As an emerging market, there is an abundance of business opportunities in Malaysia.
With the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) in November 2017, the most obvious opportunity lies in e-commerce. In fact, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) projects e-commerce growth in Malaysia to reach 21% by 2020.
Malaysians, as well as people around the region, can benefit from the DFTZ by launching their own online businesses and even exploring cross-border e-commerce.
But e-commerce isn’t the only opportunity available. Conventional business models like franchising and F&B are thriving in Malaysia as young people spend more of their offline money on experiences rather than buying things.
Regardless of whether you want to participate in the growing digital economy in Malaysia or take on a more traditional path, I have compiled 10 business opportunities in Malaysia I think you can take part in.
Let’s take a look at them below:
(I’ve ordered them according to the amount of capital required, beginning with the most capital-intensive opportunity.)
#1 Build a Software as a Service (SaaS) Business
Cost: RM200,000 – RM3,000,000
How you make money: You offer a cloud software service to people and they pay you a monthly or yearly fee for access.
The biggest benefit of SaaS businesses is that you can often offer them at affordable prices to your customers. For your customers, SaaS is better than standalone because they get updated software and they don’t need to pay a huge upfront sum to use it.
An example of a SaaS business in Malaysia is StoreHub which offers iPad POS solutions to SMEs in Malaysia.
Who this is best for: SaaS businesses are a good fit for programmers who have product design experience and enjoy problem-solving. Although, if you want to grow your SaaS business, having only programming skills isn’t enough. You may need external investors to help you fund your SaaS growth.
The best thing about this opportunity: When done properly you have the opportunity to rake in recurring revenues for a long time.
The worst thing about this opportunity: It can be challenging to identify problems that enough people have to make your SaaS business a sustainable one. Other than that, you will likely need a lot of resources to grow your SaaS business. Lastly, SaaS businesses can be competitive as your customers are not bound to you in the long term and can change vendors within a short period of time.
Interested to start a SaaS business? Here are some ideas to help you get started:
#2 Start an F&B Business
Cost: RM50,000 – RM500,000
How you make money: You sell food at a higher price than the cost to make it. The difference is your profit. (But you already knew this right?)
Eating is one of Malaysians’ favorite past times. If you can create food Malaysians can’t resist, you will be able to make a sustainable income.
Even if you don’t have the capital to open a restaurant, you can always start small by taking orders from Facebook and delivering them from your home.
Who this is best for: People who love experimenting with food and seeing people enjoy their food.
The best thing about this opportunity: Creating food can be affordable so you don’t have to start with a lot of capital. Other than that, once you have a loyal customer base, it is easy to grow your business.
The worst thing about this opportunity: Since anybody can start an F&B business, F&B businesses are competitive. To win, you need to come up with a unique selling proposition (USP) that will differentiate you from your competition.
#3 Become a Franchise Owner
Cost: RM10,000 – 150,000
How you make money: You buy a franchise license from a franchise owner and make money when you use their brand to sell their products.
Since you won’t need to spend any time building the brand or coming up with the products, franchising can be one of the fastest ways to start a business.
The franchise owner will even train you and your employees on how to run the business so you can just plug and play.
The downside is that franchising any business is often expensive. To take part in this opportunity, you will need a significant amount of capital set aside.
Who this is best for: People with a significant amount of capital set aside and don’t want to spend time building a brand from scratch.
The best thing about this opportunity: With the franchise’s proven brand and model, you don’t have to waste time and money building up the brand from scratch. You can start up quickly.
The worst thing about this opportunity: The biggest drawback of buying a franchise is that you need a lot of money to get started. Also, though franchise brands have proven models, that does not guarantee you will be successful.
Discover franchise opportunities in Malaysia by checking out these posts:
#4 Set Up Your Own E-commerce Website and Start Selling
Cost: RM2,000 – RM15,000
How you make money: You make money by selling products at a higher price than what you bought them at on your own website.
With more and more Malaysians buying online, it is a good time to start an e-commerce business. Unlike when you sell on online marketplaces, with your own website, you can design and market according to what you like and you don’t need to pay the marketplace commissions.
The only thing you need to do really well is sourcing the right products and marketing them to your audience.
You can even design your own products and sell them.
Who this is best for: People who have experience with online marketing or is willing to spend time to learn online marketing.
The best thing about this opportunity: With the right products and marketing, you can make a lot of money without too much overhead. There is also a lot of flexibility with your own e-commerce website. You can make it look the way you want and sell anything you want.
The worst thing about this opportunity: You will need to spend money on a good website design or get someone to build it for you. Other than that, it can be difficult at first to identify the right products to sell and who best to market to.
Check out my guides on setting up your own store using Shopify to get started:
#5 Sell on Facebook or Instagram
Cost: RM300 – RM1,500
How you make money: You buy and then sell products on Facebook or Instagram for a profit.
Who this is best for: People who already have a large following on social media or is willing to spend time building the following.
Even if you don’t sell products directly to customers, you can also help other people promote their products for a fee.
The best thing about this opportunity: You can reach a large, engaged audience at a low cost. Social media can be one of the best converting platforms for selling products.
The worst thing about this opportunity: More and more people are working to build a large following on social media which can make this opportunity tougher to make money from in the long term. Other than that, social media algorithms can change to disfavor your business. You will need to be constantly agile and make changes to your business model from time to time.
You can learn more about selling on Facebook or Instagram (social commerce) here:
#6 Sell on Online Marketplaces
Cost: RM100 – RM10,000
How you make money: You make money by listing products on online marketplaces such as Lazada, Shopee, Lelong and 11Street. When somebody buys from your listing, you make a profit.
Selling on online marketplaces can be one of the lowest cost methods of starting a business. Compared to creating your own e-commerce website, you don’t need to invest money in creating your own website to start selling on an online marketplace.
All you need to do is create an account on the marketplace of your choice and you can get started.
At most, you will need to invest in some inventory for the products you are selling. But even if you don’t have capital, you can always start by dropshipping first. With drop shipping, you don’t keep inventory.
Who this is best for: This is a good opportunity for people who want to get started selling physical products but don’t want to invest in their own e-commerce website yet.
The best thing about this opportunity: Though you may need to invest some money in ads, you can get started without spending a few thousand RM on an e-commerce website. Even if you don’t have money for inventory, you can use the dropshipping method.
The worst thing about this opportunity: Many people selling on online marketplaces. In Malaysia, there is increasing competition not only from local sellers but also from sellers from China, South Korea, and Hong Kong. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to stay competitive.
Here are some guides to help you get started selling on online marketplaces in Malaysia:
#7 Make Money with Google AdSense
Cost: RM400 – RM1,500
How you make money: You make money with Google AdSense by displaying Google’s ads on your website.
To make sustainable income with Google AdSense, you will need a lot of traffic to your website. Normally a traffic of more than 100,000 unique visitors a month will give you a sustainable income with Google AdSense.
Who this is best for: This is a good business opportunity for people who are good at writing as one of the best ways to get traffic is by creating good content that people find useful.
The best thing about this opportunity: Google AdSense can give you passive income.
The worst thing about this opportunity: It can take a lot of time and effort to get enough traffic to your site to start making money using AdSense. If you don’t know how to set up your own website or blog, you may need to hire someone to do it for you.
If you don’t want to hire someone to build a website for you, here’s a guide on to create a website for under RM400 yourself:
#8 Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
Cost: RM500 – RM2,500
How you make money: You get paid a commission when you help someone else sell their products.
Affiliate marketing can be done through many different kinds of channels. For example, YouTube, blog, Instagram. Basically where you have an audience and you can sell to them, then you can make money with affiliate marketing.
Who this is best for: This is a good business opportunity for people who are good at marketing and sales using different sales channel and content types.
The best thing about this opportunity: You don’t have to spend any resources building products since the product is ready. All you need to do is focus on marketing and sales.
The worst thing about this opportunity: Affiliate programs can get shut down without prior notice. If you rely on the affiliate income from just one source, you can lose your income overnight.
If you are interested in making money with affiliate marketing, do check out my guide to affiliate marketing:
#9 Let out Spaces on Airbnb
Cost: RM5,000 – RM35,000
How you make money: You make money when someone books your place on Airbnb.
Depending on your plans and assets, the cost will greatly differ.
If you already have existing property, you can easily Airbnb it out to people and the extra money will be yours. But even so, you will need to invest in some renovation and furniture to make your property appealing.
If you don’t have one yet, you will need to add cost for property rental, deposit etc.
Who this is best for: People who have existing properties and want to make more than rental income. A passion for hospitality and service is a bonus.
The best thing about this opportunity: Especially if you have already invested in a property, you can make much more sub-letting it out on Airbnb compared to renting it to people on a monthly or yearly basis.
The worst thing about this opportunity: Bad things can happen. With Airbnb, you are letting in complete strangers into your property. If you don’t take precautions like not putting items of high value in your home, you may end up with more losses than gains.
#10 Sell Freelance Services
Cost: RM0 – RM1,500
How you make money: You get paid by providing a service like writing, editing, programming, translating and so on. The payment will be based on an hourly rate or project based.
Offering freelance services is one of the cheapest ways to make money since you don’t have to invest in anything.
Unless you spend money on a website to showcase your portfolio.
Who this is best for: People who are already good at skills that are sellable.
The best thing about this opportunity: The best part of being a freelancer is the flexibility it offers. You are paid according to the work done and based on your check in and check out time. If you make enough, you can even take months off.
The worst thing about this opportunity: Unstable. Jobs are not always guaranteed. You need to work hard to stay relevant. Income from month to month is not stable.
Here are some websites you can sign up and sell your services as a freelancer:
There you have it – ten business opportunities in Malaysia you can explore. Although this is not the most comprehensive list of business opportunities, I believe these are ones that most people can take part in and make money from.
For those with more capital laying around, franchising popular brands can give you good returns if you manage to secure the franchise license of a brand that Malaysians love.
E-commerce is another area where opportunities are growing. With only a small investment, you can start your own e-commerce store, sell on marketplaces or even social media like Facebook and Instagram.
But even if you don’t plan to sell products, you can still sell your skills online through freelance websites in Malaysia and overseas.
Regardless of which opportunity you decide to take part in, the most important thing is that you take action to test and discover for yourself which opportunity suits you best.
Know of any more business opportunities? Do share them in the comments section below!