Market Update  

Malaysia Update

Malaysia ranks third largest exporter of furniture in Asia and top 10 globally. Leveraging on its reputation as a cost competitive and reliable supplier, the country’s export figures have been trending upwards. Good growth numbers were experienced during the last two years. In the last decade, the industry has been urged to move up the value chain by focusing on design. FFE catches up briefly with Ms Sarimah Hj Mohamad Sabudin, CEO, Malaysian Furniture Promotion Council (MFPC) on her views regarding design, Professional Designers Program and Malaysia Pride.

FFE: Design is a seemingly “expensive” but necessary investment for the furniture industry in the long term. However, few Malaysian manufacturers are keen to invest in this costly exercise. Most are contend to focus on production efficiency to remain competitive. For the longest time, the local industry has been educated on the importance to transform from OEM mode to ODM mode. However, to develop an industry’s design capabilities not only requires money but time, often decades. In an environment dominated by cost conscious manufacturers zoomed in on the short term, how is MFPC engaging the players and getting their participation and is there any success?

Sarimah: Design is something that people see and feel which makes people more willing to possess a product even if it is expensive. Creativity and uniqueness of the product is the most important factor that adds value to the product. Through this added value, MFPC is promoting awareness to the industry on the advantages of changing from OEM to ODM. MFPC is ensuring to change their perception on the benefit on having a designer working for their factory onto their business module. This can benefit their production line where it introduces new design furniture that possesses unique features that attract customer attention towards the product.

Currently, some of local manufacturers are slowly moving into ODM as they trying to balance between OEM and ODM within their production line. They have started to get the “big picture” on increasing their profit through value added to the product. It will take time for the manufacturer to completely change focus from OEM to ODM maybe in the next five to 10 years from now.

FFE: PDP is a program initiated by MFPC and MTIB with the support of MPIC to promote local furniture design capabilities. A team of four professional European designers was engaged to mentor 12 local designers resulting in 20 prototypes being produced at the end of the program. The first exercise has concluded. Please elaborate on its successes and its long term objectives, if any. What is next?

Sarimah: The Professional Designer Program Showcase (PDP Showcase 2016) is a huge success for MFPC as we receive many positive feedbacks not only from the industry but also from the public. Many of our Malaysia Pride companies develop an interest to participate in this program as they have been exposed to how a company can evolve from focusing on OEM to ODM and the positive impact. For our prototypes produced under the program, we managed to secure business deals where some of our visitors became interested in buying them. The long term objective for this program is to expose our Malaysia Pride members regarding the benefit of ODM.

Apart from that, this showcase aims to train local furniture manufacturers as well as local designers to work with international professional designer to enhance and expand their creativity and also improve in term of product manufacturing. We are planning for the continuation of PDP program for another five years to promote design value to our local furniture industries with the hope to revolutionize furniture design in Malaysia to be more competitive and attractive for the market.

FFE: In addition to design and manufacturing prowess, marketing and branding are also important aspects to the furniture business. It has been some years since the launch of the Malaysia Pride program. However, it doesn’t seem to be gaining much momentum. There is little publicity and the industry do not talk about it much. What do you think are the issues at hand? Are there any plans to “rejuvenate” the program?

Sarimah: MFPC plans to rejuvenate the Malaysia Pride program by using PDP as a platform for us to market and promote our Malaysia Pride program. Through PDP, companies that received the certificates of Malaysian Pride can participate in this program. The PDP program consists of three main elements which are professional designers, Malaysia Pride companies and local designers. Each year we plan to produce 20 to 30 prototypes to penetrate different markets. We hope that we can contribute more of our effort in promoting our Malaysian Pride through PDP as well as provide exposure on design base value for them to go further and reach their full potential in penetration of the furniture market.