Unlocking New Horizons: Our journey in expanding a tech hub in Malaysia

In 2022, we started with a positive outlook, expecting a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and anticipating better times. As a company, we were well prepared for COVID-19 and resulting lockdowns. All our customer commitments were met despite everyone operating from home full-time during 2020 and 2021. However, the political and economic turmoil that unfolded in 2022 created significant concerns for our customers. Since their entire development teams were based in Sri Lanka, We became increasingly worried about the escalating country risk as our teams are part of our customers’ core value-chain and business strategy.

Jan to June 2022: Research on potential offshoring countries

We understood this concern and one of the areas we identified to be immediately addressed as part of our solution was to provide alternate options for customers to grow and scale teams on demand.

Considering our options for offshore expansion, we carefully evaluated two approaches: working with a partner or establishing our own presence. We did a systematic study to select the optimal geographical locations, factoring in both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Countries including the Maldives, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines were all considered. Factors such as company incorporation, ease of doing business, cost structure, availability of skilled tech talent and relocating employees, and cultural fit were considered during the selection process.

June 2022: Fact finding mission to Malaysia

With the findings from our research, we selected Malaysia as our option for expansion but to validate our findings from the theoretical research, Prasath Mahalingam, Chief Business Development Officer and Hasith Yaggahavita, Chief Engineering and Innovation Officer, embarked on a fact-finding mission to Malaysia. The primary objectives of this trip were to gather firsthand information about ease of doing business, tech talent, university reach, culture and to visit a few ICT companies. We also interviewed few people to touch and feel the quality of the talents.

During the visit, we had the opportunity to engage with universities, Malaysian ICT companies, visit a few co-working spaces, recruitment agencies, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), MIDA and other organizations that provides services required for setting up the organization to gain deeper insights into the country's cultural dynamics as we wanted to come up with a framework and resonated how we can move forward. Malaysia showcased a remarkable level of diversity and a forward-thinking mindset, which resonated with our objectives and target market.

Reflecting on Malaysian culture, Prasath commented, “We found a great culture fit and didn’t feel like we were in a different country.” The shared values, working styles, food, travelling around fostered a cultural fit for us and a sense of confidence in establishing our direct presence in Malaysia. This realization instilled us with confidence and led us to draw parallels between Malaysia's cultural alignment with Sri Lanka and its potential fit for our organization, and we assumed it would also fit Norway as it fits Sri Lanka. We recognized that this choice would not only enable us to tap into the country's diverse talent pool but also facilitate a seamless integration of our operations.

Chee Chong, Anne Gomez and Standley Gury

Further, we proceeded with hiring efforts in Thailand and Malaysia. In Thailand, we chose to leverage a partner to facilitate the recruitment process, successfully onboarding one individual. Similarly, in Malaysia, we decided to have our direct presence instead of relying on a partner and independently recruited individuals and chose to mainly focus on Malaysia as a global tech hub.

Another compelling reason behind our choice of Malaysia as tech hub stems from the abundance of state and private universities in the country. This factor significantly eased our concerns about hiring talented professionals. With a wealth of educational institutions, Malaysia presented us with a vast talent pool to tap into, ensuring a smooth and efficient recruitment process.

Furthermore, Malaysia's stability and strong economic standing provided us with a strategic advantage in positioning ourselves within the Southeast Asia region. These factors collectively led us to make the decision to establish our own direct presence in Malaysia.

April 2023: Employee engagement event with Malaysian employees

Prasath Mahalingam and Anura Adhikari, Senior Manager - Employee Success visited Kuala Lumpur to conduct an employee engagement event with the employees of 99x Malaysia to foster a deeper connection among employees, provide a platform for them to meet and greet each other, strengthen the bonds within the team and to experience the 99x’s culture.

99x Malaysian staff bowling

The employees praised the opportunity given to have dinner at Atmosphere 360 in KL tower, indoor skydiving, and some fun filled activities which created a unique experience that was entirely new for our Malaysian team members, as they rarely had the chance to interact directly with C-level employees in this manner.

Commenting on the working experience at 99x, Laurrence Clemen, a recent addition to the 99x Malaysian team as a Senior Software Engineer stated “I am happy to be a part of a collaborative and supportive team who always offer guidance and share knowledge, making it easier to catch up with the technologies and processes used here. Overall, it’s a fantastic experience working with 99x where I work on exciting and challenging tasks”.

Laurrence clemen

June 2023: Partnering with MDEC

Our efforts and commitment to the Malaysian digital ecosystem have been duly recognized, and we are proud to announce that we have received the prestigious Malaysia Digital status from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). Throughout the entire journey, MDEC worked closely with us, providing invaluable support from the inception of the Malaysia Digital (MD) application process.

Mahadhir Aziz, Chief Executive Officer of MDEC commented, "We are thrilled to recognize 99x as a MD certified company, propelling the Malaysian digital ecosystem to new heights. Their collaboration and strategic expansion plan not only showcase their dedication but also underscores their resolute decision to choose Malaysia as their regional hub, bringing us one step closer towards our goal of firmly establishing Malaysia as the digital hub of ASEAN.

99x kl 1

What’s Next in Malaysia?

Looking ahead, we have exciting plans in store for our expansion in Malaysia. One of our key strategies involves actively recruiting fresh graduates from Malaysian universities, tapping into the vibrant pool of young talent. To further strengthen our connection with universities, we are planning to organize Hacktitude in Malaysia, an inter - university hackathon to create valuable opportunities for undergraduates.

Our journey in Malaysia is just beginning, and we are filled with enthusiasm and optimism for the future. By leveraging the country's rich talent pool, establishing partnerships with educational institutions, and fostering a culture of excellence and growth, we are confident that 99x will continue to thrive in Malaysia's dynamic digital landscape. We look forward to making a meaningful impact, pushing boundaries, and delivering exceptional results as we build an impactful future together.