Fusing technology and business into a RM700mil company
By Karamjit Singh October 30, 2013
- Ivan Teh has quietly built Fusionex into arguably Malaysia’s top big data company
- Investing RM50mil into R&D over three years to strengthen suite of solutions
WHILE the consumer tech companies get all the headlines and the buzz, the real money lies in serving the needs of corporate customers.
The big three trends in the world of tech today – mobile, cloud and big data – are creating a turbulence that is buffeting most companies as they grapple with the need to make sense of their data.
The business and marketing people are screaming at the tech people to make sense of the data for them, to turn that data into actionable information.
The trouble is, many tech departments are clueless themselves on how to do this. Ivan Teh is well aware of this situation. In solving this customer pain point, he has built his 400-strong software company Fusionex International Plc, within seven years, to a listed company on London’s AIM (Alternative Investment Market) with a current market capitalisation of RM707 million (US$225.3 million).
His company has only been listed since mid-December 2012. It looks like he will reach the RM1-billion market cap a lot earlier than the nine years it took JobStreet.com.
Not bad for a someone, who as a kid barely 10 years old, was put to work by his father selling bed-sheets in a textile store during school holidays.
“He wanted me to understand how the world worked. It was very inspiring and gave me an early insight into entrepreneurship because you learn about what customers want,” says Teh, recalling those early days.
“For instance, not everyone wants to buy the cheapest. Some will seek quality and are willing to pay for that,” he tells Digital News Asia (DNA).
His father would be nearby though, keeping an eye on the young boy as the latter slowly learned about the world of commerce.
That young bed-sheet salesboy grew into a computer science graduate who worked with Intel and Hewlett-Packard in the United States, picking up deep technical skills. He then moved on to Accenture in Malaysia, where he learnt to transfer his technical acumen into coming up with business solutions that solve customer needs.
It was during this time that the seeds for Fusionex were formed. “I think there is a huge gap between technology and people, and I wanted to bridge that gap, to sort of humanise things and provide them with an excellent experience – hence Fusionex,” says Teh (pic).
To him, it means fusing business and technology with the intention of delivering a great experience to the customer. Today, Teh describes Fusionex as being a business intelligence and analytics firm that has been focused on the broader big data market needs since three years ago.
In a market where buyers are confused over the options they have, coupled with the lack of skills set, Fusionex’s ability to offer big data solutions in a quick, easy to use, wizard-driven method is just what the doctor ordered for confused clients.
“We offer them solutions that are effective and easy to use and help them make sense of their data,” he claims.
This ease-of-use is not something that came easy. The first six months of Fusionex was spent by Teh understanding customer needs and what they were willing to pay for, and then building the foundation for the technology platform himself.
He recalls working 19-hour days in those first six months, writing code and talking to his network of potential customers, trying to get his finger on the pulse of what customers wanted.
It was not easy. Indeed, it was painful even, he admits. “Some of my former colleagues wanted to join me when I left but I told them to hold off first. I needed to build the foundation myself without being burdened by the responsibility of having people work without salaries, which was what some of them were willing to do,” he says.
He formed his core team six months later when he had single-handedly built the foundation for his software platform. The team comprised senior executives from established tech and consulting companies.
The hard work and strong team he built has paid off today, with Fusionex growing into a company that has registered yearly CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 40% with 2012 revenues coming in at ₤31.31 million (US$50.6 million). This was a 27.93% growth over 2011 revenues of ₤24.48 million (US$39.6 million).
Becoming No 1
But Teh feels there is still lots of opportunity for growth. “As a big data company, we have not realised our true potential yet. I feel there are many avenues where we can do a much better job,” he says.
Indeed it is in multiple verticals, 14 at the last count, from agriculture to banking to telecommunications. Principally, no matter the vertical, what Fusionex offers clients is the ability to consolidate their data and allow for different views of that data.
“For instance, they can view the data by product or by geography, i.e. which regions, cities, towns, etc. The key is to allow them to see the information at the blink of an eye and to have it at the tips of their fingers. That’s what we offer,” claims Teh.
Just looking at Fusionex’s present pool of customers, Teh sees many opportunities to cross-sell and upsell services and solutions to them.
His goal is for Fusionex to become the top big data company in the market [in Malaysia and on AIM]. “We are a currently a RM700-million company [by market cap]. As long as we continue to grow, the market will reward us,” he says.
Teh is leading the way here, still putting in a punishing 15-hour work day, despite being a father of three young kids.
The robustness of the company’s big data products is already being rewarded in one sense. Fusionex was adjudged to be the top Business Intelligence partner for Microsoft, not just in the Asia Pacific but the world, in 2012.
“Our visibility rose dramatically after that,” recalls Teh. “We even had a slot with (outgoing Microsoft chief executive officer) Steve Ballmer and (chief operating officer) Kevin Turner, who shared some exciting future plans they had in store.”
Having won the global award last year, it was no surprise that Fusionex won the Asian award this year. Indeed, the back of Teh’s business card carries a slew of recognition from the technology partner it is aligned with, Microsoft.
Looking to the future, Teh sees immense opportunities. This is where the RM60 million (US$19 million) raised from the IPO (initial public offering) last December was critical – not just to get into the radar of institutional investors in Europe and the United States, markets where Fusionex already has an established base of customers, but to raise its profile as a hot tech company.
“We need to attract top quality talent and are already competing with the largest companies in the world for talent. The visibility from listing helps,” he says.
As does the money raised. Teh has committed to investing US$15 million (RM50 million) in R&D over the next three years to strengthen Fusionex’s suite of solutions. He has always felt that he could build a better suite of solutions for the market.
That US$15 million may seem like a drop when compared to what the global tech titans spend, but Teh feels that with the right focus and a motivated team of engineers, Fusionex can make a difference.
As it is, Teh is excited with the team he has doing R&D, which includes some Malaysians who have returned from overseas to join him.
“Not just Malaysians; there are a lot of smart people in the region we have tapped to join us. There is really exciting stuff going on in our R&D,” he gushes, the geek in him coming out.
Fusionex hires specialists in statistics and maths and offers them careers as data scientists and business intelligence analysts.
Post-listing it has expanded to Hong Kong, Indonesia and Australia, and is already earning revenue from those markets.
Malaysian companies do well at Microsoft global partner event
Bob Chua’s RM60mil big data bet
Big data picking up pace rapidly across Asia Pacific
In 3yrs, the term ‘big data’ will disappear: Teradata CTO
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