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KUCHING: Developing a business these days is all about attracting Generation Y, says a recent The Star Business Awards (SOBA) gold winner.

“If you want to survive, if you want to grow, then you’ve got to engage with youths,” said PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group chief executive Datuk Michael Tio.

“You need youths to be aware of your products, and more importantly, you need youths to be in your workforce.

“At PKT, we have about 350 (staff), of which the outright majority are under 35 years old. We tell them up front before they join that the capability to utilise social media any time, anywhere is a job requirement,” Tio told .

Tio, who led his company to three SOBA wins last year, was in Kuching to present the keynote SOBA Learning Series workshop.

Tio, whose name cards include his YouTube, Facebook and Twitter handles, said SMEs would not survive these days without employing Gen Y.

Youth input, he added, was especially important in light of continuing economic liberalisation.

“Free trade within South-East Asia is coming whether you like it or not. You will no longer compete with companies within Malaysia, but within the entire region. It’s a whole new ball game. It means challenges will magnify by several magnitudes. How are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) going to tackle this?”

A solution, Tio said, was to expand regionally.

“In a while, you have to be in it across the region. So you’ll need the software to go with it. You’ll need standardised ICT (information and communication technology) across the region. And that’s why young people are so important.”

For start-ups, Tio spoke about the importance of raising brand awareness. He said social media was a cheap and effective publicity.

“It’s always very hard to penetrate the market. In some ways you need a wow factor, but how do you get enough people to be aware of your wow factor? That’s where social media comes in.”

Tio called it the “Milo van” method, referring to frequent visits by Milo trucks to schools to give free drinks.

“So eventually when the students have money to spend, they go out and buy Milo rather than other brands of chocolate drinks on the market. At PKT, we are going to universities. We are creating as much online interaction with students as we can. Hopefully, when they want jobs, they’ll come to us first.”

Tio said PKT had a job applicant list of more than 600 people.

“We never advertised. We just post things online.”

The third Soba Learning Series workshop was held at Riverside Majestic Hotel here.

Organised in conjunction with Soba 2012, the workshop yesterday was attended by some 70 participants from various organisations. They included those from up-and-coming non-listed local companies and SMEs that were keen to pick up the tricks of the trade from industry experts.

Themed “Thriving in Turbulent Times”, the one-day workshop featured professionals and experienced entrepreneurs from Branding Association of Malaysia, Media Specialists Association, Malaysian Franchise Association and Exim Bank, who shared their ideas, strategies and experiences to help local fledgling companies become future industry leaders.

The next and final SOBA Learning Series workshop will take place at The Royale Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, on July 13.

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