This post was originally published on Aug. 24, 2021, and was updated on Mar. 16, 2023.
Are you looking for online business ideas to start in Malaysia? With the internet revolution continuing to transform the business landscape, starting an online business has never been more exciting! Partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online businesses of all kinds are flourishing these days.
Starting an online business is attractive for other reasons besides increased demand. The good thing is that online business startup costs are generally much lower than when opening a physical location. For many ideas, you can even launch them from home. These factors make turning a business idea into reality far less risky.
Online businesses offer lower startup costs and therefore less risk than brick-and-mortar businesses.
However, with a variety of options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which one to focus on. Also, if you want a business with a good chance of success, you need to look out for high-demand ideas. These are opportunities with plenty of room for growth and the potential to generate lots of revenue.
To make your work easier, we have compiled 10 promising online business ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs in Malaysia. These all have the potential to become profitable and successful businesses in 2023. We will also provide answers to some commonly asked questions like how to register an online business in Malaysia and which online platform is best for selling.
So, let’s get started!
How to start an online business in Malaysia?
Starting an online business in Malaysia can be a rewarding and exciting endeavor. This is especially true in today's digital age where there are countless opportunities to sell your products or services across Malaysia. You can even reach a global customer base if you choose the right e-commerce platform and market your business correctly.
There are several steps involved in starting an online business, but the basic process generally follows this path:
Identify a need or desire within a target market
The first step in starting any business is identifying who your target customers are and what they want or need. Consider your unique skills and experiences, as well as the current market demand for certain products or services.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs take a product idea-first approach when thinking of business ideas. But this may not be the most effective way to start a successful business. Instead, it’s often better to first identify a need or desire within a target market and then come up with ideas that will meet those needs. This way, you are more likely to find customers who are actively looking for your product or service.
Conduct market research
Once you have identified a need or desire in your target market, it's time to do some research. Market research involves gathering data on your target audience and the competitive landscape. This can include looking at industry trends, surveying potential customers, and analyzing your competitors' online presence. This will help you better understand your competition and identify any potential challenges or opportunities.
To evaluate how your business will stand out from others, conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). This is also a good time to consider the cost of producing your product (or providing your service), pricing strategies, and what promotional tactics might work best.
Create a business plan
A business plan is a blueprint for your business startup, outlining all the details from financing, marketing, and operations. Think of it as a roadmap that will help you reach your goals. Creating a well-structured business plan will help you stay on track with running and growing your business. It will also provide evidence to potential investors or lenders that your business is viable.
While a business plan is not a requirement for starting an online business in Malaysia, it can be invaluable when seeking support or financing.
Choose a business structure
You will also need to decide on the legal structure of your business. In Malaysia, there are several different types of business structures you can choose from whether you are a local entrepreneur or a foreigner. Local entrepreneurs can register as a Sole Proprietor, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), General Partnership, or Company. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are typically registered as a private limited company or Sendirian Berhad (Sdn Bhd). Berhad or Bhd companies are for large companies in Malaysia.
For foreigners, two common business entities are a Locally Incorporated Company and a Foreign-Owned Company. Foreigners with permanent residency (PR) can also set up a sole proprietorship or partnership. Three more options for foreign entrepreneurs include a Private Limited Company, a Labuan Company, and a Representative Office.
Each business structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as legal and tax requirements. It's best to consult a professional business advisor or lawyer to help you determine which structure is best for your business.
Obtain any necessary licenses and permits
Depending on the type of business you are starting, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits in order to operate legally in Malaysia. This could include a food license if you are selling food products, or a construction permit if you are offering home repair services. Licenses and permits will vary depending on your municipality.
It is important to note that certain businesses require special approval from the relevant authorities before they can be registered. This includes entities involved in finance, medical and healthcare, gaming, education, food-related services, and more. This is why it's important to consult a professional business advisor or lawyer before you start the registration process.
Once you have obtained all the necessary licenses and permits, you'll be able to move on to the next steps of setting up your online business.
Set up an online presence
In today's digital world, having an online presence is essential for any business, not just online businesses. However, since you will be launching an online business, it's especially important to have a good website, social media presence, and other digital channels.
Start by securing your .MY domain name with the Malaysian Domain Name Registry (MYNIC). According to Malaysia.gov.my, you'll need to get your .MY or .COM.MY domain through one of the official MYNIC registrar partners. Here are the official guidelines for choosing the right category for your Malaysian domain.
Next, it's time to connect that domain to web hosting and start setting up a professional-looking website. Your website should reflect your brand and provide necessary information about your products or services. If you're setting up an eCommerce store, you'll need to build out your store and connect a payment gateway to accept payment by credit card.
You should also start creating profiles on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help you reach more potential customers. You'll also want to create your Google Business Profile to get found in search and in Google Maps.
Once your website and social media channels are set up, you can begin promoting your business. Consider which mix of digital marketing strategies is right for your business, such as SEO, content marketing, email marketing, or paid advertising. This will help drive more traffic to your website and ultimately turn visitors into customers.
With these steps all taken care of, you'll be well on your way to launching your online business in Malaysia.
We've discussed the basics of setting up an online business in Malaysia. Now, let's get to our list of 10 of the best high-demand online business ideas to start in Malaysia in 2023!
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#1 - Online business in Malaysia: Freelancing
Starting off our list is one of the most common ways to start earning money online. You can do so by offering your services as a freelancer. Do you have experience in customer support, graphic design, or any other service you can deliver to clients online? If so, freelancing is a great way to turn that skill into a money-making online business. To get started, register with one or more freelancing platforms, such as Upwork, Fiverr, or 99designs.
99designs is one of many platforms freelancers can use to connect with clients online.
To take your professionalism up a notch, legitimize your business by registering with the Malaysian authorities. Then get to work marketing your business online. In order to do that, you should create a professional website and fill out your social media channels to let potential clients know you are the real deal. For step-by-step instructions on how to register your business in Malaysia, head over to this article.
More ideas for creating a freelancing online business in Malaysia:
- Digital marketing
- Content writing
- Data entry
- Web development
In terms of registering your freelancing business, the government of Malaysia makes it pretty easy. Head here to understand the basics of getting set up.
Related: How to start a business in Malaysia
#2 - Launch an e-commerce business as an online business
When it comes to selling products online, there’s really never been a better time. Over the last several years, online shopping has seen a continual rise in popularity. That’s not to say we won’t have brick-and-mortar retail stores in Malaysia anymore! But, online shoppers love the convenience only an online store can provide. It’s a trend we don’t see ending anytime soon. Therefore, there is no better time to start an online business in Malaysia to sell goods.
Starting your ecommerce business can take different forms. You can choose to sell physical products on a big platform like Shopee. This approach usually requires buying bulk products and competing with other sellers to offer the best price and shipping. For a guide on how to get started selling on Shopee, here’s a helpful article by Entrepreneur Campfire.
Alternatively, creating your own ecommerce store might be the best online business option for you. If you create your own physical or digital products, you can promote your website through social media, advertising, and word of mouth. Of course, you’ll need to build a fully functional online store first. For an inspiring look at a Malaysian business selling its products online, check out Cha Cha Kombucha.
Keep in mind that you don't need to have physical products. Digital products are a hot market these days. They are often information-based, so choosing to sell ebooks or online courses could be a profitable way to enter the online business world.
Other ideas for digital products include graphic design templates, WordPress templates, stock photography, or video footage. If you're wondering, "What can I sell online in Malaysia...?" Go look at what people are already buying. Then consider if there are any gaps in the market that you can fill with your product.
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#3 - Provide tuition online
This option may not be as glamorous as some of the other online business opportunities listed. But it’s still a viable choice for an online business in Malaysia. Tuition providers have been around for ages, but pandemic restrictions and changing consumer habits have made online tuition a necessity. If you enjoy helping others understand topics like English or maths, consider this online business option.
Launching an online business providing tuition will require setting up a professional online presence. This is so any potential clients can find you, understand what services you provide, and how to register for your tuition sessions.
Once you have your online presence set up, it’s time to find clients for your online business. This can start through word of mouth. But for more clients, market your tuition business both online and offline. Consider posting flyers near your local school or anywhere parents of school children may see them.
#4 - Become an influencer
Before you shrug this category of online business opportunities as a fad or unrealistic, understand that much of marketing has shifted to the online world. What once may have just seemed like a trend for attention-loving fashionistas has become a way to start legit businesses.
How do you become an influencer? It’s all about growing a following. Once you establish that audience, you can get paid to promote products that you believe in. According to the affiliate platform Involve Asia:
Becoming an influencer is a great option for an online business in Malaysia. You can build an audience through one or more social channels like Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, or your own blog. The key to building a viable online business as an influencer is to provide content that your audience enjoys. Continually offer inspiration, value, or entertainment that keeps people coming back for more. Then monetize your audience by promoting physical or digital products. Do that and you'll have one of the most legit businesses out there!
There are no rules as to what your channel should be about. You should always stay up to date with the latest ideas in the influencer world. But here are a handful of tried and true influencer niches:
#5 - Develop a niche product
Another great way to make money with an online business in Malaysia is to develop a niche product. The important thing here is to come up with something unique that people will be willing to pay for. It could be anything, from handmade jewelry, to herbal supplements, to a jar of specialty sambal.
If you have the skills, consider selling digital products like ebooks or downloadable artwork. You can also create branded merchandise by working with a manufacturer to produce items like t-shirts, mugs, and bags with your logo.
No matter what product you choose to sell, make sure it’s something that appeals to your target market and is of good quality. Once you’ve created your product, use social media and other digital marketing tactics to promote it. You can sell your products through marketplaces like Shopee or Lazada, or better yet, set up your own online store.
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#6- Become an affiliate marketer
Another great way to make money with an online business in Malaysia is by becoming an affiliate marketer. As an affiliate, you’ll promote other businesses’ products or services and earn a commission for each sale that you drive. There are a few different types of affiliates including influencers (as we mentioned), bloggers, and content creators.
To become an affiliate marketer, first you need to find a product or service that you’re passionate about and then sign up for their affiliate program. It’s important to research the company and make sure it has a good reputation. Then start promoting the products on your website, blog, social media channels, or wherever you have an audience.
Once you’ve established yourself as an affiliate, you can start making money from each sale that you drive. Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn passive income and it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort. All you need to do is find the right product and promote it effectively.
#7 - Start a cybersecurity business
If you’re tech-savvy and want to start an online business in Malaysia, consider starting a cybersecurity business. Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important as more people are shopping, browsing, and working online. Businesses need reliable solutions to protect their data from hackers and other cyber threats.
As a cybersecurity expert, you can offer services like penetration testing, security auditing, and data protection. You can also develop and sell cybersecurity products such as anti-virus software or firewalls.
To get started, you’ll need to gain some knowledge in the field by reading up on the latest trends and techniques. Once you have the necessary skills, you can start offering your services or products to businesses. You can use digital marketing tactics like SEO and social media to promote your business online and reach new customers.
With a cybersecurity business, you can make money while helping companies protect their data from cyber threats. It’s a great way to combine your tech skills with a lucrative online business.
#8 - Become an app developer
If you’re looking for another way to make money with an online business in Malaysia, consider becoming an app developer. The mobile app industry is booming and there are plenty of opportunities for developers to cash in. You can create apps for businesses, entrepreneurs, or even individuals just looking to have some fun.
To get started, you’ll need to learn the basics of programming and develop your skills in either Android or iOS app development. You can also find a software development agency to work with if you don’t want to go it alone. Once you’ve developed your app, you can upload it to the Google Play Store or Apple App store and start making money from it.
App development is a great way to make money online and it can be extremely rewarding. You’ll get to unleash your creativity while also learning valuable programming skills. It’s definitely worth considering if you have the skills and drive to make it happen.
#9 - Online real estate business
Another great opportunity for starting an online business in Malaysia is to become an online real estate broker. Real estate has always been a lucrative industry and it’s becoming even more so with the growing popularity of online platforms. As an online real estate broker, you can help buyers and sellers connect and facilitate transactions between them.
To get started, you’ll need to get your real estate license and learn the fundamentals of the industry. You can then start advertising yourself online and reach out to potential clients. Once you have a few deals under your belt, you can start to build up a solid reputation in the industry.
Online real estate is a great way to make money and it can be especially profitable if you have a large network to attract clients from. But for anyone willing to put in the time and effort, it can be an incredibly rewarding business to get into.
#10 - Professional services business
Finally, if you want to start an online business in Malaysia that’s more professional in nature, consider offering professional services. There are plenty of people looking for help with tasks like accounting, digital marketing, web design, and other administrative duties. You can offer your services on a freelance basis or even set up a full-fledged agency.
To get started, you’ll need to gain expertise and depending on the service, you may need additional qualifications, certifications, or a license. Once you meet these requirements, you can use digital marketing tactics to promote your services and start building up a client base. You can also network with other professionals in the field to get referrals and build a strong reputation.
Offering professional services is a great way to build a long-term business and it can be an incredibly rewarding career path. You’ll get to use your skills to help others and make a great income in the process.
Do I need a license to sell online in Malaysia?
Yes, you need a license to sell online in Malaysia. All businesses that provide products and services for sale must obtain a business license from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia - SSM).
Depending on the type of business and products you are selling, there may be other government agencies that you'll need to get a license from. For example, if you are selling food items, you'll need to obtain a Food Handler's License from the Ministry of Health. If you are importing or exporting products, there are other permits required for that as well.
In addition to the licenses required by the government, you may also need to get a license from your local municipality or city council. This will depend on where you plan to operate your business from and the types of products you are selling.
How to register an online business in Malaysia?
To register an online business in Malaysia, you will need to obtain a business license from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) like we said. The application process involves providing necessary business documents such as company registration forms, proof of address, and paying the required fees. Once approved, you can then proceed with setting up your business, obtaining any necessary licenses, and registering your company with the Inland Revenue Board. Registering and filing annual taxes with the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia (Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri - LHDN) is required for all businesses.
Finally, you will need to set up a business bank account and register for a GST (tax) number to enable you to collect taxes on sales made in Malaysia.
Once all the necessary documents and business registrations have been completed, you can start building your online business in Malaysia. It is important to keep in mind that all businesses in Malaysia must comply with local laws and regulations. Be sure to seek professional advice if you are unsure of any legal requirements.
Which online platform is best for selling in Malaysia?
There are many online platforms that you can use to sell in Malaysia, including Shopee, Lazada, Mudah, Lelong, Zalora, Carousell, and more. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to research each one and choose the right option for your business.
Shopee is currently the most popular e-commerce marketplace in Malaysia and all of Southeast Asia. It offers a wide range of products from apparel and electronics to home decor and beauty. The app is user-friendly and keeps customers engaged with its consistent supply of promotional offers and discounts.
However, one major drawback of selling on marketplaces is the high amount of competition and generally low prices. This means business owners may need to pay to advertise their listings in order to get noticed. With these conditions, you shouldn't expect a high-profit margin. This is also because shoppers on these e-commerce platforms tend to choose the products with the lowest prices. Also consider the fees you'll have to pay to sell on the platform.
To avoid dealing with excessive competition and a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, consider launching your own eCommerce store. This will allow you to have complete control over every aspect of your store and price your items as you see fit. You'll also be able to build relationships with your customers through social media and email marketing. This will help turn first-time buyers into repeat customers.
What can I sell online to make money fast?
If you're looking to get started selling online and need some ideas to make a quick buck, consider selling items you no longer need. We all have old phones, electronics, clothes, furniture, and other items lying around that we don't use anymore. Why not list them on an online marketplace and make some money?
Another great way to make money fast is to use dropshipping. Dropshipping is a business model where you sell products without having to stock or ship them. You simply partner with a dropshipping supplier who will send the products directly to your customers. This means you don't have to worry about inventory or shipping costs, which can be great for new entrepreneurs.
Finally, consider offering digital services such as web design, online tutoring, SEO consulting, and more. Many of these services can be offered online, so you don't even have to leave your house. Plus, you'll be able to set your own prices and work as much or as little as you want.
No matter what type of products or services you decide to sell online, the key is to find something that resonates with your customers and provides them with value. With the right approach, you can make money quickly and start building a successful online business.
Get started with your online business in Malaysia
As you can see, there are many ways to start a high-demand online in Malaysia. With the right products or services and the right strategies, you can create a profitable online business that customers will quickly fall in love with.
Hopefully, this article provided you with the inspiration to get started building your own online business! Now all you have to do is take that next step!
Editor’s note: Ready to take the next step with your online business? Secure your domain now!