Dzuleira Abu Bakar knows how Malaysians love to speculate and conjecture when some leadership move happens and is loathe to be branded a killjoy, especially with the hot speculation around why she suddenly tendered her resignation as MRANTI CEO. But, “I will tell you flat out that I am indeed going to take on another role, in the private sector. It is just that given the sensitivity of the matter and the fact that I'm still serving my notice at MRANTI, I can't say anything more. But the ecosystem will know in due time,” she said, stressing that “this was a personal decision.”
So there you have it. We can all stop speculating about where she is going. And to the person who thought she was headed into a ministrial role, she thanks them for their great confidence in her and for giving her a good laugh at the end of a long day on Tuesday when the news broke and she was inundated with hundreds of messages.
And on speculation that she may have been asked to leave, even though her contract was renewed early this year by the third minister, Chang Lih Kang, she was reporting to in less than two years, she says, “I have had tremendous support from the Minister and have been very open with him. During my renewal (in March) I thanked him but also shared that I have been thinking about my future.”
If that surprises anyone, Dzuleira points out that all in she has spent 11 years in public service, starting from when she was with Mavcap (Malaysia Venture Capital Management) before moving to Cradle Fund and then leading MaGIC and then on to MRANTI.
“A big part of my working life has been spent it government. So I thought that maybe it's time for me to move on.”
[Ed note: Dzuleira is the first head of a Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation agency to leave before her contract was up. Cradle CEO from 2020-2022 Rafiza Ghazali left on expiry of her 2-year tenure.]
Still, it took her many months to make the final decision and a key trigger for her to take the next step in her career was her belief that most of the hard work in getting MRANTI set-up and primed to move in the right direction has been done, with plans set in motion, with the right leadership team in place and a supportive Board. “So, I feel that the hard work has been done. The leadership team and I have come in and done everything that we can to set MRANTI on its trajectory and it’s about carrying out the plans now,” she said, in justifying her surprise decision.
To be sure, MRANTI has taken a toll on her. “The last two and a half years have been hard, have been challenging for me, personally, emotionally, and professionally, but we did it. We did it. I would think that what we've done with TPM [Technology Park Malaysia, the company originally responsible for the promotion and development of the technology park that merged with MaGIC and was renamed MRANTI in Nov 2021] is complete turnaround of its business model, of its image, and of the branding of the park.”
There will be a lot of developments coming out from MRANTI from next year she says, reminding people that she has signed many LOI (Letter of Intent) for MRANTI and the realization of those investments will start happening once the deals are finalized and investors start their plans. All this will will have a positive impact on MRANTI’s P&L (income statement) in the coming two years with Dzuleira estimating the investments could total over US$108 million (RM500 million).
“Some of the investments will remain private as some international investors will not want to divulge their investment commitments,” she said.
Her point though is that this shows that the foundation has been laid for innovation and technology activities within the MRANTI Park Masterplan that was launched in Oct 2022. The Plan is expected to deliver an estimated gross development value (GDV) of US$4.31 billion (RM20 billion) with land lease return value of US$600 million (RM2.8 billion). Five technology clusters are being developed, namely drone technology, agriculture, health, bioscience and 4IR enablers.
On whether she had any advice for the incoming CEO who will replace her, Dzuleira feels that with a strong functioning team already in place, the incoming CEO should come in and just work with the present team. “It would not make sense to come in and just change things for the sake of changing things up. I do not believe in that and the only reason I did that at TPM was that things had not worked out for the existing leadership team back then.”
Just focus on the growth trajectory, she adds. “The plans have been put in place. The Masterplan submitted to KL City Hall and awaiting approval. Just execute. In five years time, MRANTI Park will be a global innovation park. The foundation is strong for the next CEO.”
Meanwhile, with two and a half months of her tenure still to go, Dzuleira says she is still full pedal on the job with a few more deals to sign and seal.