Axiata starts initiative to help COVID-19 affected SMEs
As part of the company’s enduring CSR pledge, telecoms leader Axiata has committed to launch a RM150mn fund to help SMEs struggling from coronavirus disruption.
Intended as an immediately accessible source of cash to urgently assist companies experiencing severe financial pressure, Axiata’s press release notes that the fund has also received an initial contribution of RM20mn from the Malaysian Ministry of Finance.
The threat to micro-SMEs in particular has been made clear by the company: these small enterprises represent 50% of the total number of SMEs in Malaysia, yet, despite their economic importance, often have poor cash flow or minimal savings to fall back on.
Living in unprecedented times
"We are living in an unprecedented time where many of us are grappling with the rapidly evolving global crisis,” emphasised Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, President and CEO of Axiata.
“As our government and institutions battle on the hour to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus within our communities, corporate Malaysia is also rising to the fore to leverage on our resources and capabilities to alleviate the impact on businesses and communities.”
Believing that the window of opportunity to provide aid was brief, Ibrahim stated that all Malaysians should feel a national duty to do what they could to help each other through the worst aspects of the pandemic.
These were sentiments echoed by Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO of Axiata Digital. "We are fortunate that our fully digital and shariah-compliant micro-financing Aspirasi platform can be quickly redeployed to help micro-SMEs in this current extremely challenging environment."
With the most fragile businesses now provided with a parachute to ease the stress of the current climate, Ibrahim was grateful to the government for its initial investment in the fund and hoped that business and local authorities could continue their partnership.
"I also welcome corporations to join us and be part of this program to make a meaningful difference in the livelihood of small businesses,” he concluded.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.