Making a M'sian out of Microsoft

Female head honcho of software giant's Malaysia office aims to fulfill its role as an accountable and responsible corporate citizen.

MALAYSIA--In what is essentially a male-dominated playing field, Yasmin Mahmood has been blazing a trail in the country's IT sector over the past 16 years.

Yasmin Mahmood
Microsoft Malaysia

In a recent interview with ZDNet Asia, Yasmin says her biggest mission is to "Malaysianize" Microsoft and make the software giant more relevant to the country. As managing director of Microsoft's local office, she is responsible for championing the company's role in developing more world-class Malaysian software companies and bridging the digital divide in the country.

Having moved up the ranks at Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer, Yasmin caused a stir late last year when she became the first female to lead Microsoft's fast-growing operations in Malaysia. Her appointment makes her one of only three current female Microsoft country heads in the Asia-Pacific region--based in India and New Zealand.

Q: What did you mean when you said recently that you planned to make Microsoft "more Malaysian"?
Yasmin: I take great pride in being a Malaysian and my biggest mission is to "Malaysianize" Microsoft, and by that I mean to fulfill the company's role as an accountable and responsible Malaysian corporate citizen, and to make it more relevant to the country.

What are Microsoft's key plans this year to grow its business in Malaysia? Where are your growth areas?
Microsoft Malaysia will continue to reinforce our alliance with key industry partners in 2007, in our shared quest to improve and increase the knowledge worker resource bank in Malaysia.

We will continue to push forward several shared initiatives with bodies like Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), the Ministries of Science, Technology and Innovation; Education, and Higher Education, and other key government agencies.

How does Microsoft plan to build up its network of solution partners and ISVs (independent software vendors) in Malaysia?
Microsoft's charter is to grow the software economy of Malaysia through training, conferences, programs, support, certification, professional associations, early adoption programs, user communities and partners.

We align ourselves with national priorities, such as driving the adoption of ICT (info-communications and technology), driving innovation and creation of intellectual property. We strongly believe that software development will continue to be one of the key engines of growth for the Malaysian economy.

The Microsoft mandate is to make our partners great: We're possibly one of the largest multinational investors in Malaysia where building the local software ecosystem is concerned. We will continue to work toward growing our local partner ecosystem, which currently comprises more than 5,000 partners in Malaysia. This includes 800 ISVs that develop, own the intellectual property and license the software that helps drive the business of thousands of customers.

Last year, Microsoft invested close to 26 million ringgit (US$7.4 million) toward this cause, which included tools, training and technology assistance to help our partners take their business to the global market. Microsoft estimates that close to 50,000 employment opportunities have been created in the software and services industry as a result of this initiative.

Research from the MDeC also indicates that 322 of the 719 active Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysian software companies are on Microsoft platform, churning a collective revenue of 1.57 billion ringgit (US$449.8 million) and exports worth 314 million ringgit (US$89.9 million) in 2005.

I would like to see Malaysia develop more world-class software companies, create fantastic applications and games and export them around the world. I would also like to see more local companies innovating on technology, such as how AirAsia's Vista Gadget was developed to allow its customers to access live travel information whilst keeping abreast of the latest news and travel promotions.

What are Microsoft's key initiatives to help bridge the digital divide in Malaysia?
One of our key initiatives for digital inclusion was the introduction of Windows XP Starter Edition Multilingual, which was created for PC beginners to address issues such as affordability, accessibility and simplicity.

Launched last year, this version is localized and has instructional videos in Bahasa Malaysia, Simplified Chinese, English and Tamil, and other pre-configured settings which make it easy for a first-time user to become familiar with the PC.

Programs to introduce local language support are but just one of Microsoft Malaysia's several citizenship efforts. We are also committed to building classrooms of the future, inculcating and enhancing the power of intellectual property and working with technopreneurs and developers to help bring their ideas to the larger stage.

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.


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