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KUALA LUMPUR: An online service that helps you plan your own funeral. An app that tracks debts your friends owe you. A platform to help clueless car owners choose parts.

These are just some examples of the unique apps and online services developed by Malaysian entrepreneurs today.

And their creative spark in catering to specific consumer needs is putting Malaysia on track to becoming a leader in developing apps in the region, says the National ICT (Information and Communica­tions Technology) Association of Malaysia or Pikom.

Pikom chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah said it was becoming a trend for niche apps in Malaysia to be developed and more were expected to emerge in future.

“Our entrepreneurs are beco­ming more intelligent and innovative, building more successful apps and businesses online.

“As they cater to new and smaller markets, it is only natural for such need-based niche apps to be crea­ted,” he told Sunday Star recently.

Ganesh said Malaysia had the right ingredients to take the lead in South-East ’s digital economy: a talented pool of entrepreneurs and a tech-savvy society.

Malaysia has one of the highest Internet penetrations in South-East Asia at 85.7% and mobile penetration at almost 140%, making it one of the fastest growing emerging e-commerce markets in the region.

“We are at the right stage.

“We are not too small like Singapore nor too diverse like Indonesia.

“That makes us a good testing ground to launch products across South-East Asia, where its digital economy is expected to grow from US$50bil (RM205.3bil) to US$250bil (RM1.03 trillion) over the next seven years.

“If you look at one of the biggest leaders in the digital economy today, it is Grab, which was started in Malaysia.

“So we are a good petri dish for launching apps and finding product market fits, and helping these businesses to grow internationally,” said Ganesh, who heads the association commanding 80% of the total ICT trade here.

Companies which assist start-ups, known as “accelerators”, have also noticed the growth of businesses serving unique needs.

“In the last few years, we have witnessed the emergence of more niche start-ups.

“This is a refreshing and positive change in the tide of the local ecosystem because it gives opportunities to bright entrepreneurs who did not fit previous trends,” said Code Army founder Zafrul Noordin.

He added that this situation was also a reflection of the unique demands and needs of Malaysian consumers which had evolved.

“We also cannot ignore the millennial market, which comprises a huge chunk of Malaysian consumers who prefer to use gadgets, apps, and online resources for their daily needs.

“It is hugely their collective demand for convenience at their fingertips that many of these niche apps and start-ups are formulated,” Zafrul said.

Recently, the Department of Statis­tics Malaysia projected that the e-commerce growth rate in Malaysia would almost double, from 10.6% in 2016 to 20.8% by 2020.

In the same line, Pikom had also predicted that the total ICT contribution to Malaysia’s gross domestic product would grow from RM164.9bil in 2016 to about RM177.7bil in 2017.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Yasmin Mahmood said the nation’s merchants, SMEs, industries and consumers were forging ahead to digitalise Malaysia’s proud tradition as a global trading nation.

“These are stepping stones to even greater things: Malaysia is now moving up the value chain and trading in ideas, innovation and new technologies in a spirit of collaboration across different sectors,” she said recently.

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