name.

Nelson’s Franchise Sdn Bhd, opened its doors in 1985, and now boasts over 800 outlets in 16 countries, with plans to add 500 more outlets to its existing 25 stores in China this year.

The Erican Education group is a comprehensive education conglomerate which Chong started in 1990. Two decades later, his presence is now keenly felt across the country, especially with the unveiling of his new Erican College. His famous mantra ‘If Eric can, so can you’ has been the touchstone of his business perspective.

Hajah Noraini Ahmad transformed her cookie-making pastime into into Noraini Cookies Worldwide, a company that produces and markets cookies to a worldwide market. From her kitchen, she has grown her company into a global player.

And last but not least, Winnie Loo, who owns and runs A Cut Above, her hair salon empire. She won the Ernst & Young Women Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, and employs more than 280 staff.
With the added push by these lauded entrepreneurs, the drive to publicly recognise SME Day gains even more traction.

SME Day is the culmination of the dreams of many; from a single man with vision to Malaysia, and then the world. Anna Jarvis, creator of Mother’s Day, saw it grow into a global phenomenon within her lifetime. Here is to hoping that the same will be true for SME Day.

Song lyrics
To better promote SME Day to the general public, MALAYSIA SME® CEO Wayne Lim commissioned singer – songwriter Douglas Lim to compose a theme song that encapsulates the trials and triumphs SMEs go through.  Titled Titans of Tomorrow, the song was unveiled at during the SME Day launch on July 4 in front of a live audience.

They…
Told me not to try
Not to aim too high
To surrender
Dreams…
Would surely fade away
A fairytale cliché
A pretender
But I kept my head above it all
They could not stop me
Back up on my feet after each fall
Now look at me
I’m here…
Staring at a brand new page
Standing on the promised stage
With the Titans of Tomorrow
No fear…
You can try and prove me wrong
But I know that I belong
With the Titans of Tomorrow
Yes I know that it’s a long road
But I am marching on in battle mode
To the beating of my heart
Every step is gonna get me there
Blood and sweat and tears
But I don’t care
I know I’ve got to play my part
‘Cause I will keep my head above it all
You will not stop me
Back up on my feet after each fall
It’s my destiny
I’m here…
Staring at a brand new page
Standing on the promised stage
With the Titans of Tomorrow
No fear…
You can try and prove me wrong
But I know that I belong
With the Titans of Tomorrow
I’m here…
Staring at a brand new page
Standing on the promised stage
With the Titans of Tomorrow
No fear…
You can try and prove me wrong
But I know that I belong
With the Titans of Tomorrow
With the Titans of Tomorrow
Yes, I know that I belong
With the Titans of Tomorrow

Singer, composer, lyricist: Douglas Lim
Arrangement: Greg Henderson