Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].
Major pivot into a nascent space more than 7yrs ago has paid off
Find the balance between promise and hype of new technologies
JUST about anyone who has made an online transaction in Malaysia would have, whether they knew it or not, engaged with payment gateway provider iPay88.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Lim Kok Hing, iPay88 has a simple mission: To enable more businesses to be more innovative and efficient with their payment collections, by eliminating the manual work of payment collections, and thereby boosting local merchants’ operational efficiencies.
But how did Kok Hing, or K.H. as he’s better known, get into this game in the first place?
The year was 2006, and K.H. recalls how he was approached to find new ways for collecting online payments by some e-commerce players.
“At that time, I had already been running Mobile88.com, selling prepaid top-up cards and creating content for mobile phones via our website. We were asked by some companies to develop a payment gateway, which we duly did.
“The following year, we received further requests to do the same, and with some funding I received, we formed iPay88 as a separate business unit to focus on this burgeoning business,” he says.
The number ‘8’ is considered auspicious by the Chinese, sounding very much like the word for ‘fortune’ or ‘wealth,’ and in Cantonese, similar to the word for ‘luck’ or ‘fortune.’
It wasn’t easy pivoting the way he did, but K.H. saw the opportunity in a nascent space seven years ago, and decided to bet big and build a payment services business.
Today, the 49-year-old civil engineer-turned-entrepreneur claims that iPay88 serves more than 5,000 merchants, is cash flow positive, and that the business as a whole is a profitable one, thanks to careful financial planning.
iPay88 also employs over 180 staff and operates in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
K.H. says he doesn’t view US payment powerhouse PayPal as a direct competitor, since a merchant who signs up with PayPal can still opt to use iPay88 to accept payments from PayPal.
“We believe we have an advantage over PayPal, which is merely an e-wallet provider, while we’re are a full payment gateway provider and systems integrator. Think of us as a one-stop shop,” he says.
Competition aside, what K.H. believes is a real challenge for him as an entrepreneur is trying to find the balance between the power or promise, and the hype, of new technologies.
While conceding that new technology trends cannot be ignored, he firmly believes that one shouldn’t get over-excited over their potential but should instead closely observe them before making a final decision about adopting such trends.
“It is extremely difficult finding this balance,” he says. “A new technology can be disruptive in some markets and not in others, as it may be ahead of the market.
“As an entrepreneur, especially in the software-driven space, you can’t invest too early in certain trends as they may backfire and not work for you. If you act too late, you will be a laggard and miss the time-to-market advantage.”
But as difficult as it is to find this balance, one golden rule K.H. believes to be timeless is to ensure that you create good value for your customers.
“Customers will show loyalty to you as long as you meet their growing needs. As an entrepreneur, I would need to have the pulse of my customers by working with them closely and knowing what they want. This has been our recipe for success.”
His advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“When starting a business, always leverage technology and automation so that you’ll depend less on humans; human resource is a rising cost.
“Automation may cost more upfront but in the long term, a startup can gain a cost advantage over those which don’t.
“This way, your human resources can be focused on issues that really matter such as customer service, marketing and strategic decisions.”