Before I started my travels the past few years, I've always thought that Malaysia is huge. Afterall, we always compare our country with Singapore... 26-28 million vs 4-5 milion. Of course, that makes us rather big lah.
But then I started to travel to our other neighbours - to the likes of Thailand, Indonesia & the Philippines. And what I realise is that we are not so big afterall... Even the smallest of them all, Thailand, has a population of double of ours (at about 60million Thais).
Now, though size matters, but that's not all. In our already not so huge population, we then get a very segmented country. We have our 5 major races (Ibans are no 1 in Sarawak while Kadazans are no 1 in Sabah).
While this is all nice for our tourism campaign where diversity is cool (truly Asia), but then some parties would say that this is actually an disadvantage as well. For when we want to sell something, we always have got to ask - who are we selling it to (more specifically, which race?).
Go even further, divide us by language... and then we have the urban-ites, some of who like you and me, speak English. Taking the Chinese as an example, we now have the English educated Chinese, the Mandarin speaking Chinese, etc.
So, our already not so big country now becomes even smaller when one is in the media business. Now, let's take the media industry for example. How many (race A) watch (race B) movies or listen to (race B) music? Or for that matter, are there any successful 1Malaysia movies, ever? (pls see the word successful).
This makes me envy our neighbours. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but in overseas, it's just the Thais (speaking Thais), the Indonesians (who all speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently), the Pinoys (Tagalog), etc. When you come out with a movie - it's for the nation. So is the music.
I've always believed in this as a disadvantage. And apparently, I'm not alone. I've heard others complaining the same. And so did one CEO from one of the most popular internet news portal in the country, who voiced his views in a forum forum I attended recently.
But then, like they say, the grass is greener on the other side. The chairperson from USA mentioned that despite all these (which he says actually is just swirling in our heads), he points out that benefits of working in a smaller country is huge.
One, we get to work with the big players/ brands much easier. Plus, the fact that we are so multi lingual, we can reach global with more ease (language wise). So he asks us to use this 'disadvantage' and turn it around to a good one.
While I agree with him on these points, but the one question remains... can any of our things (think movie, music, website, other media) ever reach to a wide audience in Malaysia - a true blue 1Malaysia thing?... Is there, or should we resign our fate to keeping things targeted just for 1 race each time?
*I have 3 different language stations preset in my car. Some people wonder why... I wonder why not? (Wei shen me bu ke yi ah? Tak salah kan? Can one mah) :)