Finnish health sector on Malaysia and Singapore tour

‘Is it time to reorganise South-East Asia’s health care system according to Finnish expertise – why not?’

Led by Päivi Sillanaukee, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Team Finland arranged a FinlandCare delegation trip to Malaysia (for the very first time) and Singapore, introducing Finnish health know-how.


The programme during the visit on 27 February – 1 March 2016 consisted of meetings with the Health ministries in both countries as well as other official meetings with high-level decision makers. Additional tailor-made sectorial meetings also took place.

The focus of the trip was on senior care solutions and active ageing more broadly, preventive health care, occupational health care, health technology solutions and health sector training.

Main sectors of interest were: Home care, elderly care and rehabilitation; Active ageing and health promotion; Prevention and early diagnosis of diseases (for example cancer screening); Occupational healthcare processes; eHealth solutions and technologies for the sectors above; and Further education in healthcare.

The aim with the delegation was to get more business for Finnish companies in the healthcare sector.

“The goal of the visit is to open new doors and to promote Finnish business in the area. We also want to strengthen existing customer relationships and contacts,” said Meria Heikelä, Director of the FinlandCare program.

In Finland, they have gradually understood that it is not just a good product that sells; it is also a matter of knowing how to present it.

As a qualified medical doctor with diverse experience and training in the health sector and in management, Päivi Sillanaukee has a strong grasp of the substance of the delegation.

“Now we are looking for good strategies and tactics for how we can support each other to do business,” she emphasized, prior to the trip.


Southeast Asia is currently the world’s fastest growing market, with a health sector that has been identified as having great business potential. This was also proven during the Kuala Lumpur visit, where a company in the delegation from Kokkola in Finland conducted follow-up deals with Puntai Hospital, according to Maria Arruda, FinlandCare.

Seven internationalizing Finnish companies participated in the delegation to Malaysia. Currently 50 Finnish companies are operating in Malaysia – and there is still space for more.

Malaysia is a prospering and prosperous country, and politically very stable, according to Matti Pullinen, Finland’s ambassador in Malaysia.

“There has been promising development in the health sector and it is clear that investments in the sector will continue. There should definitely be space for Finnish know-how in Malaysia,” Pullinen told the delegation.

In relation to doing business in Malaysia corruption is often discussed in the international press. According to Finland’s Ambassador Matti Pullinen, there is some corruption but mainly at a very high level and in normal business dealings companies rarely have to deal with it.

From a visit to the Pantai hospital chain’s hospital in Kuala Lumpur the companies in the delegation gained valuable knowledge about the hospital’s purchasing process and about the vast differences between public and private hospitals in the country, according to Meria Heikelä.


Cooperation between the ministries and personal contacts are important for export promotion in South-East Asia. Päivi Sillanaukee, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, has worked tirelessly for the delegation, and her readiness to throw herself into different situations has been admirable. If she hasn’t been wearing a neck muscle strength rehabilitation helmet tested by Formula 1 drivers, then she has been testing Finnish products designed for the rehabilitating senior citizens, writes Maria Arruda.

“Finnish health know-how is valued around the world due to our high-level research, comprehensive registers and biobanks, among other things. Finland is ahead of other countries in terms of ageing and we have innovative solutions for different challenges that have so far not been addressed elsewhere,” said Sillanaukee.

“In hot and humid countries the big hospital chains could benefit especially from the air purification technology offered by Genano, Medanta’s anti-bacterial clothes and, for example, the training for nurses provided by Metropolia,” she said.

Rehab of seniors in Southeast Asia
In Malaysia there is a readiness to invest in good care for the elderly. The delegation included several companies with services for senior care and rehabilitation. One of these is HUR which offers exercise equipment and training concepts for seniors.

“Immediately after the first meeting we agreed on an important follow-up meeting. If we reach a deal with Iskander, this would be a great reference for us concerning the rehabilitation of seniors. We have exactly the right solutions for training seniors so that they can live independently and energetically as long as possible,” said HUR’s CEO Lena Karjaluoto.


HUR is currently internationalizing strongly. Its main export countries are Japan, United States, Singapore and China. HUR has six subsidiaries and active resellers in 30 countries. In Malaysia, Karjaluoto had a positive “problem” to deal with – whether to follow the delegation program or to go and negotiate about a major deal.

After the Malaysia trip we can understand better how to use funding solutions to support the growing, internationalizing and competitive companies that are at the core of Finnvera’s strategy, says Laura Strandberg in Kuala Lumpur.

Funding for internationalization
FinlandCare and Finnvera work closely together for the internationalization of Finnish companies. Laura Strandberg, Finnvera’s Finance Manager, believes in the business opportunities offered by Southeast Asia.

“Growth and investing in internationalization cost money. Few companies have the opportunity or can afford to fund their internationalization from cash funds. A growth leap often requires external funding and this is where Finnvera has a role to play,” said Strandberg in Malaysia.

“We fund company investments; working capital needs and export deals together with the banks. The bank market is now tighter and they need someone to share the risk. There are signs of a brighter future but investments are still being made very carefully. We constitute a growth partner for companies, similar to FinlandCare.”

Strandberg emphasized funding, as part of building the company’s growth plan is important from the beginning. The worst case is when a company is “afraid” of clinching a deal because it does not have the possibility to deliver. Funding should be seen as a resource in the same way as people.

“In Team Finland, the cooperation takes place most productively in the practical work. That’s why we are here in Malaysia. There are few markets where it is possible to reach more than 5 per cent growth like here, and Malaysia also features in the plans of many of our client companies. Health services are one of the areas with the most potential. Delegations in one focus sector also serve the international growth of other sectors and companies.”

As for Singapore, Finland’s Ambassador commented: “Perseverance and time to invest in personal relationships are required in Singapore,” according to ambassador Paula Parviainen.

“Senior care and health technology are Team Finland’s priorities in the area. This will open up opportunities. In Singapore there is a commitment to active ageing and the productivity of care. A record number of hospitals and care homes are being built.”


The delegation included the following companies: Commit, Genano, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences / Metropolia Creative Opportunities (MCreO), HUR, MariCare, Medanta, Ruissalo Foundation and Saga Palvelut. Participants also include representatives from Finpro, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnvera, Aalto University and Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Sources: Maria Arruda, FinlandCare, Finpro, Malaysian-Finnish Business Council

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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