Malaysia – The Future-Forward and Business Ready Market

March 11 2024

Faces and Markets of PRGN is a new series of blog posts in 2024 that puts PRGN member agencies and their markets in the spotlight.

Each week, expect to read about a market from an economic, business and communications point of view, brought to you by the very people living and working on the ground in that country, state or region.

The blog pieces illustrate the vast amount of in-depth knowledge of business, media, communications and marketing PRGN brings together having presence in more than 40 countries and 70 cities on six continents through its member agencies globally.

In this week’s blog post, Andy See Teong Leng, principal partner and managing director of Perspective Strategies in Kuala Lumpur, describes the business and communications environment in Malaysia and offers advice to businesses navigating his home market.

Business environment in Malaysia

Malaysia, situated in Southeast Asia, is known for its breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and thriving industries. Malaysia’s robust financial and banking sectors, pro-business policies, well-developed infrastructure, and government support make it an easy place to conduct business.

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Photo by Esmonde Young on Unsplash

The country has received worldwide recognition by various international institutions including:

  • Top country in emerging Southeast Asia for Foreign Investment (Global Opportunity Index, Bloomberg 2022)
  • The 4th Most Competitive Emerging Market (Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index 2022)
  • The 2nd Most Competitive Country in ASEAN (World Competitiveness Yearbook 2022 IMD)
    Source: Malaysian Investment Development Authority

The official religion is Islam, and Muslims account for over 60% of the population. Malaysia is a dynamic market for Halal products and services and a world leader in Halal certification. The country is also a significant player in Islamic finance.

Malaysia’s multifaceted strengths, encompassing strategic positioning, digital leadership, and halal leadership, collectively position it as a dynamic and forward-thinking player in the evolving Southeast Asian landscape.

Communications, media and PR market in Malaysia

Malaysia’s diverse media landscape is intricately shaped by a combination of regulatory frameworks, technological advancements, and socio-political influences, with the main languages being Malay, English and Mandarin.

Media publications cater to a wide range of demographic segments, and both government-owned (Radio Television Malaysia) and private broadcasters like Astro and Media Prima operate numerous TV and radio channels. In the digital sphere, online portals offer alternative news sources, while Malaysia ranks as one of the countries with the most overall screen time for consuming news and the latest trends.
Source: Proxyrack, Meltwater and We Are Social’s Digital 2023 Global Overview Report

Regulation of the media falls under the purview of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Efforts to combat misinformation involve collaborative initiatives between the government, media entities, and civil society.

Challenges persist in the media sector, notably in balancing government regulations with press freedom. The industry is evolving with a shift towards digital platforms, video content, and interactive media, reflecting the dynamic trajectory of Malaysia’s media landscape.

Key expertise of Perspective Strategies

Perspective Strategies is a full-fledged Public Relations and Strategic Communications Consultancy. Since its inception, the firm has helped brands and organisations in advocacy, reputation building, brand communication and stakeholder engagement across our four core practices:

  • Public Affairs Practice
  • Corporate Practice
  • Brands Practice
  • Strategy & Sustainability Practice

Top 3 advice for foreign companies navigating the communications environment in Malaysia

1. Cultural Sensitivity, Multilingual Consumer Market: Malaysia is a multicultural and multiracial society with diverse consumer segments.

  • Recognise the cultural and social differences among Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous groups, as well as urban and rural communities.
  • Customise marketing strategies to cater to varied preferences and values. Urban areas may lean towards tech-savvy options, while rural communities may prioritise traditional mediums.
  • Highlight cultural authenticity and respect local customs. The market’s multilingual consumers allow brands to use Malaysia as a market to innovate and test its messaging as its multiracial consumers provide insights into the larger Asian market.

2. Embrace Digital and Social Media: Malaysians are highly connected on digital and social media, with 44.5% of Malaysians using social media to consume news content while 30% follow influencers.

  • Leverage online platforms for marketing and communication efforts. Develop content that resonates with the Malaysian audience by incorporating local culture and values.
  • Utilise social media channels to connect with consumers. Most Malaysians are active on at least one social platform and preferences may vary across different demographic segments.
  • Consider incorporating multimedia content and interactive campaigns to enhance engagement. Complement an online campaign with on-ground experiences amplified by influencers to create a more holistic audience engagement.

3. Region-Specific Understanding for East Malaysia: East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) has its unique cultural heritage that shapes behaviour of its consumers.

  • Emphasise values such as community, family, sustainability and nature in marketing efforts.
  • If possible, incorporate products, spokespersons or cultural events local to Sabah and Sarawak for your campaign to better resonate with East Malaysian audience.
  • Consider variations in technology access that may impact consumer habits. East Malaysia covers a large territory with a sharper distinction between urban and rural areas.

Most influential media in Malaysia

The highest reach of key media in Malaysia based on a mix of its estimations of a site’s monthly unique visitors and monthly pageviews are:

However, the news media landscape in Malaysia is fragmented. 

There is always a need to understand the target audience prior to determining the relevant media. Media such as The Edge and BFM can be very useful when communicating with C-Suites and decision makers. Similarly, portals such as Says and OhBulan! could prove to be more beneficial when communicating consumer content.

The most popular social media channels in Malaysia

YouTube: 24 million users. Used for a diverse range of content, from educational resources and tutorials to music, comedy, and other forms of entertainment.

WhatsApp: 23 million users. The most common messaging app in Malaysia.

Facebook: 22 million users. 38.67% share photos and 33.92% share links

Instagram: 20 million users. Users tend to favour short form video on this platform.

TikTok: 16 million users. Demographics are skewed heavily in favour of youngsters and young adults.

LinkedIn: 7 million users. Used by professionals to network, find new opportunities, and showcase their skills.

X: 5.5 million users. Used mostly during major cultural events, major news events and subjects people discuss around the world.

Source: Digital 2023 Global Overview Report

The most important international events in Malaysia in 2024

Cultural: The Rainforest World Music Festival 2024

An internationally renowned event that celebrates the diversity of world music and cultural heritage. It celebrates cultural diversity through traditional music, dance, and crafts, attracting both local and international visitors. The festival promotes environmental awareness and rainforest conservation, contributing to Malaysia’s tourism industry and local economies. Additionally, it serves as a platform for traditional artists, fosters community engagement, and facilitates cultural exchange, promoting unity and understanding. 

From its humble beginnings of only 300 spectators in its first ever concert in 1998 to becoming Sarawak’s “star festival” as well as being recognised as one of the 25 best international festivals by Songlines (, RWMF has grown over the years and has now also become a strong advocate of responsible tourism – in its quest to become one of the world’s most sustainable, eco-friendly festivals. 2023 Footfall: 19,000 (Source: The Star)

Trade: Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) 2024

The world’s largest Halal showcase – a robust marketplace for both international and local players to seize opportunities beyond Halal food including Halal pharmaceutical, medical devices, finance, modest fashion, personal care and cosmetics, green technologies and even Muslim-friendly tourism to contribute significantly to the global Halal economy. In 2023, it had over 38,000 trade visitors, resulting in a total immediate and negotiated trade value of over RM3.11 billion (or USD 681 million). 2023 Footfall: 38,000 (Source: MIHAS)

Tech: Smart Nation Expo 2024

Southeast Asia’s Biggest Tech Exhibition on 5G, Smart Cities, IR4.0, Emerging Technologies and Applications. In line with the continued rollout of 5G services across the region, digital transformation will accelerate across key sectors of the economy. The introduction of 5G together with INDUSTRY 4.0, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Web3.0 including Virtual/Augmented Reality will create a whole host of new business that will spur growth and transform the economies of the future. SMART NATION 2023 bought together 14,000+ registered trade buyers including 1,446 overseas buyers from 54 countries. 2023 Footfall: 21,000 (Source: Smart Nation)

Malaysia in Numbers*

Population 34 million
Languages spoken Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
Religions (% of population) Muslim (official) 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christian 9.2%, Hindu 6.3%
GDP per capita $26,300 (2021 est.)
(Real) GDP growth rate 3.09% (2021 est.)
Inflation rate 2.48% (2021 est.)
Unemployment rate 4.61% (2021 est.)
Key sectors and industries (% of GDP) services: 58.3%, manufacturing: 24.1%, agriculture: 6.6%, mining: 6.4%, construction: 3.5% (Department of Statistics, Malaysia)
Mobile penetration (per 100 people) 141 (2021 est.)
Internet users (% of population) 97% (2021 est.)
Corporate profit tax 24%
Rate of consumer tax or VAT 8% Sales and Services Tax (Royal Malaysian Customs Department)
Andy See Teong Leng
Principal Partner and Managing Director, Perspective Strategies

Andy See Teong Leng, the first Asian and Malaysian President of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), is the Founder, Principal Partner and Managing Director of Perspective Strategies, a strategic communications and issues management consultancy formed in 2006. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Media and Communication, Taylor’s University. 

Prior to Perspective Strategies, Andy was working with global and local consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Edelman. 

Perspective Strategies has a solid reputation for quality strategic counsel and innovative communication solutions, making it one of the leading PR and Strategic Communications consultancies in Malaysia. The firm is also an active corporate member of PRCA Malaysia (Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia).

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