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curated list of 25 small business ideas in malaysia

A Curated List Of 25 Small Business Ideas In Malaysia

So many online listicles on small business ideas in Malaysia are arbitrarily written – and some are quite clearly copied word-for-word from ChatGPT!

As those seeking small ideas are likely very new to business, we’re annoyed by this.

lack of good small business ideas resources online
We assume this is where they ger their ideas from.

And so, we’ve turned to 2022 – 2023 data from the Department of Statistics to curate a list of 25 small business ideas in Malaysia that:

  • Don’t require heavy initial capital expenditure
  • Don’t need specific technical expertise
  • Have proven demand, and
  • Can be easily incorporated as a company

Keep scrolling to see our methodology or click here to skip straight to the list.

Let’s begin!

Focusing on the service sector

After looking at some information, we believe Malaysia’s service sector is where the average small business will find their best chance of success. 

Here’s how we’ve arrived at our list of suggested businesses.

It’s where Malaysian SMEs thrive 

The latest data available on SMEs from Malaysia’s Department of Statistics (DoSM) reports that there were 1,173,601 businesses in Malaysia that fit the description of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in 2022.

Of these, the breakdown of sectors was:

  • 84.7% in services 
  • 7.9% in construction 
  • 5.6% in manufacturing 
  • 1.4% in agriculture, and
  • 0.4% in mining & quarrying

Yes, a service-based business is generally less capital intensive or technically demanding.

Size of the Malaysian service sector

Even more good news: the service industry as a whole is Malaysia’s biggest economic sector, accounting for roughly half of Malaysia’s total GDP according to DoSM. 

Additionally, the sector has enjoyed steady year on year growth:

  • Q4 2020 RM 448.1 billion
  • Q4 2021 RM 495.5 billion
  • Q4 2022 RM 560.3 billion
  • Q4 2023 RM 594.5 billion

This is highly encouraging as you never want to enter a shrinking market.

Implications for first time small business owners

If we are starting a new business with no experience, it’s wise to follow the crowd.

flock of sheep to show value in going with the crowd when starting a business for the first time
Safety in numbers, baby.

Why? 

Because on average, this is how others in our situation have most likely found success, and in this case, that means the service sector!

Also, the steady growth of the sector strongly suggests there is room for new players.

Top industries within Malaysia’s service sector

Here’s a breakdown of the RM 594.5 billion generated by the service sector in Q4 2023, starting from the highest to lowest values.

SectorValue (in billions)
Wholesale Trade190.0
Retail Trade185.5
Motor Vehicles53.8
Information Technology and Communications43.4
Transport and Storage39.6
Food & Beverage18.4
Professional Services17.9
Real Estate11.0
Administrative Support9.6
Health7.4
Education5.9
Recreation5.5
Accommodation3.9
Personal Services2.4

For a small business idea, you can’t choose a sector based on revenue alone, as some need high capital and technical expertise.

Instead, you want sectors that balance market size with lower capital and technical demands.

Our top five are:

  1. Retail Trade (RM185.5 billion)
  2. Food & Beverage (RM18.4 billion)
  3. Professional Services (RM17.9 billion)
  4. Real Estate (RM11.0 billion)
  5. Administrative Support (RM9.6 billion)

And that’s where our 25 small business ideas will come from!

25 small business ideas in Malaysia

IF you’ve skipped straight to this section, just know that these business ideas are exclusively based on top earning and SME-friendly sectors within Malaysia’s service industry.

We highly encourage you to read our methodology, and hope you find this list useful.

Retail and trade

retail and trade small business ideas in malaysia

Q4 2023 revenue: RM185.5 billion

YoY growth: 5.1%

1. Online boutique

An online store specializing in unique clothing and accessories, utilizing platforms like Shopify or Etsy to reach customers.

2. Specialty food store

A shop offering unique and gourmet food items, such as organic products, imported goods, or locally sourced delicacies.

3. Second-hand clothing store

A store selling gently used clothing and accessories, either through a physical location or online, catering to budget-conscious consumers.

4. Home decor shop

A retail outlet featuring home decor items, including furniture, art, and accessories, aimed at customers looking to enhance their living spaces.

5. Pop-up shop

A temporary retail space that allows businesses to test the market and generate buzz without the commitment of a permanent location.

Food & beverage

F&B business ideas

Q4 2023 revenue: RM18.4 billion

YoY growth: 6.3%

1. Food truck

A mobile kitchen serving a specific type of cuisine or specialty dishes, perfect for festivals, events, and high-traffic areas.

2. Coffee shop

A small cafe offering a variety of coffee drinks, pastries, and light snacks, providing a cozy atmosphere for customers to relax.

3. Catering service

A business providing food and beverage services for events such as weddings, corporate meetings, and parties, tailored to clients’ needs.

4. Bakery

A shop specializing in baked goods like bread, cakes, pastries, and cookies, serving both walk-in customers and custom orders.

5. Juice bar

A small outlet offering freshly made juices, smoothies, and health drinks, catering to health-conscious consumers.

Professional services

professional service industry business ideas for 2024

Q4 2023 revenue: RM17.9 billion

YoY growth: 9%

1. Freelance writing service

Providing writing services for blogs, websites, marketing materials, and more, tailored to clients’ needs and industries.

2. Graphic design service

Creating visual content for businesses, including logos, branding materials, advertisements, and digital media.

3. Social media management

Managing social media accounts for businesses to enhance their online presence, engage with customers, and increase brand awareness.

4. Personal coaching

Offering guidance and support in areas like career development, personal growth, and health, tailored to individual clients.

5. Accounting and bookkeeping

Providing financial services such as bookkeeping, tax preparation, and financial planning for small businesses and individuals.

Real estate

businesses to start in the real estate industry in malaysia

Q4 2023 revenue: RM11 billion

YoY growth: 10.5%

1. Real estate agency

Assisting clients in buying, selling, and renting properties, providing market insights and negotiating deals.

2. Property management

Managing rental properties on behalf of owners, including tenant relations, maintenance, and rent collection.

3. Vacation rental business

Offering short-term rentals for vacationers, managing properties listed on platforms like Airbnb or VRBO.

4. Home staging service

Preparing homes for sale by arranging furniture and decor to enhance appeal and attract potential buyers.

5. Real estate photography

Providing high-quality photos and videos of properties to help real estate agents and owners market their listings.

Administrative support

b2b admin support business ideas for malaysians

Q4 2023 revenue: RM9.6 billion

YoY growth: 9.2%

1. Virtual assistant

Offering remote administrative support, including email management, scheduling, data entry, and customer service.

2. Data entry services

Entering, updating, and maintaining data for businesses, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in records.

3. Office supply business

Selling office supplies and equipment to businesses, schools, and individuals, either through a physical store or online.

4. Mail and packaging service

Providing mailing, shipping, and packaging services to individuals and businesses, including handling of courier services.

5. Event planning and coordination

Organizing and managing events such as conferences, weddings, and corporate meetings, handling all logistical details.

Evaluating a business idea’s potential

Just because we listed it above doesn’t mean you should do it!

If you want to start a business, stop looking for a ‘business idea’ and start looking for a problem to solve.

Once you identify a gap, map out aspects of your solution with a business model canvas – we’ve got a simple template anyone can directly edit for free below.

MISHU Business Model Canvas Template Poster Sized 1 1

    Ideally, your solution should have a unique value proposition that sets it apart.

    This means you mustn’t fall in love with ideas – get used to eliminating ones that don’t seem to work.

    Here’s what a Business Model Canvas of MISHU’s Fish Business might look like.

    Business Model Canvas Example
    (Click to expand.)

    And once you find something worthwhile, the next step should be registering a business entity.

    From business idea to business entity

    Regardless of what business idea you settle on, it’s important to register a business entity for several reasons:

    • It’s a legal requirement by the government and specifically LHDN
    • It makes you more trustworthy to potential clients and customers
    • It allows you to apply for small business loans and other SME benefits
    • It allows you to hire staff legally
    • If you go into business with a friend or partner, both of you are protected

    As an SME, you have two main options: an Enterprise or a Sdn Bhd.

    We generally recommend incorporating a Sdn Bhd as it offers more protection and structure, though bear in mind it comes with higher operating costs and legal requirements.

    mycoID homepage for company incorporation guide
    You can register a company all on your own.

    Here are a few resources you might find handy:

    1. A complete guide to starting and running a Sdn Bhd
    2. A definitive guide to Enterprise vs Sdn Bhd
    3. Answers to top questions on company incorporation
    4. How to register your own company via MyCoID

    Let MISHU help register your first business

    MISHU’s team of licensed Company Secretaries and business consultants are here to help entrepreneurs start, build, and grow their businesses. Get in touch – we’d love to help with yours!

    FAQs about starting a small business in Malaysia

    • Which business is best to start in Malaysia?
      💡MISHU recommends looking at businesses within the service sector as it is both a growing market and has low barriers to entry.

    • What business can I start with RM 1,000?
      💡You could start an online ecommerce store or offer some sort of digital-based professional service to other businesses.

    • What business can I start with RM 10,000?
      💡A pop-up shop are viable options due to their low initial inventory requirements and the ability to operate without a physical storefront. In the food and beverage industry, a food truck and a juice bar can be started on a small scale with basic equipment and a limited menu.

    • What business to start in Malaysia in 2024?
      💡We strongly recommend starting by looking for a problem you are well-equipped to solve and can add value to instead of looking for random business ideas.

    • What is the most successful small business to start?
      💡The one you can successfully run and manage 🙂

    • Which industry is booming in Malaysia?
      💡The service industry has been steadily growing over the past years and currently contributes to over half of Malaysia’s GDP.

    • Which is the fastest growing business?
      💡Today, the fastest growing businesses tend to be tech-based, though B2C products and services that have a high chance to go viral can also enjoy explosive growth.
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