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Last year Malaysia created an initiative to give voice to the youths, and simultaneously position itself to become globally competitive and a leading nation by 2050. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said, he aims for Malaysia to

Achieve a RM2 trillion economy within the next eight years, and have the country be among the top 20 nations worldwide.

According to Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) Youth Canvas, an initiative by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, TN50, outlining the aspirations that Malaysia's youth has for the country in 2050 serves as an important input in nation planning. The youth canvas highlighted six themes - global, equitable, sustainable, united, accountable and compassionate. For the global aspect, in particular, Malaysian youths hope for the country to be driven by a global outlook and global benchmarks in every area, such as being among the top 20 in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Rankings.

Industry professionals A+M spoke to highlighted the importance of engaging with the youth segment when plotting the course of a company's future.

Ambrish Chaudhry, head of strategy, Asia Pacific, Superunion, said that the government has demonstrated a future forward approach by engaging the populace, particularly the young, in helping draft a vision for 2050.

Giving the youth a voice in articulating the vision of the future is a strong way to engage with them and tap into their energy and commitment.

As such, brands can take a leaf out of the government’s book, by focusing on their community of dedicated supporters, he said. "Make them feel engaged not just when they’re using their products or services but also when they’re plotting their course for the future," Chaudhry said. He added:

The most successful brands think of themselves as platforms around which communities can build, grow and create meaning for themselves.

Brands that are ambassadors of Malaysia, such as Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Petronas, Maybank and Telekom Malaysia, would do well to live up to the youths' vision of having a global presence and standing by principles of sustainability and equality, he explained. This can be done through how the brands project themselves in communications, the experiences they create for their customers and stakeholders and the steps taken to live up to these principles in the workplace. "This should be the driving spirit of brands looking to excel in Malaysia and beyond," Chaudhry said.

He added that the TN50 initiative has shown willingness for the youth to engage beyond the perfunctory and have a real point of view on the future of the country. Hence, the companies that will excel in this future will be the companies that pay attention to and act on what they have to say.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Bonsey, creative and managing director of The Bonsey Design Partnership, said brands are only as strong as their relevance to their market segments. The overarching need for all Malaysian brands such as AirAsia and BritishIndia is the need for relevance.

"Relevance is powered by a constant obsession with the hopes, fears and aspirations of the customer. The challenge for the brands in question is to ensure relevance on a global scale and the key in this is to constantly challenge and test the core business proposition internationally," Bonsey said.

One way to harness the powerful initiative of TN50 would be for the Malaysian Alliance of Corporate Directors and their senior marketers to engage youths as "Millennial mentors". The majority of senior management and business owners in Malaysia have few connections with the generation who will eventually bear the brunt of their strategies, Bonsey said.

Successful Malaysian companies and those who run them would benefit from creating regular and candid engagements with the youth segment. While creating a conversation with the younger generation is not easy, it does put in place a framework for sensitive and sensitive dialogue between the generations. Without this framework, Bonsey said the vision of TN50 will not be sustainable.

The youth canvas also highlights the aim for Malaysian companies to become more multinational, adaptable and forward-thinking, to keep up with global consumer and technology trends, and be globally competitive. This will be done by having Malaysian companies and brand names become world leaders in a range of industries.

Malaysian youths also hope that by 2050, the country will become a highly entrepreneurial society, with entrepreneurship and problem-solving skills being instilled from childhood, through experiential, project-based learning. TN50 also aims to see the country fostering an open, globally integrated economy through strong global partnerships and the emphasis on openness and competition. Local businesses will compete at global levels and be leaders in their industries.