Innoveam positioned to help corporate Malaysia tap the benefits of VR/AR
By Karamjit Singh August 29, 2022
- Adopters of 3D data solutions, be it VR/AR will be corporates undergoing transformation
- Believes that 5G impact will be 'absolutely fantastic' for development of 3D data solutions
Talk to Muhammad Zamir Rashid about Innoveam Sdn Bhd and he takes pains to drive home one key point. And it’s not about the fact that he has a Fortune 500 client in Malaysia, or one of Indonesia’s largest companies, or that a global oil and gas major are among the clients for his 3D data specialist company. Rather it is the fact that his is an engineering driven company that delivers 3D data solutions.
“Our unique selling point, our differentiator in the market is that we are an engineering focused company that happens to develop AR or VR applications for our clients.” What this means is that, whether the client is coming from the marine sector, oil & gas, power generation or manufacturing sector, “as engineers, we understand their domains and this allows us to create the necessary VR and AR applications which can fulfill their needs, solve their pain points, reduce their costs and improve efficiencies,” he says.
This market positioning dovetails with Zamir’s belief that the early adopters of 3D data solutions, be it through virtual reality (VR) format or augmented reality (AR) with multiplayer capability are going to be large corporate players undergoing their digital transformation.
When Zamir talks about multiplayer, it is not in the gaming sense but rather about when more than one person can join a virtual environment and collaborate.
[Ed note: The writer put on a Holo Lens during a recent visit to Innoveam’s office and experienced a medical application where, with his hands, was able to zoom, pinch, expand, turn and poke a digital replica of the human heart. And while both writer and Zamir were in the same room, proximity does not matter in the virtual world. They could have been on opposite poles. But, as long as they had connectivity and the right VR gear, they could be in the same space discussing the heart. “A super cool experience,” said Karamjit.]
To Zamir it is not about whether VR or AR is the right way to go for a business. “It is more about having the right digital transformation strategy, starting from data collection to data storage, to data analytics and data visualization, and then, designing the right human machine interface in a collaborative metaverse,” he says. This whole framework would be the right way and will be the only way, even, he boldly predicts by which companies can improve their operations.
While the hype around the metaverse as a platform business can use is starting to pick up, for Zamir, who built his first client multiplayer virtual environment in 2014, it is about positioning to serve clients when they are ready to act.
And having had a ring side seat to corporate Malaysia’s tepid receptiveness to AV/VR since 2014, Zamir acted in 2019. After years of trying to convince slow moving local companies to adopt VR/AR into their operations, he decided it was time to raise some capital and expand overseas. Make that, further expand overseas, because he was already in Indonesia.
In response to the downturn in the oil and gas market in 2015, he either had to let people go or make some other call. Wanting to repay the loyalty of his early employees when he launched Innoveam with four Multimedia University VR graduates, all Indonesians, Zamir decided to send them home to launch his Indonesian subsidiary in Jakarta.
This decision saw the engineering and technical team remaining in Malaysia while his content development team went back to Indonesia. “Since the creative team was based in Indonesia, we decided to focus on less technical solutions to offer to the market and ended up choosing tourism,” said Zamir. And today, he claims that PT Innoveam Indonesia has the largest market share for museum digitization in the country. They are also in some theme parks.
But Zamir wasn't happy with the company’s growth. “In 2018, I thought, we can’t be sustainable and needed a fresh injection of funds rather than keep relying on cash flow.”
Leveraging on their track record in Indonesia and Malaysia, with ambitions to expand to Singapore and Thailand, Zamir[AMN1] pitched to Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) and in late 2019 received a few million ringgit funding from the Business Startup Fund or BSF that MTDC has been running for over a decade.
The funding capped a sweet end to 2019 which proved to be Innoveam’s best year. Boosted by the funds early 2020 saw them lease new office space in a 5-star location with the lease activated on 1st March 2020. And then the world stopped for Zamir on March 18.
“A spanner in the works,” is Zamir’s mild description of the impact of that first Covid lockdown. The many shutdowns and global travel restrictions have been the biggest challenge of his life, he admits.
With the pandemic being a boon to so many tech businesses, it seemed strange that Zamir’s expertise in creating virtual worlds did not receive a lift too. But as he explains it, to create a virtual world is not cheap and not quick.
One needs to spend on the content, on hardware and, on the platform. But no one wanted to spend, not when you had low cost solutions like Meets, Teams, Zoom. “So it wasn't really boon period for us,” he says. Compounding this was the fact that the oil and gas industry which was one of Innoveam’s primary market was also badly affected, especially in 2020 and 2021.
“We were significantly affected over the past two years. It has been very tough,” Zamir admits. Worse, the funding received from MTDC, rather to grow the business, had to be used to minimize the hit their business took from the pandemic.
Fortunately for Zamir, with over two decades of helping tech entrepreneurs MTDC understood the predicament Innoveam was in and the two parties renegotiated, expectations, milestones and other targets. “And now I have much more breathing space,” says a grateful Zamir. “They understood my condition and have been very helpful in opening doors and opportunities.”
Looking ahead, Zamir is excited, pointing to how IoT, sensors, cloud computing, AI machine learning are becoming mature technologies in the corporate world and with the added impact of 5G to come.
Describing its impact as “absolutely fantastic,” Zamir says, “I can't wait for 5G implementation in Malaysia.” He is confident that Inoveam is in the right position to deliver virtual reality environments that allow business and people to collaborate together.
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