Brunei’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) won five awards in the first fully virtual ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) on November 30.
Oil and gas service provider Exceltech swept two awards: Priority Integration Sector – Energy for their overall business performance, and Young Entrepreneur for their founder and managing director Hafriz Fayadh Hj Musa.
Having already won the SME Excellence (Growth) Award last year for the Poni Group, their subsidiary Poni Marine won the same award this year for helping diversify the group’s revenue, especially during the closure of recreational activities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Social enterprises within the country also received recognition: Big BWN Project won the Inclusive Business Award, while The Collective Arts Events won the Brunei Special Award: Emerging Social Enterprise for implementing online marketplace Community for Brunei (CFB) under BIBD.
ABA received 126 applications from enterprises based in 10 ASEAN countries this year; 86 were shortlisted and 45 were awarded under 11 main categories. Brunei’s ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) organised this year’s ABA as part of the sultanate’s ASEAN chairmanship.
Award categories with multiple sub-categories are the Priority Integration – which covers seven different business sectors; and SME Excellence – which covers exceptional performance under the separate metrics of growth, employment, innovation, and CSR.
Philippines won eight awards, followed by Malaysia which won seven. Singapore also won five, while Lao PDR won four. Winning three awards were enterprises from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia; while Myanmar won two.
Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah said in the event’s opening keynote that the continued hosting of ASEAN business-related events under Brunei’s chairmanship this year amidst the pandemic shows the commitment between the public and private sector to further regional economic cooperation.
More specifically on ABA’s hosting, the Crown Prince said: “through this difficult time, the business community has show immense strength, and I am proud to be part of an event which celebrates resilience, innovation, and the spirit to overcome challenges.”
For the Brunei recipients, deploying digital strategies and refocusing their activities have been critical in staying relevant as the country suffered from its second and most serious wave of COVID-19 in August.
The Collective’s founder, Shinny Chia, who conceptualized and is now implementing CFB as a BIBD CSR initiative, shared that the platform has helped onboard over 100 vendors, the majority of which were small businesses.
The CFB marketplace carries no vendor registration or commission fees; only a discounted merchant processing fee of less than 2% on each debit and credit card payment.
“We launched CFB during the pandemic (first wave) as a way to help raise funds for charitable and community causes while also offering an online marketplace for businesses,” said Chia.
Initially beginning as a dive centre, Poni has now diversified into several marine related services, the most profitable being Poni Marine, which focuses on providing turnkey solutions for marine projects including offshore, construction, and aquaculture.
As Brunei’s borders have been closed to tourists since March last year, Poni has focused on building up its marine capabilities which have remained operational throughout the pandemic.
More recently, Poni has assisted Barramundi Group – an aquaculture foreign direct investment in Brunei – in facilitating the transfer of fish from their land hatchery to their sea-based cages. Poni’s divers have also been engaged to conduct daily underwater inspections of the cages and net cleaning.
First organised in 2007, ABA is an annual initiative of the ASEAN-BAC. The awards aim to recognise homegrown ASEAN businesses that have become globally competitive as well as spotlight promising SMEs with global potential.
Watch: ASEAN Business Awards 2021