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Driven by copy cats

This is hard to say, but it is true: the majority of Malaysians tend to swing dreamily between two extremes -- either retarded optimism or plain myopia. Make no mistake--this is no disorder that can be corrected, even through genetic reengineering.

So, perhaps we need to take step and ask ourselves where this all begins.

My theory is: in the upbringing. Yes, our ibubapa (parents) are largely responsible for the way we have turned out. Our childhood was a marathon of moments as parents rushed to fulfill our every blessed need, just to stay ahead in the race with the Datuks and Datins. Not forgetting the diet we were subjected to for 11 years or more in school.

Nothing wrong with learning mathematics, science, geography or even history. We prided ourselves on knowing more about the prairies than the Americans care about. The only ingredient missing from the school diet was creative thought and imagination. It just got in the way of the spoon-feeding.

Fast forward to adulthood and the racy late 90s. Look at all of us now…don't we just make such fine individuals. Each with a purpose, though not necessarily with an idea of how to bring it across.

So, instead of making sure that we do our homework thoroughly before the mission gets underway, we allow our instincts to rule as we plunge headlong into the dot-com ocean. Obviously, we are not taking a good, hard look at the dot-com companies here: none listed, with the majority privately held or funded by venture capitalists, confided a skeptic.

According to Alyssa, a sharp, no-nonsense and practical business-oriented consultant, one look at their business models would make you wonder what would happen to them if the Internet ended tomorrow. Would their entire operation collapse like a house of cards?

What is worse, the dot-coms here do not even offer a unique selling proposition, tending instead to copy ideas. Originality is lacking. She is upset that consultants like herself end up shaping the vision of dot-com set ups here.

"How will they survive if they cannot learn to think for themselves, if they keep looking outside for ideas instead of inside to sharpen their service set? Repackaging the same old stuff simply won't cut it," she remarked.

The Internet promotes the delivery of services, but in Malaysia, the culture of service is still absent. Regular folk could hardly choose but deal with large monopolies like Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional, where service is not a priority. We have no history in mail order and catalog shopping. Even TV shopping is fairly recent phenomenon and has yet to truly catch on -- so how could e-commerce, with its logistical nightmares, possibly work?

If few would pay for service, fewer still would go online to look for service. Hence, even if service plan-based models have an infinitely better chance of success than those backed by advertising ringgit, many simply have to admit that users are a fickle lot. Loyalty is not a strong point among locals. And it will take more than a total overhaul of the education system to change that behavior.

Dispatch from Malaysia

Here's a nation that has built a first-world infrastructure. But can the country truly lead its people down the Yellow Brick Road to the smart city of tomorrow? Our Dispatch from Malaysia taps into the collective mindshare.

Check out previous dispatches from Malaysia:

Fear and greed on the Internet

PC revolution? Hmmm, says Anita D.

Bad PC vendors makes no cent$

Real world Net cynicism in a wired world

The art of resistance

Surfing on the Sulu


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