Raymond Davadass’ journey in GBS has been underwritten by technology

  • Saw opportunity to deliver better Customer Lifecycle Management via tech
  • Always believed when you do what you need, in right way, money will come

Raymond Davadass: My advice to budding entrepreneurs: Go with your gut, back it up by as much information as possible, and always be honest about what you stand for.”

In the 2000s, one of the most sought-after jobs for young graduates was in call centres. Malaysia – KL, in particular – had become a regional hub for customer support services, taking advantage of our relatively high English proficiency, technological advancements and corporate infrastructure.

Like all things tech, call centres have evolved significantly over the past few decades, transitioning from traditional phone-based support to sophisticated, technology-driven contact centres.

This industry now goes by business process outsourcing (BPO), its growth in Malaysia driven by the same factors that drove call centres almost two decades ago: the country’s strategic investments in digital infrastructure and a highly skilled, multi-lingual talent pool, beyond just English. The government's supportive policies and initiatives have also played a crucial role in this transformation.

Tech entrepreneur Raymond Davadass has held a front row seat to the evolution of this industry over the last two plus decades. He is the founder of Daythree Digital Bhd, a company involved in the global business services (GBS) and customer lifecycle management (CX Management).

Under his leadership, Daythree has gradually expanded its services, harnessing the power of AI in its offerings to deliver streamline operations and improved efficiency to customers.

Daythree went public last year, fast-forwarding its already rapid growth. Davadass, whose impressive salt and pepper beard has become a signature look, is managing director.

Like many young people of his generation in the 90s, Davadass was primed to study law but took a detour when a three-month accounting trial course he took proved more interesting. On entering the workforce, the Rawang native spent his formative years in PwC, and left in 1997 to spend eight years working in Malaysia’s then-nascent tech scene.

Explaining the shift to tech, he says, “That close affinity to tech has always been there, something I’ve always been fascinated with,” crediting his late father for encouraging him to take extra-curricular classes as a 15-year-old in BASIC programming, dBASE II and Lotus 123.

After working for others, Davadass, equipped with tech industry experience, accounting skills and a master’s degree in business administration, was ready to take the plunge.

“Between 2006 and mid 2009, I provided business consulting services. But that first attempt as an entrepreneur failed, I suppose – but it certainly came with lots of learning. Some of the projects I was working on included fundraising and how to monetise technology,” he said.

In June 2009 he joined Kannal Solutions Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of Kannaltec Bhd, then listed on the ACE Market), a company involved in the provision of telemarketing contact centre services, as its CEO.

The corporate journey went on for seven years until Davadass was then presented with the option of taking over Kannal Solutions' business in 2016 (not the company), which he grabbed, and marked his second act as an entrepreneur.

He then launched Daythree Sdn Bhd and transformed the business from telemarketing, which was a commodity, low margin segment of the BPO space to focus on the higher margin Customer Lifecyle Management and Digital Technologies segment.

The new focus paid off. “I started Daythree in April 2016 with a small team, and now here we are with almost 2,000 staff (500 permanent and 1,400 contract who enjoy full staff benefits as well) and got listed on Bursa Malaysia in July 2023.” It recently reported Q1 24 revenue of US$5.03 million (RM23.7 million) with US$500,000 (RM2.38 million) in profit before tax. There is no coresponding period comparison as Daythree was listed less than a year ago.

 

Ambition to being a leader in Digital CX

Daythree’s success is a reflection of the growth of the BPO sector which has come a long way from its call centre roots – many of us will remember dialling 755 2525 for pizza – and has gone through many iterations to now emerge as Global Business Services (GBS). From customers interacting with service providers only via phone, the world today allows for multiple ways to reach the customer. And vice versa, and with AI agents on the horizon! But the challenge for companies like Daythree isn’t just to consolidate all the data relating to a given transaction, but also telling a story with that information in real time.

“Before the GBS term, contact centres were part of business process outsourcing. But if the focus of BPO was cost – which is why call centres were so popular in India and the Philippines at one point – now there is a shift in focus to value. It is not just people behind a desk, but better access to quality technology. It also means managing the entire service interaction, supported by technology. And a lot of it!” Davadass says.

With its ambitions of being a Digital CX Leader with the (somewhat mouthful) tagline, “Customer Experience Lifecycle Management is our Forte.  Delivering Insights & Innovation is our Differentiator.” Daythree’s service to the market is delivered through three digital tools, all developed in-house.

  • Faith is a platform designed to improve employee engagement by providing tools for streamlining scheduling, automating payroll processes, facilitating communication, and enhancing performance feedback.
  • Daisy is a customer relationship management which is embedded with robotic process automation (RPA).
  • Saige, which serves as the group’s business intelligence tool, gathers real-time data from every customer interaction and captures it within a unified analytics platform. This allows for analysis, interpretation, and recommendations for improvement based on the collected data.

While it would have been easy enough to acquire off-the-shelf solutions to speed its time to market, Davadass opted to build his own solutions. “Because we manage customer front-end processes for a living, we very often are the first see the gaps in the processes that cause consumer frustration.  Very often we see agents not empowered with the right digital tools to obtain the data and information they require to make swift decisions. This led to us seeing the opportunity to develop the capabilities within Daythree, and deliver an improved CX to the market,” explains Davadass.

“We are on a relentless pursuit to insert technology in every part of the business,” he adds. “I need to be able to do more with less, and that is Daythree’s edge. Malaysia’s other advantage is that we have people who can speak 53 different languages and dialects. At Daythree alone, its 15 languages. This is something India and the Philippines cannot compete with. Although, these days, less people call in and the focus is more on doing things via chat. The advantage of this is that one agent can manage four conversations at once, which is a more efficient use of my resources.”

It is not just Daythree that is capitalising on Malaysia’s strengths as a BPO hub. A good example of global tech organisations that have leveraged these capabilities are ByteDance which operates TikTok and AliBaba. Both started their operations with small teams and have expanded rapidly over the years, in the case of ByteDance, to over 4,000 within the past four years.

 

AI or not, human touch will always be needed

Davadass is both practical and very positive about the future, and is the last person to be concerned that robots will one day take over the world, as the joke goes. “A huge challenge now is generative AI, in the sense that people are concerned about how it will change things,” he says thoughtfully. “I’m a fervent believer that more transactional work will be taken over by tech, so if you don’t upskill now you will be left behind. In our industry, we still need that human touch, and I believe we always will. There are certain circumstances where AI can do the job, but in others, the client needs empathy from a real person. Finding that balance is the challenge right now, and you need a human.”

Going from founding a tech company in 2016 and getting it listed in 2023 is an impressive feat, but success didn’t necessarily come easy for Davadass. “I bootstrapped the business,” he laughs.

No banks wanted to fund him, and it was not easy in those early years. But he was able to get help from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). "Through GAIN and many of their other programs, their support has been instrumental in guiding us in our growth journey," he acknowledges. "They have help us to gain brand visibility in the marketplace we operate, both regionally and globally, by exposing us at different platforms and forums including business missions.This has helped us open new markets and find new partners. They have also provided guidance and assistance in helping us develop our proprietary digital tools."

As the pandemic hit in 2020, Davadass realised that he had hit a glass ceiling. "The realisation hit in those early tough days of the pandemic that Daythree couldn’t be an entrepreneur-driven company anymore. In order to grow I needed funds and adopt a more professional approach. Hence our IPO journey started in 2020 itself, and we got listed in July 2023,” he said.

Relinquishing control of the company born from an idea you’ve had for many years isn’t easy, but in failing as an entrepreneur once before, Davadass, who owns 38% of Daythree, was able to approach the entire process with a more open mindset: the benefits were very clear and fit into his plan for Daythree’s growth. “I lost a very big deal before the IPO because we weren’t ‘big’ enough even though we were technically more than qualified. I had to go through with the IPO because I recognised that this company was more than just about me. It’s not been too long (10 months since listing), but the difference is very clear – the pipelines I am able to build, and with so many new doors opening. Why fight for control over a small pie when you can be a part of a much bigger pie?”

With the experience he has acquired, and looking back, would he have done anything differently? Davadass smiles. “I don’t know. There are no decisions I regret. Everything happened in its own time. If I’d done the IPO 10 years ago, I would be a different person today, for example. I think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur, the one who’s always taken the road less travelled – even though as an accountant you’re trained not to do that,” he quips.

His lessons as an entrepreneur apply both in business and life. “The cornerstone of doing business for me has always been integrity – I’ve never been the type to chase profits. I’ve always believed that when do you what you need to, in the right way, the money will come. Being honest has always paid off, and putting that front and centre means money will come. I also believe humility is critical.”

The three words used a lot in the company are ‘Alive’, ‘Blessed and ‘Grateful’.

Davadass looks outside his large office windows, and smiles. “My advice to budding entrepreneurs is this: Go with your gut, back it up by as much information as possible, and always be honest about what you stand for.”

 

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