Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Nik, CEO of the Malaysian Timber Council, rolls out the Council’s activities for 2017 and speaks about his aspirations as the Council turns 25 this year.
2017 marks an important milestone for the Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) as it turns 25 this year. Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim, who took office as MTC’s seventh CEO in November 2015, is confident that the Council will grow from strength to strength with good business policies in place.
In retrospect, he said, “We are very proud of our accomplishments, having overcome steep hurdles whilst battling the anti tropical timber campaigns particularly in Europe in the early 1990s to where we are today.
“I’m happy to state that for 2016 alone, MTC has done very well in meeting its set goals, and even well exceeding some. In the area of market promotion, for example, potential sales from business matching missions hit RM16.27 million, compared to an earlier estimated RM13 million. Also, potential sales achieved by our industry participants under the MTC Malaysian Pavilion banner at international fairs hit RM91.3 million, exceeding our target of RM90 million.”
Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim also acknowledged the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC), industry partners and employees for their support and commitment.
The Council’s anniversary tagline, “Engage, Connect, Grow” reflects this 25 years of growth and collaboration with the timber industry. Many programmes have been lined up to mark this Silver Jubilee, such as a Marketing Seminar, the Malaysian Wood Awards and am International Conference on Wood Architecture.
The Council will continue to centre its focus on more market-driven projects this year.
A new regional office in Bangalore, India, is expected to open in the first quarter of 2017—the fourth after London, Dubai and Guangzhou. To seek out business opportunities, market research groups under MTC’s Market Advisory Committee (MAC) have been formed to focus on the Indian market and meranti timber products.
These initiatives will help Malaysian companies expand their reach in India. Known initially as a tough market to penetrate because of its high import duties, the Free Trade Agreement has made it more competitive for Malaysian products to enter the Indian market. The expanding Indian middle class also presents new opportunities for Malaysian manufacturers and exporters.
“As the nation’s marketing arm for Malaysian timber products, we are constantly looking for new markets, and India’s purchasing power is on the rise. Ranked as one of the top three most attractive investment destinations in the world, we want to leverage on the vast untapped opportunities in this market. India is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” said Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim.
India is Malaysia’s third largest trading partner after Japan and the USA. In 2015, the export value of major timber and timber products reached RM1.41 billion.
Establishing presence abroad and at home
The Council, which maintains a steady presence at trade fairs, is expected to take part in more exhibitions.
Malaysian Pavilion organised by MTC
Malaysian Timber Pavilions will be at DelhiWood (India), AIA Expo (USA), TurkeyBuild (Turkey), Sylvawood (China) and PHILCONSTRUCT (The Phillippines); while Malaysian Furniture Pavilions will be at the Malaysian International Furniture Fair and Export Furniture Exhibition (Malaysia) as well as Furniture China (China).
Promotional booths at 20 international exhibitions across Malaysia, USA, the Middle East, Europe, India, China and Japan are planned for the year. Joint missions with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation to the UAE, Doha, Qatar, Kazakhstan and the UK are also underway.
“Malaysian timber manufacturers are held in high regard overseas because they offer premium products and deliver promptly. Our timbers are also certified which makes it easier to export as we have been practicing sustainable forest management for over a century,” he said.
At home, MTC will roll out more investor-ready business plans which are designed to attract more investments for Malaysian timber manufacturers. For example, an upcoming Marketing Seminar held in April will update the industry on market outlook and export opportunities. This will assist exporters in making informed business decisions under the prevailing conditions in the global marketplace.
Furthermore, MTC’s mechanisation and automation study will benefit small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs. The study examines re-layout of the process flow, mechanisation and automation to reduce the number of workers on the factory floor
“Although automation programmes are expensive, it provides for lean management and is cost-effective in the long-term,” Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim remarked.
Investing in innovation
Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim however also acknowledged that there is a lot of work ahead in striving to facilitate the industry towards achieving the Ministry’s target of RM53 billion in export receipts by 2020.
Promoting glulam will be one of the Council’s objectives.
“The use of engineered timbers is the way forward as we reduce our dependency on solid hardwoods. I believe more experimentation and research will eventually result in Malaysia utilising products such as CLT and glulam in a more practical and affordable setting,” Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim said.
Investing in engineered timber products will not put Malaysian timber manufacturers out to pasture though it may seem as a pricey venture at this point.
As the global economy enters 2017, emerging economies are expected to be relatively resilient while growth prospects in Japan and the US seem to bode well. If oil prices recover, the economies of UAE and Saudi Arabia will also improve—all pointing to healthy demand for Malaysian timber on the back of domestic consumption and infrastructure spending.
“We will continue to press on as our role as the nation’s marketing arm. There is no single factor that makes a business successful but we focus on the factors that help keep our industry partners and employees stay with us for the long haul.”
This article was first published in Panels & Furniture Asia (Mar/Apr Issue).