WIEF Foundation Hosts First Live Webinar Series Moving To Digital Platform In This Times Of Uncertainty


Jun  23rd


KUALA LUMPUR, 23 JUNE 2020 – The World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation, via its WIEF Young Leaders Network (WYN),  launched its first online event for the year 2020 with the organising of the WIEF Idealab 2020 Series. This first of three edition series, entitled ‘Supporting Startups in the COVID-19 Era’, was held today, virtually via Zoom platform at 3pm, Malaysian time. Close to 200 participants, ranging from entrepreneurs to industry experts, from over 30 countries, participated the event.

The topic of this pioneering event was crafted to reinforce the endurance of the heavily affected entrepreneurs and startups, amidst the global crisis, as well as to address the changing landscape, during and post COVID-19 pandemic.

The session was moderated by Singapore-based award-winning entrepreneur in the matchmaking and mobile app business, Anisa Hassan. Two other panellists were Gopi Ganesalingam, Vice President – Global Growth Acceleration, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Ebrahim Patel, Managing Director SiyaXoxa Technologies, South Africa and Chairman of WIEF Young Leaders Network.

The one hour discussion session approached four major areas;

  1. Opportunities for startups and young entrepreneurs during the Covid-19 era
  2. How a startup can re-engineer itself and move on in a post-COVID world
  3. New ways of doing business without reinventing the wheel
  4. The required support for startups and small businesses, worldwide.

“For me Covid-19 is all about a pause in the way the world has been running, the way businesses have been conducted and what we deem as important and as entrepreneurs we should always see adversity and trying times as opportunities.” said Ebrahim Patel starting the session.

He continued to emphasise that because of Covid-19 and the global lockdown, the economy has worsen in the last three months versus the three years that it took in 2008. This has resulted in a projection of USD30 trillion deficit by 2023. It has forced governments to bring in monetary intervention to save and kickstart the economy with a USD13 trillion stimulus package across the globe.

The speakers also shared their view on how entrepreneurs should review their business plans, how to move forward and be flexible about changing the purpose of the business and organisation.

One of the examples shared was on how global fashion houses have started manufacturing facemasks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and Formula One racing teams contributed in re-engineering the processes to start making ventilators. These were done to ensure that their businesses remain relevant and sustainable.

“In Malaysia, when the lockdown was announced, a lot of SMEs were caught off-guard, I’m sure the situation was the same, globally. They had no choice but to stop operation. But on the flip side, in a matter of days, they have seen opportunities.” said Gopi Ganesalingam. “During the lockdown, we saw innovative such as solutions for contact tracing, logistics, e-wallets, artificial facial recognition for Covid-19 patients and we even saw solutions for farmers to sell their vegetation virtually. This is how the world has changed. Precisely as the Harvard Business Review has put it, the change that was predicted to happen in 2025 has now happen in 2020, in a span of only two weeks.”

“We always emphasize that SMEs need to go digital. When you are digital, you are international and you will be conducting borderless business. The SMEs have to wake up and adapt to the new normal, fast and realize that the world has change.” Gopi added.

According to Ebrahim, in Africa, the globalisation in business has also created weaknesses within local economy as manufacturing is now dependent on importation, and not local manufacturing. This has resulted in manufacturing halt during the global lockdown as raw goods were not able to reach the manufacturers, due to restrictions in ports. “At this present moment, 60,000 ships, laden with goods are stuck on the high seas, because they can’t enter ports.” Explained Ebrahim. “For me the opportunity would lie in local demand and local manufacturing at this moment in time, rather than considering the global given the circumstances that we face currently.”

MDeC has been working with the government in providing stimulus packages for the people, one of which is PENJANA. They have activated their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in February, when news of Covid-19 was trickling down from China,  they immediately rolled out 44 initiatives, among which is encouraging SMEs to venture into e-commerce. They are also actively providing online webinars with industry partners and subject matter experts, to guide the SMEs during this trying time.

“The (Malaysian) government view this crisis in three parts. The first few weeks were the first part, all about ‘resolving’ the issue at hand, which was the spread of Covid-19. The second few weeks were about being ‘resilient’. It is during this time the government launched a number of stimulus packages to encourage us all to be resilient. And finally the third part is ‘restart’.” Gopi explained. “We have 16 different stimulus packages, ranging from training to tax relief and e-commerce. All of these packages will start to roll out starting 1 July 2020.”

When asked about ways for startups and SMEs to manoeuvre the post pandemic economic slump, both Ebrahim and Gopi concluded, “The most important thing is to remain relevant; is to pivot and the trick is to be done quickly too. If you fail, quickly get back up and come back in. In short, businesses need to do the three R to stay alive; Review, Refocus and Rethink and lastly the government and the private sectors should aggressively work together to curb this crisis together.”

The First Edition of WIEF Idealab 2020 Series was launched with a twist of pop up solo performance by Kilema Clement, an international musician, a vocalist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist from Madagascar.

“People say we do not grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges” said Anisa ending the one hour session. This session was supported by MDEC.

WIEF Young Leaders Network (WYN) is planning up to 3 Idealab 2020 Series in year 2020. The next session will be held on 15 July 2020, entitled Taking Your Business Online: Starting Strong, Growing Fast. The session will feature Mohammed Yaacob, Director of Client Services and Country Manager Malaysia, Virtusa Inc. It will also feature Zohab Zee Khan, Educator, Spoken Word Poet, Motivational Speaker and hip hop artist. Seats are complementary but limited.

To know more, please follow WIEF Foundation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter. Visit us at www.wief.org or contact Faizah Jaafar at +6019 399 7746 faizah@wief.org or Shabana at +6012 375 4957 shabana@wief.org.




About WIEF Idealab
IdeaLab, an initiative of WIEF Foundation’s Young Leaders Network (WYN), is an established startup conference that cultivates entrepreneurs and assists in the development of startup ecosystems. IdeaLab’s relevance stems from its assorted features, developed and refined through five years, that spur key players in the global startup ecosystem to share experiences and find ways to sustainably scale up.

At this crucial time when startup ecosystems are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual arm of WYN called WIEF Idealab 2020 Series, serves as survival guide for startups during the pandemic and beyond through online discussions and workshops by industry experts. The first WIEF Idealab 2020 Series will explore durable, sustainable, and applicable strategies for longevity of the global startup ecosystem.

About WIEF Foundation’s Young Leaders Network (WYN)
Aimed at promoting cross-border business opportunities and social projects for the common good, the WYN is a global youth network for young pioneers and changemakers to connect and collaborate. WYN’s flagship leadership programme, Young Fellows, focuses on creating a top-class leadership mentality in the next generation, coupled with a strong moral compass embodied in its philosophy of altruistic leadership under the tagline ‘Learn. Empower. Earn. Return’. Other initiatives include IdeaLab, a boutique startup conference that connects global investors to the most promising startups around ASEAN, and MOCAfest, which aims to bridge the gap between the creative industries and the business world.

WYN organises flagship programmes such as the WIEF IdeaLab (a boutique startup networking conference), the annual WIEF Young Fellows programme (a leadership programme nurturing top class leaders with a strong moral compass), the MOCAfest (WIEF’s creative arts initiative to help empower creative talents across the globe), the MOCAfellows (a creative arts residency for emerging artists), the Internship Programme (a cross-border internship placement programme), thinkTalk (a community dialogue session) and the WYN Networking Evening (a speed networking event bringing together young professionals from different industries).

About MDEC
Established in 1996, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn. Bhd. was the Government’s response to the then new concept of “Digital Economy”. Today, the global Digital Economy is estimated to be worth USD3 trillion, and MDEC continues its role to organise and lead Malaysia’s Digital Economy forward.

MDEC has driven significant digital transformation and adoption across the public and private sectors in Malaysia since our establishment in 1996. As the world moves rapidly into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), MDEC is ready and fully focused on leading Malaysia’s Digital Economy forward by accelerating:

  • Formulation of policies and coordination of agencies to enable success
  • Development of futureproof workforce to grow the Digital Economy ecosystem
  • Creation of global champions to increase contribution from the Digital Economy to GDP

MDEC will leverage our proven track record, industry credibility and experienced leadership to connect, catalyse and commercialise digital initiatives to advance a thriving and sustainable Digital Economy for the country, with diversity and inclusivity at its core.


Speakers Profile:

Anisa Hassan
Chief Executive Officer
Joompa, Singapore

Anisa Hassan is the Founder of Joompa, a mobile dating and matchmaking app for Muslim singles in Southeast Asia. She is also the Founder of Date High Flyers and is an award-winning entrepreneur better known as Asia’s ultimate matchmaker to millionaires and high net worth individuals. For the last 15 years, she has paired more than 1,000 couples through her international luxury matchmaking service Date High Flyers.

Anisa is a regular columnist on regional publications, from Singapore to Jakarta and Bangkok, and is also the author of two guide books on dating and relationships. She was a former news anchor with Channel NewsAsia based in Singapore and is active in the startup space as she has taken her business from idea to implementation.

Anisa holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Relations from the National University of Singapore.


Ebrahim Patel
Chairman, WIEF Young Leaders Network
Managing Director, SiyaXoxa Technologies, South Africa

Ebrahim Patel is the Managing Director of SiyaXoxa Technologies. He is also the Chairman of the WIEF Young Leaders Network and member of the WIEF International Advisory Panel.  He was the Founder and Past President of the Minara Chamber of Commerce and is an Advisory Board Member of the University of KwaZulu Natal ELC. Ebrahim was recently appointed as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Indonesia and serves on the KwaZulu Natal Economic Council which advises the provincial government on economic strategy. He is passionate about youth and entrepreneurship.


Gopi Ganesalingam
Vice President of Global Growth Acceleration
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Berhad (MDEC).

At MDEC, the government agency tasked with developing Malaysia’s Digital Economy, he is at the forefront of championing talented entrepreneurs, by empowering them to actualise their business vision.

Gopi is a finance professional and an entrepreneur who served in executive and board positions in the Asia Pacific region for the last 30 years. Gopi has worked in organisations such as Matsushita, American Express International, Lucent Technologies, Telstra Australia, Salesforce.com and Google. He is passionate about developing Malaysia’s nascent digital economy towards achieving sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development. His end goal is to connect and propel the global digital economy via government intervention as well as business chambers, aligning investors, government and business chambers, all of which will link global tech entrepreneurs.