Unsung heroes in our midst (Part I)

  • The perception that Malaysia has had only a few tech success stories is misleading
  • APICTA awards see local companies making not only a regional but a global impact

Unsung heroes in our midst (Part I)AS we start the new year and reminisce about our experiences from 2013, I am reminded of a story I read here on Digital News Asia (DNA) in late October 2013, about Fusionex and the question that was asked by DNA founder Karamjit Singh: “How many more Ivan Tehs are out there?
 
I remember thinking to myself, why is it we know so little about Malaysian success stories?
 
Worse still, in many quarters the perception still is that we have few successes in Malaysia, and the usual names that come up when talking about successful Malaysian tech companies are JobStreet, MOL, iProperty and of course, AirAsia.
 
Granted, they are all of course extremely successful and as a Malaysian I’m proud of their achievements in the international arena.
 
But surely there are others? Are our expectations too high when we speak about ‘successes’? How do we define ‘success’? Only when funds are raised or acquisitions made, or when a company goes the IPO (initial public offering) route?
 
Or is it because we are by nature humble souls who don’t sing our own praises, preferring instead to quietly work our magic in the shadows?
 
I would like to start 2014 by paying tribute to a few successful Malaysian companies that I had the honour of working with as they prepared for the International APICTA (Asia Pacific ICT Alliance) Awards in Hong Kong, last November.
 
Proficeo has been coaching APICTA winners from Malaysia since 2009 and each year, I am floored by the achievements of these companies, and most of the time, it’s the first I’ve ever heard of them.
 
The 2013 hopefuls did not disappoint.

Unsung heroes in our midst (Part I)

 
Consolsys Technologies Sdn Bhd
 
I’m sure many of you have heard about or even experienced ‘Easy’ by RHB. There are branches and kiosks all around Malaysia where customers can have their personal loan applications processed and money available in their account within 10 minutes.
 
Similarly, a credit card application with card embossed and ready to be handed to a customer can be completed in 10 minutes. Fantastic, isn’t it?
 
All this seems simple on the face of it, but the technology behind it is far from simple. It requires front-end sophistication to allow mobile sales reps and staff at the Easy Kiosks to literally complete the application process via tablets and smart devices.
 
The process looks deceptively like a simple e-commerce application bundled with check-outs, but all this is linked via comprehensive back-end processing that is integrated to existing back-end legacy technologies to ensure that real-time processing and updates are possible.
 
A key technology provider for Branch Delivery as reported in CIO-Asia.com in its CIO 100 2011 and 2012 Index is Consolsys Technologies Sdn Bhd.
 
Since the launch of the service, RHB has experienced a record-breaking rise in new customers – something that is not easy to do in the highly competitive banking industry. In 2012, RHB won the coveted ‘Celent's Model Bank of the Year’ award for 2012 because of this service.
 
Unsung heroes in our midst (Part I)S5 Systems Sdn Bhd
 
Speaking of ‘service in 10 minutes’ brings to mind S5 Systems Sdn Bhd. This is the company that provided the system to maintain security at immigration counters as well as in enforcement throughout the country.
 
We’ve all experienced standing at long immigration queues as foreign visitors to another country, and no doubt complained about it each time. We are all also probably very familiar with the manual procedures carried out in processing immigration entries into a country – you know, the ‘white cards’ they hand out to you on the aeroplane before you land.
 
Did you know that foreigners coming into Malaysia don’t have to fill in these white cards anymore, and that the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) has a 10-min immigration clearance pledge?
 
The service was launched in February 2013, where foreign visitors to Malaysian can now experience speedy and automated service at immigration, but with added biometric and forensic security measures.
 
In fact, KLIA was awarded ‘World’s Best Airport Immigration Service’ in 2013 by Skytrax World Airport Awards in Geneva for this service.
 
The technology that contributed to all of this was developed by S5 Systems and is far too sophisticated for me to even attempt to describe here, but suffice to say, after having met the people behind it, and having worked with them and now understanding the capability of their technology, I feel so much safer at home.
 
Apart from providing visitors to Malaysia with a pleasant experience upon arrival, the system S5 Systems developed more importantly has successfully been used at entry points into the country as well as in nationwide operations to identify and detain wanted persons and undesirable elements trying to get into or illegally stay in the country.
 
In fact, their NexCode system is based on forensic security technology similar to that which is endorsed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), and S5 Systems has numerous patents granted worldwide for its technology.
 
Soft Space Sdn Bhd
 
Then of course there is Soft Space, a startup darling we all know of, but perhaps we have not fully appreciated its actual ‘success.’
 
Its technology is a mobile point of sales (mPOS) device which enables the processing of credit card transactions for small traders, as well as micro payments. The technology has opened up a huge potential for financial institutions to enter into a market segment that previously operated solely via a cash-based platform.
 
But the true success in my eyes is its remarkable startup journey. In the 19 months since its inception, Soft Space has not only made significant inroads into the Malaysian market, but it has also secured customers in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, and is in the process of entering a further five international markets.
 
In Thailand and Vietnam, the customers it has acquired represent 90% of the local market. This is a feat that has to be admired, especially since its customers are in the banking industry, a segment that is traditionally risk-averse, has long sales cycles and generally not easy to penetrate for established ventures, let alone a startup.
 
Unsung heroes in our midst (Part I)Longbow Technologies Sdn Bhd

Then there is Longbow Technologies, which has an integrated Automatic Fare Collection System and offers its services via a cloud model. In fact, the innovation is in the business model that provides a win-win ‘pay as you use’ solution to its customers.
 
Who are its customers? Currently mass transit operators like KTM and KLIA Express, but the solution can be applied to any industry that has a high volume of traffic like theme parks, sports stadiums, car parks, etc., and is compatible with TouchNGo, QR Code Technologies and Visa Wave.
 
Longbow offers a tremendous value proposition to its customer in savings via this model because no up-front costs or high investments are needed. Longbow’s model is tied to a revenue share of each ticket sold, in view of the volume of potential transactions expected.
 
In an industry that generally does not expect to be profitable with expected high capex (capital expenditure) investments in technology that has a life span of 10 years at best, Longbow’s business model is a being viewed as fresh and long-awaited alternative to the incumbents Nippon-signal, Samsung and Xerox!
 
These are big brands and industry giants but may have a difficult time competing with this young upstart because their organisational structures and large investments made in legacy technologies and equipment make them less nimble to change their business model.
 
Longbow has started making significant inroads into these markets as operators switch to its technology in stages and legacy systems are phased out.
 
Casemix Solutions Sdn Bhd
 
The lack of commercialisation from research and development (R&D) at public universities in Malaysia has also received more than its fair share of criticism over the years.
 
Enter Casemix Solutions, a Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia spinoff with a hospital system that helps reduce costs and minimises clinical errors.
 
The solution is used by hospitals from Asia to South America. In South-East Asia alone, the total number of hospitals that use its system provide care to almost 70% of the population in this region.
 
Yes, this is indeed a Malaysian university spin-out company building solutions for the world.
 
Other deserving nominees
 
I also wanted to mention the other nominees which worked really hard and were truly inspirational: IT Paradise, for its My Selamat Mobile App; Prestariang Systems for the 1Citizen Programme; the National Defence University of Malaysia for its Search and Rescue Tactical Management System; and the team from UTAR for its Battery Energy Saving System.
 
These are just a few of the companies doing excellent work and providing solutions and services of the highest quality to customers not just in Malaysia, but around the world.
 
Tomorrow: And the winners are ...
 
This article was originally published on http://www.foundersasia.com/, a platform for tech entrepreneurs, and is reprinted here with its kind permission. Proficeo coaches high-potential tech companies to scale and expand into regional or global players. The writer, Renuka Sena, is CEO and cofounder of Proficeo and FoundersAsia.com.
 
Related Stories:
 
APICTA Awards: Where’s the love, Malaysia?
 
Soft Space voted best Malaysian startup at APICTA awards
 
APICTA 2012: ADAcode takes coveted 'best of the best' award
 
Public university R&D: ‘I could cry’
 
Fusing technology and business into a RM700mil company

 
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