Web Bytes banks on new markets, tech for growth

  • To grow more than 20% in the next year, bolstered by entry into Bangkok, Jakarta
  • Machine learning, data analytics key differentiator from competition

 

Web Bytes banks on new markets, tech for growth

 

HOMEGROWN retail software player, Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, is poised to grow its annual recursive revenue by "more than 20%" and has plans to advance its market share in Bangkok and Jakarta, says its chief executive officer.

Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) at a media luncheon on Jan 19, Ooi Boon Sheng (pic, above) believes a number of factors are in favour of Web Bytes’ and will fuel its growth over the next couple of years.

“There are several factors for us to go specifically into Bangkok and Jakarta,” the co-founder of Web Bytes said. “Also there are several industry trends emerging that we believe will help us grow our top line (revenue).”

The Penang-based company was set up after Ooi and his four classmates participated in Microsoft's student technology competition, Imagine Cup. The company went on to design software for retail point-of-sale (POS) systems in 2007.

Its products are marketed under the brand name Xilnex and the company has since developed a cloud-based POS, which it claims meets the needs of any business through a software-as-a-service (delivered over the Internet) model. Xilnex also integrates sales tracking, customer relationship management, accounting, e-commerce and stock tracking into its functionality.

In 2013, Web Bytes received venture funding from Teak Capital Sdn Bhd, which took a 30% stake in the company. Three years later, logistics and courier player GD Express Carrier Bhd (GDex) bought out the 30% Teak Capital owned for RM5.5 million.

Ooi said for starters, the size of the population and geography of Bangkok and Jakarta makes the market very scalable and lucrative to enter. For example, he said that a large optical shop chain in Malaysia may have about 200 stores but it could be three or four times that in Bangkok and Jakarta.

Besides the scalability factor, Ooi said booming trends such as e-commerce and e-wallets both on the merchant and consumer sides will help the retail business grow further. Due to this, retailers are also more open to upgrading their POS systems to facilitate these new technologies, and this represents an opportunity for the company, Ooi argued.

“We’ve been profitable for the past five years and we believe we have a market lead in Cambodia, where we have been operating for a few years already,” he claimed. We will continue to strengthen our Cambodian business, and our entry into Bangkok and Jakarta is where our next wave of growth will come from.”

Technology differentiators

Asked how Web Bytes plans to compete in a crowded field of POS systems, Ooi remained bullish, citing that innovation will be a key factor in this battle.

Ooi noted that new technology such as machine learning, retail personalisation and recommendation, as well as the advanced use of sales and transaction data are what will differentiate Web Bytes from the rest of the field.

“Retail businesses are looking beyond transacting sales,” he argued. “They are looking at features such as fraud control, processes to manage chain stores by improving efficiency and increasing sales, as well as connecting to other complementary services like food delivery and personalised recommendation engines.”

Ooi said Web Bytes has begun investing in machine learning and advanced data analytics to bring these features to market. Quizzed for an example of this, Ooi said that Web Bytes has helped one company comb through its database to identify who its dormant customers are in order to help retarget them with sales promotions.

“It’s more expensive to acquire new customers so in this case, we use machine learning and data analytics to identify one client’s past customers, study what they have bought and offer a discount on products, which are personalised to these clients’ preferences.

“Another idea we’re looking at is to offer a clothing retailer a way to track which item a customer chooses to try in the changing room in order to study the behaviour of what he or she will likely buy,” he explained. “By doing so the retailer will be able to personalise future offerings to these customers because it will know their preferences.”

 

The Web Bytes team

Synergies gained

Quizzed on the synergies between Web Bytes and GDex, Ooi said the partnership between the two companies is beginning to bear fruit in a number of areas.

Ooi explained that in the countries GDex operates, such as Indonesia, Web Bytes is able to capitalise on physical office space as well as shared services such as human resources, accounting and payroll. Additionally, Ooi said GDex has been able to open doors to its own clients by bringing Web Bytes to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, GDex chief investment officer Jerry Lee, said that GDex has benefited from Web Bytes’ software expertise.

“For example, we’ve worked with Web Bytes to create MyGDex, a software platform that provides door-to-door shipping services to our customers,” he said. “We are also working with them to begin replacing all current handheld delivery computers used by our logistics delivery personnel with apps powered by smartphones, which will make us more efficient compared to older technology.”

Lee added that GDex’s investments in Web Bytes is a timely one, as he acknowledged that competition is escalating in the logistics space, with competitors such as Ninja Van coming to the fore using technology as a leverage.

Asked if GDex was looking at Web Bytes to contribute to its bottom line, Lee said, “We’re not looking for that. Our synergy will be focused on what Web Bytes as a technology partner can do for us for now.”

 
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