‘If anyone can beat Goliath, it’s us,’ says jobsDB CEO

  • Shareholder support and economies of scale position it best to challenge JobStreet.com dominance
  • Malaysia previously under-served; investments in country already paying and it’s clear No 2

‘If anyone can beat Goliath, it’s us,’ says jobsDB CEOAFTER 15 years in Malaysia, jobsDB has signalled its intention to take on the giant of the online recruitment space and stake a claim in the local market, with a new country manager, a new brand and with its workforce expected to double by the end of the year.
 
In terms of job portals in Malaysia, “it used to be you had that Goliath, and then you had the rest,” says jobsDB group chief executive officer Adrian Chng (pic), in reference to JobStreet.com.
 
“In the last four months, you still have that Goliath; but now you also have David, and then all the rest. There was no David before – we’ve just jumped to be head and shoulders above the rest. So I think now, it’s clear for us that our target is Goliath.
 
“If anyone can beat Goliath; it’s us. I mean, we’re big mean and nasty in Asia – we have the ability to invest in R&D, we have the way to do sales and marketing,” he adds, chuffed with his company’s plans. “We know, frankly, how to attack – because in many markets, we are that Goliath.”
 
The company is one of the dotcom old-timers, having been set up in 1998. Part of jobsDB’s renewed sense of energy and ambition comes from SEEK Asia, a subsidiary of Australian Stock Exchange-listed jobs portal SEEK Ltd, exercising an option to take over 100% of jobsDB earlier this year.
 
SEEK Asia had first acquired a 40% stake in jobsDB in 2010, increasing it by stages over the following years. With the final acquisition of the remaining 20%, valued at HK$640 million (US$82.5 million), SEEK itself now owns 68.96% of the jobs portal.
 
In September 2008, SEEK had also acquired a 10% interest in JobStreet Corporation Bhd, and has since increased its investment in JobStreet.com to around 22%.
 
Taking on JobStreet.com would be no easy matter. The company, founded in 1997 and which listed in 2004, recently passed RM1 billion (US$314 million) in market capitalisation and reported 2012 revenue that was just under RM161 million (US$51 million), making it the most successful Internet company in South-East Asia.
 
Chng is well aware of that, and makes no claim that jobsDB can overtake the market leader any time soon. Its main target now is to grow that No 2 position and close the gap.
 
“Am I happy to be No 2? No,” he admits, but adds that it would be hard to put a timeframe for it to knock JobStreet.com off its roost.
 
“In our business, however, we’ve seen rapid changes happen in consumer or user behaviour; we’ve seen rapid changes in technology and economic environments; and we have a long-term focus with a three-to-five-year plan,” he says.
 
Malaysia under-represented
 
The company has a presence in seven markets: Mainland China, Hong Kong (where it is headquartered), Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
 
But why the renewed drive in Malaysia?
 
“We looked at our portfolio and realised that Malaysia was under-represented in terms of market position and reputation,” Chng acknowledges, saying he would be coming down from Hong Kong at least once a month to look into the market here.
 
There are other very positive signs from Malaysia as a market too.
 
“Malaysians are big users of the Internet and are very technology-savvy compared with other regions, and as an online business, that’s a big opportunity for us,” Chng says, noting that while Indonesia is a huge market, in terms of Internet access and tech-savvy, Malaysia is ahead.
 
“The second reason is that the economy is still growing, and more growth means more employment, and more employment means more people need to advertise and look for jobs,” he says, pointing out that the Government’s aim to transform the nation into a high-income economy with its Economic Transformation Programme or ETP means that average wages would also go up.
 
“This is a positive sign for labour and our type of business,” he adds. “So there are a number of positive macro-economic factors that say you want to be in Malaysia, rather than not.”
 
Chng says that jobsDB has invested heavily in the Malaysian market. Although he does not put a dollar value to it, he notes the company has finally appointed a country manager; and has boosted the team here from about 20 staff last year to 36 currently – with a few more hires to go before the end of the year to take it to double the headcount from 2012.
 
“We’ve also invested in a rebranding exercise,” he says, and stretching his arms to take in the company’s new office in Kuala Lumpur, adds: “This is all new!”
 
The investment has shown pretty good returns, he claims, saying that since May, jobsDB’s market share – the company’s internal estimates according to the number of jobs postings – has jumped from 6% to 20%, while applications have gone up 110%.
 
‘If anyone can beat Goliath, it’s us,’ says jobsDB CEO“We’re definitely Malaysia’s fastest-growing jobs portal,” he says. “The number of jobseekers ([on its portal] has increased 40% year on year.”
 
According to jobsDB Malaysia general manager Sheldon Fernandez (pic), the company has grown its number of registered jobseekers since he came on board earlier this year from 800,000 to 850,000.
 
Although he could not say offhand how many employers have signed up with the portal, he says it has grown that part of the business from 2,000 job advertisements in January to about 9,000 today.
 
“I think we’ve grown rapidly, but I do expect the growth rate to slow down eventually; and for us, it would be to then maintain that consistency,” says Fernandez, adding that he expects the current pace can be maintained until at least next January.
 
“These may be non-financial measurements but they are high-level metrics – no measure is perfect, but they’re all telling the same sort of story: That of rapid growth,” Chng adds.
 
According to Alexa’s rating of the top 500 sites in Malaysia, JobStreet.com is the 37th most popular, making it the most popular jobs portal too. jobsDB is at No 339 and Mystarjob is at No 1,472. ‘Kind of’ up there also is Freelancer at No 289, but it is a global marketplace for independent service providers and freelancers to outsource their work, not a ‘pure’ jobs portal.

Next page: Best positioned to take advantage of changing consumer behaviour and mobile onslaught

 
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