Deep in the SEA


Discovering Penang, Malaysia's Silicon Valley - With Balakrishnan Narayanan

Bala is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, he is Malaysian and he works across the entire region. I have discussed with him about the broad and topical point on how the US-China trade war is going to influence Southeast Asian countries. During previous episodes, I have dealt with the issue in a kind of broad term, but with Bala I went in-depth, and we assessed how a small Malaysian island, Penang, is going to thrive thanks to the trade war. Penang has been ruled directly by the British and since it has been a thriving trade hub in the region, surpassed only by Singapore. In the late 70s, thanks to the ability of its Chief Minister, Penang became an educational powerhouse and it started to attract big western tech companies. However, when labor costs rose in Malaysia and China started to open up its economy with Deng Xiaoping, tech conglomerates moved their operations in mainland China. Penang was left in relative decline. However, thanks to the combo of higher labor costs in China and the uncertainties of the trade war, tech companies are now starting to come back to Penang. Companies can find in the island a cluster of exceptional universities, extensive use of the English language, and trained tech managers.

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