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COMMENT | Go big: Unicorn companies must set regional trends

COMMENT | Thinking big in business appears to be the trend for South-East Asian nations during the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, and see the futuristic possibilities of unicorn companies.

The inspiring news about South-East Asia’s first decacorn, Grab Holdings Inc, to be listed in the United States in a massive near-US$40 billion (RM165.16 billion) deal may well be a big loss for Malaysia. 

”Super-app” Grab, known for its diversified services from ride-hailing and food delivery to online banking, is an ultra-smart case of how a startup incubated in Malaysia was eventually lost to a neighbouring country.

For the record, its valuation is more than double the market capitalisation of Malayan Banking Berhad, which is the country’s largest listed company. The exit of companies with high potential such as Grab is indirectly a sign of lack of confidence in the domestic market and there is a pressing need to seriously address the issue.

Above all else, let the financial warnings be clear: Malaysia stands to lose huge economic opportunities and the chance to strengthen the domestic talent pool, if more homegrown companies seek to leave the shores if there is a lack of willingness to fund such ventures.

Change in headquarters

Previously known as MyTeksi, Grab was launched in 2012 and one of its earliest funding came from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, an agency under the Finance Ministry. But as the company grew into a regional player, it shifted its headquarters to Singapore, although Malaysia remained an important market for Grab.

The truth be told: One of the key reasons for Grab to change its headquarters to Singapore was the lack of funding from Malaysian sources to upscale its business further.

Mind you, Grab is not the only ”gem” that Malaysia has lost in the past. Many other homegrown companies have preferred listings in other stock exchanges, including Hong Kong and Australia, compared to...

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