Doing Business In Malaysia

  1. Doing Business 2013 ranks Malaysia 12th out of 185 economies, recording an increase of 2 points compared to last year. This reflects a 29 point improvement in the Registering Property indicator and a 20 point improvement in the Dealing with Construction Permits indicator.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2007), the top 3 obstacles to running a business in Malaysia are an Inadequately Educated Workforce, Tax Administration, and Business Licenses and Permits. Malaysian firms reported slightly longer times to obtain permits than their neighbors. For example, firms reported 22.4 days to obtain an operating license, compared to 16.6 for the region. Firms report needing 54.2 days to obtain a construction-related permit, compared to 45.0 days for the region.
  3. Malaysia’s economic freedom score is 66.4, making its economy the 53rd freest in the 2012 Index. Its score is 0.1 point higher than last year, reflecting a gain in business freedom partially offset by declining effectiveness in the control of government spending. Malaysia is ranked 9th out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is above the world and regional averages.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Visitors must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into Malaysia. The following gives a brief overview of other requirements – full details of visa regulations are available on the website
Nationals of most countries are given a 30- or 60-day visa on arrival, depending on the expected length of stay. As a general rule, if you arrive by air you will be given 60 days automatically, though coming overland you may be given 30 days unless you specifically ask for a 60-day permit. It’s possible to get an extension at an immigration office in Malaysia for a total stay of up to three months. This is a straightforward procedure that is easily done in major Malaysian cities.
Only under special circumstances can Israeli citizens enter Malaysia.
Both Sabah and Sarawak retain a certain degree of state-level control of their borders. Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) cannot work in Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia) without special permits, and tourists must go through passport control and have their passports stamped whenever they:
» arrive in Sabah or Sarawak from Peninsular Malaysia or the federal district of Pulau Labuan
» exit Sabah or Sarawakon their way to Peninsular Malaysia or Pulau Labuan
» travel between Sabah and Sarawak.
When entering Sabah or Sarawak from another part of Malaysia, your new visa stamp will be valid only for the remainder of the period left on your original Malaysian visa. In Sarawak, an easy way to extend your visa is to make a ‘visa run’ to Brunei or Indonesia (through the Tebedu–Entikong land crossing).

Business Etiquette

Meeting and GreetingDoing business in Malaysia
Within the business context most Malaysian businesspeople are culturally-savvy and internationally exposes. Your experience may very well depend upon the ethnicity, age, sex and status of the person you are meeting. The best approach is always friendly yet formal. A few tips include:  
• Initial greetings should be formal and denote proper respect.
• If in a team, introduce the most important person first.
• Many Malays and Indians are uncomfortable shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex.
• Foreign men should always wait for a Malaysian woman to extend her hand. Foreign women should also wait for a Malaysian man to extend his hand.
• To demonstrate respect Chinese may look downwards rather than at the person they are meeting.
• It is important that professional titles (professor, doctor, engineer) and honorific titles are used in business. Malays and Indians use titles with their first name while Chinese use titles with their surname. 
Looking for some formal training on Malay culture? We run a Malay Cultural Awareness Course for business.
Business Card Etiquette
• Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions.• If you will be meeting Chinese, have one side of your card translated into Chinese, with the Chinese characters printed in gold.• If you will be meeting government officials, have one side of your card translated into Bahasa Malaysia.• Use two hands or the right hand only to exchange business cards.• Examine any business card you receive before putting it in your business card case.• The respect you show someone's business card is indicative of the respect you will show the individual in business. Act accordingly.• Never write on someone's card in their presence. 
As an extension to the need to maintain harmonious relations, Malaysians rely on non-verbal communication (i.e. facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc). Such a communication style tends to be subtle, indirect and. Malays may hint at a point rather than making a direct statement, since that might cause the other person to lose face. Rather than say "no", they might say, "I will try", or "I’ll see what I can do". This allows the person making the request and the person turning it down to save face and maintain harmony in their relationship. 
If you are unsure about the affirmative response you received, you may want to continue the discussion, re-phrasing the question in several different ways so that you may compare responses. If the response was given because the Malaysian did not know how to respond in the negative without causing offense, this may come out. Alternatively, they may have someone else give you the bad news. 
Silence is an important element of Malaysian communication. Pausing before responding to a question indicates that they have given the question appropriate thought and considered their response carefully. Many Malaysians do not understand the Western propensity to respond to a question hastily and can consider such behaviour thoughtless and rude. 
Malaysians may laugh at what may appear to outsiders as inappropriate moments. This device is used to conceal uneasiness. 
Do not show anger in public as it makes Malaysians uncomfortable and creates a feeling of powerlessness. There is a greater chance of achieving a good outcome id you are calm, whereas little is resolved by shouting. 
Business Meetings
• It is a good idea for the most senior person on your team to enter first so that he or she is the first to greet the most senior Malaysian.
• This gives face to both parties as it demonstrates respect towards the Malaysian and shows that you respect hierarchy within your company.
• It is customary for leaders to sit opposite each other around the table.
• Many companies will have their team seated in descending rank, although this is not always the case.
• Expect the most senior Malaysian to give a brief welcoming speech. You need not reciprocate.
• There will be a period of small talk, which will end when the most senior Malaysian is comfortable moving to the business discussion.
• Meetings may be conducted or continue over lunch and dinner.
• Meetings, especially initial ones, are generally somewhat formal. Treat all Malaysian participants with respect and be cautious not to lose your temper or appear irritated.
• At the first meeting between two companies, Malaysians will generally not get into in-depth discussions. They prefer to use the first meeting as an opportunity to get to know the other side and build a rapport, which is essential in this consensus-driven culture. 

General Business Hours

Banks 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 11.30am Saturday


Department stores 10am to 8pm


Government offices 8am to 12.45pm and 2pm to 4.15pm Monday to Thursday, 8am to 12.15pm and 2.45pm to 4.15pm Friday, 8am to 12.45pm Saturday

Shopping malls 10am to 8pm


Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday


In the more Islamic-minded states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu, government offices, banks and many shops close on Friday and on Saturday afternoon.

Exceptions to these hours are noted in ­individual reviews.