JurisTech’s CEO, See Wai Hun, was invited to be a panellist for a discussion on one of the most critical issues all businesses are facing now and will continue to face for the unforeseeable future. (for SOBA LAB series)
“Is your business ready for another potential lockdown?”
The subject is on the minds of many entrepreneurs, employees, essential service providers, public health professionals, medical professionals, schoolteachers, students, and every living human on Earth.
The online event was held on 13th August, 2020, via Zoom and Facebook Live, is part of the SOBA LAB (Learn, Aspire, Build) knowledge session, and has been viewed by more than 4,400 concerned viewers. The event lasted for two and a half hours and was separated into two sessions.
- Session One – Is your business ready for another potential lockdown: the panel discussion addressing the topic and taking some questions from the audience.
- Session Two – SOBA Success Stories: a sharing session of some success stories from award-winning entrepreneurs.
- Dato’ Michael Tio, Group Chief Executive & Managing Director of PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd
- See Wai Hun, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of JurisTech
- Selva Nagappan, Managing Director, Knowledge Group of Companies
- Arlene Tan, Partner of Ng, Arlene Tan & Leong; and Secretary-General of PUMM (Malaysia Entrepreneurs’ Development Association)
This piece summarises some of the points discussed during the first session and will cover some of the points raised by See Wai Hun on the panel.
COVID-19 Impact: panel discussion
The subject on people’s minds is the outbreak of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our daily lives and the extended impact it will continue to have on the global economy. Malaysia implemented a Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18th as a preventive measure and entered the recovery phase on 10th June, 2020 after seeing a drop in the number of new cases. During this time, all non-essential businesses and services were ordered to close down their operations, and many restrictions were put in place for essential services, to control the spread of the disease and serve the interest of the public. Every industry remains to be affected by the outbreak and the lockdown measures.
It is estimated that the impact on the Malaysian economy is RM172.8 billion losses over 72 days (RM2.4 billion per day). However, the financial impact extends to the economic stimulus package, an increase of unemployment rate, business closures, and more. As a result, many businesses had to innovate and find ways to operate and sustain themselves one way or another.
On the subject of MCO-proof
The moderator began by asking the panellists the following questions:
“How has the earlier lockdown impacted your business? Did you try to MCO-proof your business or did you foresee the impact that the MCO will bring on your business?”
While the answers differed from each other, the subject revolved around the transformation of business practices. All panellists agree that constant change is needed to continue operations in the case of another potential lockdown.
See Wai Hun highlighted that due to the nature of JurisTech’s operations and clients, the company needed to adapt quickly to support the clients’ needs as the Malaysian government introduced new regulations.
“In terms of operations, since we work with financial institutions and banks, and as soon as the moratorium kicked in, we had to figure a way to support the clients and enhance the software to suit the new requirements,” Wai Hun said.
“We managed to prepare well. We created a BCP and provided VPN to our staff. So once the MCO was announced, our staff was able to work from wherever they were. Also, since our company runs on sprints, we moved our physical kanban board to a virtual kanban board. We had to prepare our staff to support the financial institutions on site. At the same time, we asked our clients for infrastructure support to allow them to work from home.”
The operational strategy pivot has allowed JurisTech to be MCO-proof in the case of another lockdown.
However, in terms of revenue growth, Wai Hun spoke about taking a step back to re-evaluate the situation as banks, and financial institutions were also evaluating their position in light of the new regulations.
Dato’ Michael Tio, who helms the operations of PKT – an industry leader in logistics, stated a similar sentiment but has expressed that while his operations made the needed changes, he feels that there is more room for improvement to truly MCO-proof his organisation’s operations.
On the subject of recovery strategies
Different businesses may have different strategies to enable them to recover, sustain a profitable performance, and survive the long winter.
Arlene posed this question to the panellists:
“What are your recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of lockdown on business growth, and resiliency [strategies] to respond to unforeseen future potential disruption?”
Dato’ Michael Tio mentioned that such strategies need to be in place before a potential lockdown.
“To go into an online business, you don’t do it overnight. We were planning under our vision for a long time. We just executed it during that period.”
The move for Dato’ Michael and his organisation grew his business threefold. However, his organisation faced new challenges due to the closure of automotive maintenance and repair workshops. The unique challenges are driving his organisation to explore new ways to transform and enter new markets such as e-commerce and F&B.
Mr Selva Nagappan is in the business of big events. Events and public gatherings were not allowed during the MCO period. Such events and meetings are still not permitted during the ongoing recovery phase. However, for Mr Selva, the realisation he and his partners had is that their organisation has great content and partnerships from around the world. The natural pivot was to take advantage of their assets and provide them in a more meaningful way by distributing their content online. For him, the new challenge was the technology platform. It was apparent to him that his audience was not ready for the move to receive training from subject-matter experts via online platforms. From a revenue perspective, this was especially challenging. The solution, however, was to create various technology verticals to deliver quality content.
On the subject of flexibility and new challenges
Wai Hun mentioned that flexibility proved to be valuable currency.
“We need to understand what the customer really needs and have the flexibility to help them.”
She spoke about how flexibility began to shape the foundation for a resilient operation in the face of a potential second lockdown. Flexibility is expected to be a significant part of solving existing problems as well as the new challenges.
An example of the new challenges facing salespeople was collecting and managing documents from their customers. Businesses and their sales representatives needed a solution that would enable them to obtain customer documents securely. It was an opportunity for JurisTech to develop a solution and allow the clients to do what was needed remotely.
On the subject of business resilience
Wai Hun spoke about the need for a resilient business model where the experience of dealing with customers can be transformed from physical presence to online.
Over the years, as part of building a resilient business model, JurisTech has developed a range of products that allowed the company to diversify and attract new opportunities. Being creative is important for business resilience; it is particularly helpful for entrepreneurs because it enables them not to put all their eggs in one basket.
Agility and flexibility in the business model help retain customers, generate recurring revenue, and have a sufficient cash flow to survive a potential lockdown.
On the subject of customer behaviour as a driver of change
It was highlighted that COVID-19 has helped change the mindset of users. According to a report published by The Star, contactless payment usage skyrocketed due to people’s concerns about handling cash with their hands, given the fact that the transmission of COVID-19 could happen from handling potentially contaminated money.
Wai Hun gave three examples of how customers are driving businesses to innovate and keep up with market demand:
- Older people are learning to use new technologies and avoid going to a bank branch, for example, and opting for internet banking for their fund transfers or transactions. The change in user behaviour from the older generation is a driver for banks to consider an easier digital customer journey.
- Customers expressed interest in buying cars without going to dealerships. This is driving companies to innovate and build infrastructure and solutions to keep up with this requirement.
- Customers are increasingly interested in marketplaces and online portals, including services that require human interaction, and this is driving companies to change the user experience and have a full digital transformation in areas like:
- Video conferencing with customers
- eKYC processes
- Online loan applications
- And more.
The session moved on to answering some questions from the audience.
On the subject of automation and job loss
From the audience: “The MCO/lockdown is another test to a company’s arrangement between machines versus human labour. What is the opinion of the panellists on this matter?”
Mr Selva said this question has been in the spotlight for some time. It is not a subject of replacement; it is a subject of reskilling the workforce. All these machines and automated production facilities still need people to operate them, he highlighted. Such reskilling is also aligned with the government’s vision moving forward.
Dato’ Michael seems to agree. He gave an example: his organisation gets supplies from all over the world. The organisation still needs to recertify the equipment and supplies they get. It is an area where automation will not replace the people. It will certainly reduce the number of people, but it is not a replacement. He highlighted that it is inevitable for robotics and advanced technologies to come in and replace some of these jobs. Such changes could be helpful for the workforce to do more work remotely and provide necessary protection from getting infected by a potentially deadly disease, which can protect employees from loss of jobs in the future if a second lockdown was to happen.
On the subject of businesses that require in-person interactions like hospitality and tourism
From the audience: “How about the sectors that depend on ‘in-person’ interaction such as hospitality, tourism, and hotels if the second wave of disruption is predicted to happen? How will a second wave of infections affect the business? What measures should they take to secure the business?”
While “modern” sectors, such as ICT (information and communication technology) and ﬁnancial services, will probably do better as COVID-19 leads to more digital operations, other companies will have a harder time carrying out some of these changes.
Wai Hun, along with the other panellists, spoke about a few elements that could be helpful:
- Cost analysis: she advised businesses to start evaluating how to manage areas where they have high operational costs. Entrepreneurs need to ask, “What can we do to minimise or control our costs?”
- Finding a new source of income: transformation and new business ventures could help create a sustainable operation with existing resources.
- Utilising existing resources: since businesses already have essential resources and capabilities, entrepreneurs and managers should re-evaluate their strengths and see if they can create unique business models that rely on these strengths.
With that in mind, businesses that require in-person operations need to innovate and brainstorm to figure out what are the best ways for them to move forward.
On the subject of positive impact from COVID-19
“What are the major positive impacts of the lockdown that we can view clearly in terms of business idea planning, proﬁt, and production?” asked a member of the audience.
COVID-19 lockdown brings not only negative impacts but also some positive impacts as well. Positive impact presents opportunities to companies and they need to take advantage of these possibilities.
Wai Hun brought practical insights into the discussion. She spoke about changing how business planning is done where there is a lot of focus on agility and the capacity to have quick changes and implementing new strategies.
In terms of profitability, she spoke of looking at where does profitability come from, assessing the short-term returns, and evaluating long-term profit sources. Besides that, businesses need to take digital transformation more seriously during these times.
Digital transformation is accelerating, and a lot of businesses are trying to think about how to go online and create online customer journeys. The acceleration has given birth to many new types of job opportunities that people can skill themselves in and grab.
On the subject of a second potential lockdown and the preparedness to work from home
“What will happen to the business production if the lockdown forces business to work from home? Are businesses ready to face the potential risks of running a business from home?” – from the audience.
It is clear at the time that companies must prepare for the second wave of disruption that may lead to another lockdown.
Wai Hun stated that the most important question that SMEs need to ask themselves is:
“What are the tools that would enable me to work from home?”
During the first lockdown, we’ve seen that many businesses struggle to cope without physical activities.
“I believe there will still be struggles if we are to face a second wave.”
Some companies came out stronger from the first wave and quickly innovated.
Dato’ Michael mentioned that not all businesses could operate remotely or implement work-from-home policies. Certainly, in the field of logistics, there are still many procedures that must be conducted at the premises. Therefore, businesses need to master the SOPs and adhere to the guidelines and recommendations from public health authorities.
Mr Selva mentioned that for some industries like digital services, businesses have learned that it is indeed easier to do work remotely or operate from home. However, other factors need to be considered that may cause disruption or operational inefficiencies. Some of the factors include environmental distractions. However, these factors are not impossible to work around, and employers need to keep such challenges in mind when working from home.
The session covered other topics related to business models and training of new entrants, and discussed future opportunities. The panellists gave more examples and covered a wider range of topics that SMEs would find extremely helpful.
What is SOBA?
The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) are The Star’s efforts in recognising up-and-coming enterprises and their contributions towards the Malaysian economy. In view of the government’s commitment to developing homegrown enterprises, SOBA seeks to inspire and encourage local businesses to promote Malaysia and showcase their products and services to the world.
Moving along that line, this year’s SOBA LAB (Learn, Aspire, Build) will be conducted and managed via a series of webinars addressing invaluable business insights on how to alleviate business adversities stemming from COVID-19.
JurisTech (Juris Technologies) is a leading Malaysian-based fintech company, specialising in enterprise-class software solutions for banks, financial institutions, and telecommunications companies in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and beyond.