Finding the truth
By Renuka Sena May 3, 2016
- Primary business focus is call recording for financial institutions
- Has 13 trademarks and three software copyrights for its product suite
THE path to success is never easy or straightforward. Innovative ideas and hard work are often cited as essential ingredients for success.
In the case of Veriva Systems Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer Wendy Leong (pic above), it was a combination of good timing, an eye for spotting a market gap, sheer guts, and perhaps even luck.
“I did not choose to become an entrepreneur, it chose me,” quips Wendy, who took the plunge into entrepreneurship in 2005.
“I started my entrepreneurial journey when I saw a gap in the market segment I was in, which was being filled by imported brands.
“My becoming an entrepreneur was never a ‘Eureka!’ moment that came to me out of the blue. Rather, it was a step away from buying and reselling, to taking the leap to make my own product – and being confident that it would work,” she adds.
The product Wendy refers to is a call recording system that records all voice calls conducted over a telephone. The system also stores these calls in a special device.
This ensures that when an investigation or an audit occurs in an organisation, the recorded conversation will reflect what actually transpired over the phone.
Wendy points out that the name of her company is a nod to the product itself. “Our product name is Veriva. Verité means truth in French, and Veriva is our variation,” she says.
The French word itself is derived from the Latin ‘veritas.’ Veriva Systems was originally known Verion Research.
Veriva Systems offers an alternative to the expensive European and US brands, for the same functionality and compliance capability, Wendy declares.
Its customers and target market are financial services institutions, contact centres, and the air traffic control industry.
Seizing the opportunity
Trained as an electrical and computer systems engineer, Wendy’s technical background and her experience in commercial sales played a major part in her decision to switch from reselling someone else’s product to developing her own.
“I often think of the quote, ‘See a need, fill the need,’ from the animated movie Robots, which to this day, speaks volumes to me. I reflect on this quote whenever I evaluate opportunities,” she says.
Wendy believes she was destined to run her own business and that things do not happen by chance. In 2005, she had the idea but not the experience when she saw an offer to apply for grants from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, a non-profit under Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance.
“I applied for the RM50,000 (about US$13,000 at current rates) grant and the terms included a condition that I would have to repay the whole amount if the idea failed. That condition was enough to give me the determination not to fail!
“The Cradle Fund grant was the seed money to fund the idea of developing our own call recorders. We started commercialising the product after the successful completion of the grant.
“I moved my idea forward to develop a prototype, and I was encouraged to start an actual Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) entity to actively commercialise my product,” she adds.
MSC Malaysia is a national project to boost the ICT industry in the country. Veriva Systems got its MSC Malaysia status in January 2006, which entitled it to certain incentives, including tax breaks.
Besides the Cradle grant, Veriva Systems also received funds under the MSC Malaysia Research and Development Grant Scheme (MGS) to develop the next generation of its call recorders in 2012.
In the decade since it first opened its doors, the company has established a sales presence throughout South-East Asia and in the Middle East. It had its first foreign installation in Lebanon in 2008, Wendy recalls.
She aims for Veriva Systems to become a global player and the regional leader of call recording systems for financial trading compliance.
Against the odds
Things were not always rosy for Veriva Systems. There was a time when it appeared the company would not live long enough to see success.
“It was a long and laborious journey when we first set the company up. We went without revenue for a long while,” Wendy admits.
“We were selling a product that was new and we did not have any prior sales to fall back on when meeting clients, so delivering a top-notch product and service was extremely crucial.”
Fortunately, things took a turn for the better when Veriva Systems finally clinched its first project. Wendy has not looked back since.
“We kept using a strategy that worked, coupled with flexibility and good local support, and we increased our market share in Malaysia.
“There is no independent study on the total market in Malaysia specifically for our target addressable market. However, based on our own research, we hold about 10% of the market here in Malaysia,” she says.
Through her participation in the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP), Wendy says she discovered strengths that she didn’t know she had.
And Veriva Systems leveraged on these newly-unearthed strengths to further develop the business.
David amongst Goliaths
Wendy says she “absolutely loves” what she does. Her enthusiasm and dedication played no small part in Veriva Systems’ success, and the company is currently preparing for international certification and a major global expansion.
“We have been undergoing certification tests to be compatible with a communications trading platform used primarily for financial trading rooms in France.
“We are also working hard to set up a presence in South America, London, Turkey, Myanmar and the Philippines,” she says.
To date, Veriva Systems has registered 13 trademarks and three software copyrights for its suite of solutions.
Wendy credits a lot of this to the people in her team, who share her passion. “Our team has a shared vision and goal. This is important as it means we are all moving in the same direction.”
She also says that Veriva Systems perfectly fills an important gap in the market. “It offers added value to our customers, and being the David amongst the Goliaths has taught us to be more agile and innovative in our business strategies to acquire new customers.”
Believe in yourself
Based on her experience, Wendy offers the following advice to new entrepreneurs: “When you set up a business, expect to have longer days than you ever did as an employee, and be prepared to go without pay.”
She points out that not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. “Unless you are willing to work towards a goal, this path is not for everyone. I believe that every entrepreneur has to be a disciplined individual who does not give up easily.”
She also says that entrepreneurs must be fully committed to their business in order for it to be successful.
“For anyone who is thinking of being an entrepreneur while working at a full-time job, forget it! It is all or nothing. I strongly believe that if you do not believe in yourself to leave your job for an idea, why would anyone else believe in you?”
Wendy maintains that entrepreneurship is a journey of self-learning that constantly motivates one to keep striving.
“Constant innovation is needed to win against giant international players,” she says. “In times of failure, you have to learn why, where and how you failed, and be motivated to improve yourself so you can win the next battle.”
She notes that it is important to see failure as a learning curve rather than a stumbling block or a sign to give up.
“If you are prepared to put in the effort, are not put off by the sacrifice, and are willing to pick yourself up time and again when you meet an obstacle, then by all means, choose the entrepreneurial path,” she declares.
Discover Veriva Systems at http://www.verivasystems.com/veriva/.
The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.