Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh or Wow... Malaysia (Some Serious Thoughts)

I've been having this thought about beloved Malaysia for a while now, and thought I'll just share this...

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) :)


  1. Malaysians watch Hollywood movies, regardless of races... it's about finding the right ideas to break the boundaries.

    I can understand your point though; most of our pop culture products are targeting particular community instead of Malaysia as a whole, and that Malaysians are generally not interested in cross-cultural stuff.

    It's going to take a huge effort to change the scenario.

  2. So I guess everything has both sides of it right? It is how we minimize the disadvantage and optimize (exploit) the advantages that counts. :D

  3. ke yi ke yi =p i have many malay songs (but mainly from indonesia)

    but erm we still need another 50 yrs or more... or give me your vote :) trust me i will rule the country well

  4. i think u made a very good observation about malaysia. the diverse races makes it v difficult to have a common heritage. i cannot understand chinese dialect or mandarin, and my malay is poor, so i watch english films, and read english books. A lot of advertising in other languages pass me by. It is good for me, because i dont have to bother with a lot of advertising in the other languages, but it is not a good thing for people who have products to sell.
    it is a difficult obstacle for the advertiser to overcome. They have to translate their advert into malay, english, mandarin(and even then they will miss those who can only speak dialect) and tamil,(and miss out on all the other indian dialects).
    I think they finally just target the largest section of the population and just concentrate on the english and malay speaking public in malaysia. Whilst in singapore it is the english and mandarin speaking public.
    I dont envy the task of the advertisers to reach the largest number with the minimum effort or cost.
    In countries like the uk, where people speak english, it is easier to reach everyone.
    I am sure in other countries with multilanguages, they have the same problem as malaysia, singapore.
    btw, there are translation software, and i just wondered seeing u r in the communication field why ur weblog has no translation pages embedded.

  5. This is a really tough issue. I also have 3 different language stations preset in my car! Gimme 5! : )


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