Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Digital Telcos are Mushrooming in Malaysia. But Why Digital Telco?

Aside from the rapid rise of e-money issuers in Malaysia with 26 licensees for a country of 20-million adult population, another noticeable digital trend is brewing right now in the telecommunication sector. Tier-1 mobile network operators are taking turn to launch a fully-digital telco! Maxis took the lead by being the first tier-1 telco in Malaysia to digital telco last year, branded as Ooyko. Followed by Digi's Tapp, TM's Unifi Mobile (rebranded from Webe) and now Celcom's Yoodo!

With a list of 20 mobile network operators (including MVNO), it certainly looks like a crowded space. Why then, are the top mobile operators believing in rolling out another new brand, respectively, as digital telco?

The following comments are not representing expert opinions, but my personal views and observations.

Reason 1: Innovate Faster

Being a top mobile operator, it means commanding large market shares. It also means, diverse demographics in customer base ranging from tech-savvy and well-informed youth, to working adults of varying prioritised needs, and retirees who may not even be keen with self-service at all.

For an incumbent telco to transform and embrace full-fledged digital innovations, it will be too costly to cater and support every customer segment's service and support delivery preferences. Simply because a quarter of the customer-base aren't keen with interacting with self-service channels such as chatbot and mobile app, the telco has to maintain traditional customer service channels. Simply because there is one-fifth of the customer-base who prefers to sign-up for services through dealers, the telco has to invest in dealer touch-points, channel management, and dealer’s incentives. It’s imaginably slow to innovate with these constraints.

Whereas, a new brand that sets her foot as fully-digital telco, would allow the company to fully embrace everything that the digital innovations and artificial intelligence technologies have to offer. Because, this brand is clearly targeting the following customer segment:

  1. Tech-savvy. Totally fine to interact with the brand through mobile app, not even the desktop browser.
  2. Knows very precisely what s/he wants. Knows very clearly, the difference between 1GB and 5GB monthly data quota, and what s/he can do with every MB of data subscribed.
  3. Very likely, prefers self-service than talking to a dealer. 
  4. Comfortable with online credit card transaction.
A new brand of fully-digital telco in this case, is a good test-bed for the mothership. Eventually, when the digital innovations are proven successful, the mothership could also adopt similar digital strategies and roadmap. 

Reason 2: Innovate without Legacy Constraints

An established brand that already has millions of subscribers, also means “it shouldn’t ever screw up!” – from branding to customer service perspectives. 

However, contradictory, one of the conditions required for digital innovation is – allowing failure! I mean, a company would try its best effort to never fail. But, if everything must be rolled out in perfection, and doesn’t disappoint existing subscribers, it would be a huge barrier for innovation to happen. For example, when a top mobile operator rolls out facial-recognition based customer self-service, it must design its architecture and infrastructure to support, potentially, millions of users! Compared to a new brand, it could easily assume a comfortable test-bed for tens of thousands of users, and slowly scale-up as need arises. Even when a new feature failed, it would probably affect customers in count of thousands, instead of millions – which then even makes national headline! That is why, it may only take a month for a new brand to surprise the market with new excitements; but it could take a year, or even more, on incumbent brand that commands majority market shares.

Reason 3: Not Fall Behind Competitions

I believe, nobody could relate it better than the “taxi vs ride sharing/hailing” case study in the modern history of public transport.

The successful service providers of today, definitely are very well-informed, and aware of potential threats from new entrants in the world of competition. 

Singapore Airlines launched digital innovation blueprint; OCBC Bank launched FinTech innovation lab; Singtel established S$42.4 million corporate lab with NTU and NRF to accelerate AI and data science innovation. These are examples of efforts invested by well established brands from airline, to banking and telecommunication industry, to NOT FALL BEHIND.  Being the number 1 of today, doesn’t mean the brand can sustain to be the number 1 of tomorrow. 

Digital telco is a strategic approach by the top mobile operators in Malaysia today, to make sure they continue to secure the top positions by staying relevant to tomorrow’s customer’s needs. The rise of tech-savvy customer segment is command more competitive rates while expecting high quality service delivery. The only way forward – is digital innovation.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Appraise the CEO

Who appraises your CEO of your company? For public listed entity, or privately-held company with private equity investors, the CEO's appraisal will be done by a Task Force, or often, the Board.

For Innov8tif, as we have been, and still a self-funded company, there is no Board above the CEO - my partner-in-crime, George. This year, George suggested for himself to be "grilled" by the key management personnel. Here we go, I received a calendar invitation to conduct an appraisal interview for my CEO this week ;)

If you are an Innov8tor reading this post, and you have an appraisal message that you wanted to tell George, yet to remain anonymity, you can let me know!

Monday, January 8, 2018

CSR Contributed by Team Member's Success

Our Director of Strategic Business, Mr. Tan, has coined an interesting idea for how we will be doing social contribution through donations. For every success identified to an individual team member in 2017, the Company will be contributing a sum of money.

Collectively, 20 successes were identified with staff recognitions. What made it more interesting, is Tan's association of some successes to recognise staff's personal achievement, not entirely work related. For example, we have a few foreign talent colleagues who originated from countries with ongoing armed conflicts. The mental distress of these colleagues, and the challenges they have been through to finally settled down in Malaysia - a peaceful land, with their beloved family members, is undeniably a big personal achievement. Besides, we also have a single-mother colleague as part of our growing team. If making a living with 2 income sources (from working husband-and-wife) to support dependent in metropolitan city is challenging, could you imagine the challenges on a single-mom?

A small donation was contributed to Malaysian Association for The Welfare of Mentally Challenged Children. From, The Avengers.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Innov8tif Completes Real IT Acquisition, Strengthening Southeast Asian Market Presence

SINGAPORE – Innov8tif Solutions Sdn. Bhd. today completed its acquisition of the operating business of Real IT Consultancy & Services Pte Ltd – an Accredited Partner of Joget Workflow for the Singapore’s market.

As part of the acquisition process, Real IT has also been renamed to Innov8tif Solutions Pte Ltd. ACRA registration number of the UEN (unique entity number) remains unchanged.

Innov8tif combines this asset with its existing Joget Workflow distribution business to strengthen its position in Southeast Asian market, along with its new joint venture in Jakarta.

All existing customers of Real IT will be seamlessly served and supported by Innov8tif. The two major shareholders and founders of Innov8tif are former co-founders of Joget Workflow, and Innov8tif has accumulated Joget Workflow implementation and consultancy track records since Innov8tif’s inception in year 2011. Today, Innov8tif is equipped with JOGS (Joget Global Specialists) team to serve regional partners and clientele.

George Lee, CEO of Innov8tif, said, “The close of this acquisition represents a significant step in growing the regional scale needed for our software business in the arena of business process digitization. Through this acquisition, we can also expand the reach of our e-KYC solution into one of the most exciting fintech markets.”

George Lee is also leading efforts to expand Innov8tif’s market reach in the largest Southeast Asian economy – Indonesia, through a new joint-venture as PT. Innov8tif Karta Solusi.

Besides Joget Workflow, Innov8tif is also the regional partner of Microblink Ltd. for cutting-edge mobile OCR (optical character recognition) technology, and a partner of Megvii Technology Limited for world-renowned facial recognition API seen in Alipay. Combined with Innov8tif’s e-KYC (know your customer) process, these components form a strategic alliance that is key to today’s and tomorrow’s digital banking experience. Kenwei Lim the CTO and Nathan Cheong the in-house researcher, are driving technology roadmap of Innov8tif’s e-KYC offerings.

As we have just entered a new year – 2018, Innov8tif wishes its customers and partners, abundance of blessings and joy.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Innov8tif Participates in SAS FinTech Challenge 2017-18 as Sandbox Technology Provider

Innov8tif is pleased to announce our participation in SAS FinTech Challenge 2017-18, as a technology provider in the technology sandbox. The sandbox stack comprises:

SAS, the world's largest privately held software company, is the primary organizer of SAS FinTech Challenge ("The Challenge") - a competition to encourage students and academics in Malaysia to contribute ideas and develop innovative solutions to enhance the banking experience and solve organizational business pain points. The Challenge is supported by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, and five mentoring banks:
  1. CIMB Bank
  2. Hong Leong Bank
  3. Maybank
  4. Public Bank
  5. RHB Bank
These five banks, are Malaysia's top five largest banks by assets. Fintech related competition, challenge or hackathon is nothing new in Southeast Asia; but, a challenge that attracted five large commercial banks into the same platform, is unseen before. Innov8tif is as excited with our participation in The Challenge, if not more, as the organizer and other participating institutions.

Throughout our participation in The Challenge as sandbox technology provider, Innov8tif is committed to provide instructor-led workshops to the shortlisted teams, on:
  • Joget Workflow hands-on knowledge to develop low-code workflow that automates domain specific processes in any digital transformation initiative, and
  • creative usage of Innov8tif eKYC components to support real-time ID capture in blazing fast speed with BlinkID and automation of facial sighting process with FaceID.
As an industry player in the fintech solution provider space, Innov8tif aims to bring awareness on the new evolution in low-code and computer vision technologies, to the bright undergraduates who will soon join the workforce - and probably continue to contribute in fintech ecosystem too.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Joget Workflow v6 Exclusive Preview held in Malaysia with Overwhelming Interest

Joget, Inc. R&D team has been working on - the best ever Joget Workflow major product upgrade, for about 2 years now. I am personally extremely excited with what Joget Workflow v6 has to offer. It is realising a true low-code RAD (rapid application development) platform.

Today, Joget Lab Malaysia hosted a seminar in Klang Valley Malaysia for the preview of Joget Workflow v6 new features. Joget v6 will have a dual pronged focus: User Experience (UX), and App Maintainability & Performance.

User Experience (UX)

  • Enhanced App User Experience for Desktop and Mobile
  • Customizable App Center
  • Dashboard Capabilities
  • Unobtrusive Admin and Design Interface
  • Design Apps Anytime, Anywhere with Support for Touch Devices
  • Excel-Like Functionality With the Spreadsheet Element
  • Improved User Experience with AJAX Support in Multi-Paged Forms

App Maintainability and Performance

  • Enhanced Configuration Options for Codeless Apps
  • Improved Performance with Userview Caching
  • Database Connection Monitoring and Leak Detection
  • Improved JSON Tool for Integration
  • Simpler Email Configuration with Platform-Wide Settings
  • Enhanced Security with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

We are glad to have Mr. Hugo - the Joget's VP of Technical Consultancy, to walkthrough with us the above described new features in live demo. Nothing beats a live demo! 

Joining us earlier today, are the active enterprise customers of Joget Workflow in Malaysia, as well as network of  Accredited Partners.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page updates. A video that demonstrates v6 new features will soon be published by Joget, Inc. And Joget Workflow v6 is scheduled to be released in Q4-2017, upon full compliance with HP Fortify source code security scan. The best is coming! #waitforit

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Innov8tif at BankTech Asia Manila Series

BankTech Asia is a series of annual events where banking meets technology. Last week, on 19th-20th Sep, BankTech Asia 2017 Manila Series was held in Philippines, and Innov8tif is honoured to be invited by MDEC as a speaker for panel discussion titled "Evolution of the ASEAN Payments Landscape".

Mr. Tiensoon, our COO, represented Innov8tif for the panel discussion with other payment industry leaders - Mr. Danny Leong of GHL Systems, Mr. Lim of iPay88 and Mr. Vincent Chan of Macro Kiosk. This session was moderated by Mr. Vincent Fong from Knowledge Group.

Some of the key points discussed during this forum were:

  • Past, present and future of payments
  • Emerging trends and case studies

Crystal Ball?

While every panelist agreed that smarpthone had and is playing a vital role in the evolution of payment technologies and trends, but the emerging trends are evolving so quickly that, almost no one can assure what exactly the future big waves would be. There are technologies that "came and gone off", quickly, due to lack of adoption, or untimely emergence. Nevertheless, artificial intelligence (AI) is a clear sign for what's foreseeable, and the world is certainly going to be more cashless than ever. Mr. Tiensoon made the following remarks about what AI has to offer for payment industry.

Nowadays, I think nothing “new” you hear this year could escape from the word AI – artificial intelligence, which comprises keywords such as machine learning, deep neural network, robotic. Chatbot is a good example of AI-powered product that has reached a matured state in recent years.
In eKYC, as the onboarding processes have to be as automated as possible, ideally, AI will definitely play a key role. The mobile OCR (scanning with smartphone camera in layman description) of ID card that we have deployed to most of the telcos in Malaysia, is an example of computer vision technology. Another application of computer vision – is facial recognition, to automate the sighting process remotely without customer’s physical presence at branch. And, both ID card scanning and facial recognition technologies can get better, with machine learning. As the machine learns from more examples, it knows better at differentiating and recognizing the patterns and contents of a specific ID card. 
In China, facial recognition is applied in every imaginable use case in fintech. You have cash withdrawal ATM that performs facial recognition as the 2nd factor of authentication; you have Alipay that uses facial recognition as part of eKYC process; and now you have KFC Hangzhou that welcomes payment with a smile!

Embracing Competition

In business, there shall be no permanent enemy. Or, in Chinese proverb - "one more friend is one less enemy". Alipay has become so huge, so successful and widely adopted in China, that it is now going global. It is not hard to spot the "Alipay" sign in major international airports popular among Chinese tourists, especially in duty-free shops and tax refund counter. Two panelists in this forum - GHL and iPay88, are good examples of how their businesses are benefitting from Alipay's global expansion into Southeast Asia. GHL has partnered Alipay to offer Malaysian in-store merchants and online merchants an alternative payment method, while iPay88 supports Alipay as an additional payment method through its gateway.


The moderator also asked Tiensoon's opinion about eKYC challenges in ASEAN: "We are seeing a lot of interests in cross-border remittance in the payment industry. Payment gateways and new fintech companies are jumping onto the remittance bandwagon. What are the eKYC challenges witnessed in ASEAN in general?". And he shared Innov8tif's view as follows:

For fintech companies and mobile wallets to flourish in the remittance pie at large scale, customers onboarding must ultimately be self-service. Self-service customer onboarding is an area that garners the highest interest within the banking and fintech area this year. Which also means, the KYC process must be evolved into eKYC (electronic KYC). And the new paradigm shift, is posting a new set of challenges not just to the banks and fintech companies, but ultimately the regulators – Central Bank in this context. 
Using Malaysia as example. As the citizens are already equipped with national ID which has a chip containing thumbprint for verification purpose, the Central Bank requires that KYC is independently done by each bank or financial company providing money services. And as this method has been recognized for so many years, as the only reliable and trusted KYC method, it becomes a stumbling stone now in the digital customer self-onboarding age. The only way that a customer can complete the stringent KYC process, is to have his/her MyKad verified with fingerprint verification, which, requires presence of specialized hardware. And it is making it very challenging for any new fintech company to compete in the mobile wallet and remittance pie, when it comes to customer acquisition. Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) is planning to regulate eKYC processes for remittance transactions, with the new standards to be finalised by October this year.
In Singapore, the government is already rolling out a new digital ID service known as MyInfo. And it is already in the piloting stage with UOB, DBS, OCBC, and Standard Chartered Bank. Customers with a voluntary enrolment into MyInfo database, will be able to sign up a new bank account, 100% online, without needing to submit any additional supporting document.
In Thailand, the Bank of Thailand is staying ahead in the eKYC game. A set of new regulations has already been released to facilitate eKYC. The guideline in Thailand requires “same standard” of face-to-face relationship in eKYC as the traditional KYC. And electronic method is permitted to conduct face-to-face interaction. Which means, a video call is all that’s required! Banks and fintech companies can expand market reach without investing into heavy capex as seen in traditional branch expansion model.
In Philippines, the proof-of-ID comprises too many types of possible documents. Fortunately, the House Committee on Population has recently approved the bill pushing for national ID system. It would be interesting to see, if Philippines would be the first country in ASEAN to have a nationwide national ID system that allows online validation.
Out of ASEAN, China and India are the 2 countries that already have the most eKYC-friendly national ID system in place. For this reason, the fintech sector is booming more rapidly than one would expect. 
Payment industry has always been a key and interesting industry to watch in the financial sector. As it involves the flow of money, it is highly regulated by very stringent guidelines and regulations around the world. Yet, this is a fast-evolving and highly competitive industry that requires creative use and adoption of technologies, while at the same time staying within the compliance parameters and regulator's radar.