Making a difference
By PRETHIBA ESVARY
Nearly every time my mum is about to purchase a new product, the first question she pops to the salesperson will be: “Where was this product made?”
Product quality and having great value-for-money are key, of course, but does it really matter where something was made?
We sometimes fail to see the value created by lesser known brands or products. What’s disheartening is that people forget that in most cases, the successes of these so-called superior brands could not have been accomplished without the ones that bring it all together behind the scenes.
I recently discovered the inner workings of two Malaysian companies. Their stories below will help illustrate what I mean.
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What do you do when your Internet is down? Look for the IT department, right?
They then contact the telecommunications provider to issue a complaint. Problem solved. Fast forward a few months, and the same thing takes place.
Now, what if I told you that there is a way for our local telco providers to gain access to faster, more reliable, and more secure Internet access?
Enter IX Telecom (IX) – a homegrown nine-year-old start-up that acts as an enabler by integrating Client X’s network with that of other companies around the globe.
How? By purchasing “IP transit” or bandwidth, a critical aspect that influences Internet speeds, from global telco providers.
By managing the international gateway of many Malaysian service providers, IX has huge responsibilities on its shoulders.
What’s unique about IX is how it operates as a virtual network platform and, hence, own very little physical infrastructure, such as fibre optic, satellite hubs and telecommunication towers, unlike other service providers.
This set-up allows the company to offer over 10,000 services with just 30 employees and, since it opened, experience tremendous growth in less than a decade!
To date, the company has secured 1,000 partners across the globe, and boasts coverage in over 200 countries, therefore enabling clients to compete globally.
According to co-founder and CEO of IX, Noor Mohd Helmi Nong Hadzmi, the clientele includes large telco companies as well as the world’s biggest airlines.
The company also provides virtual private network (VPN) services to enable communication between multiple locations worldwide.
An example Helmi gave focused on the establishment of a network to integrate systems, data, and communication channels of, say Airline A, with airports worldwide.
By doing so, IX enables airline employees to gain access to the airline’s system – and data – from anywhere in the world, and as such, are able to provide customers with updated flight data and reservations.
Aside from that, IX also provides shared services and outsourcing functions, which includes managing Client X’s routers and firewalls from its 24x7x365 network operation centre in Cyberjaya.
Helmi shared: “We can monitor up-time and down-time of networks across the globe. If there’s a problem with the network, we can rectify it immediately.”
This comes in handy for users like you and me who rely on continuous and strong Internet connections to get our work done.
IX enjoyed a double-digit growth in revenue and profits over the last three years, giving its efforts a very positive outlook.
However, Helmi and his team don’t intend to rest on their laurels. He told us: “We want to be a prominent global service provider in the world with no physical infrastructure.”
One of the ways Helmi aims to achieve this is by upskilling his team members.
Helmi said: “For instance, our management team consists entirely of engineers and we are not from a business background.
Thankfully, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) came in to help develop our talents and provide exposure in client and investor management through their GAIN programme.
This helped boost our knowledge and skill set in management and leadership.
What’s remarkable about the start-up is how it does not only aid telco providers and everyday users with easier and faster connectivity, but is also creating a means for these providers to provide a variety of services to us — their customers.
The smartphone you held onto earlier, the computer you’re currently staring at, the blood pressure monitor that your doctor used last week. All of these wouldn’t exist without the contribution of electrical engineers.
The power these experts hold over society is undoubtedly enormous, and their roles are crucial in the advancement of technology. If there was a tool that could ease the job and reduce the stress on engineers, wouldn’t that be great?
I’m referring to Radica Software.
Based in Ipoh, this homegrown company led by Thomas Yip, creates computer-aided design (CAD) software that enables electrical engineers to design electric circuits easily, and ultimately, enhance their productivity.
In an interview Yip did previously about Radica’s first software, he said engineers observed productivity gains of at least 300% to 500%.
Since new advanced software solutions are able to automate conventional tasks that are too tedious to do manually, engineers can now focus more on creating better designs and improving safety.
In fact, electric circuits that would have previously taken seven days to create, can now be done within two.
When I spoke to Yip over Skype recently, he said: “There are so many free softwares out there.
Encouraging users to pay a big sum just so they can use your software is a very difficult thing to do. Unless the software can contribute to one’s well-being, people will not pay you for it.”
Yip revealed that the software his company offers is extremely easy to use, without any training required, unlike other engineering systems.
Today, Radica has distributed over 2,000 licenses worldwide, with most of their customers from the United States and Canada.
Some of the more notable clients include NASA and Apple.
Another reason the company has accumulated a large and venerable client base is its swift and efficient way of resolving customer issues.
Here’s the most intriguing part: Radica has only 10 employees. I asked Yip how this was possible and his response was: “We do not have an accounts person. We wrote a script and built an internal tracking system that automated all of the accounting processes!”
Even with improved automation, working in a small team for a big purpose can sometimes be stressful. Yip motivates his team through sharing sessions on alternate Saturdays, where an external trainer is brought in occasionally to develop and upskill those in attendance.
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Looking ahead, the company intends to move away from merely targeting electrical engineers.
Radica’s latest software is proof of this as it enables teams across the world to communicate effectively by using real-time collaborative diagrams. It essentially helps to maximise productivity levels when developing solutions or products.
Yip said, “We want to be the diagramming platform that the entire world will only ever use.”
There to help Radica achieve its goal is MDEC. Through the company’s GAIN programme, “Radica has experienced more exposure as the platform has connected us to the right people and offered us educational courses like the ones that Harvard developed.
We even flew to Silicon Valley to expand the Radica brand. All these efforts, and so many more, have been extremely useful to a company like us,” Yip shared.
“Without MDEC’s help, we wouldn’t have progressed this far.”
Yip also noted that Radica has made heavy investments into its product development and team expansion, both of which are necessary for the company’s growth. This can be observed in their 30% revenue growth this year.
Radica noticed the pain points that electrical engineers are facing and created a great product that addressed it.
Now it is striving to make collaborative work easier for people, like you and me, as its solutions put more focus on maximising productivity everywhere.
Just imagine the business outcomes then!
IX and Radica are companies that play a big part in the functions of many businesses or brands we have become familiar with, yet they are not known due to their operational nature.
I feel somewhat blessed to be given the opportunity to shed some light on these unsung Malaysian companies and hope their stories have inspired you.
Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.