Written by Ethel Lim, Intern at The FinLab
Since 2016, The FinLab has been helping tech companies grow their businesses, such as connecting them to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that would benefit from the adoption of digital technologies. Novocall, which helps companies capture, qualify and automate their inbound calls, is one tech company that The FinLab has worked with and helped grow.
In this article, we speak to Ng Jiong Han, Co-Founder of Novocall, to find out more about his experience working with The FinLab and SMEs. He also shares some tips on how tech companies can work effectively with SMEs.
Founded in Singapore, Novocall is a call automation software that helps businesses generate more sales calls from web visitors and helps web visitors automatically book sales calls.
Q: You got in touch with The FinLab in 2018, when we were running our first Business Transformation Programme in Singapore and were looking out for tech solutions that want to serve SMEs. How have you progressed since then? What are some of Novocall’s key achievements in 2018 and 2019?
A: We were looking for avenues to reach more SMEs who can and want to use our click-to-call-back solution to increase sales conversions. We were excited to hear about The FinLab’s Business Transformation Programme back in 2018 and submitted our application to be part of it.
Through The FinLab, we had the opportunity to work with EU Holidays – one of the largest travel agencies in Singapore – to generate over 100 additional calls every month using our solution. We also managed to reach and serve more customers in the ASEAN market, especially in Malaysia. Other key achievements include receiving a grant from Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and securing seed funding from 500 Start-ups in 2019.
Q: That’s great to hear, Jionghan. We’re glad to have played a part! Could you share more about how The FinLab has helped Novocall? What would you say to tech companies out there that are looking to work with The FinLab?
A: The FinLab is a well-known name in ASEAN’s SME digitalisation space, being active and having established various partnerships with local agencies to help SMEs in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand adopt digital solutions. Besides being able to reach more SMEs in Singapore – where we are based – joining The FinLab’s network has helped us ease our entry into the Malaysian market.
We were always interested in Malaysia but found the entry to a new market difficult for a start-up. We realised many SMEs have to overcome a steep learning curve in digital adoption and we did need to have enough patience and time to help them understand the benefits of digital tools, before we can share our solutions with them. The FinLab programme was able to equip the SMEs with knowledge and awareness and paved the way for us to introduce our solutions to the SMEs.
To tech companies that are looking to work with The FinLab, I’d say go for it if you are looking to venture into a new market and interested to work with a partner to smoothen the expansion plans.
Q: Share your experience working with the participating SMEs in The FinLab. What are some of the key highlights, and what would you say to tech companies out there that are looking to work with SMEs?
A: The experiences vary across the countries we were involved in. The most recent was The FinLab’s Malaysia programme. We worked with a company that takes up to 2 days to respond to a lead that comes in. By then, the prospects might have lost interest or gone to competitors. We were able to help the company reduce the response time and distribute leads efficiently, down to just 20 seconds.
With EU Holidays from the Singapore Programme, we worked on helping them automate the scheduling of call-backs between their staff and customers. This helps to increase interaction and engagement with their customers, as well as increase the conversion of each leads.
To the tech companies that are looking to work with SMEs, I think having partners like The FinLab helps as they prepare the SMEs by identifying suitable problem statements, so we can solutionise effectively. I think most SMEs want to go digital, but the initial learning curve is steep.
Q: What are the 2 key things that your company hopes to achieve this year, and what would your advice be to tech start-ups out there that are looking to reach new ASEAN markets?
A: In terms of numbers, we hope to hit our key milestones so that we can raise our next round of funding (Series A). The second thing that we hope to achieve is to help our customers succeed by helping them increase sales conversions and engagement with their customers. We are looking to do that by offering a new feature which is all-in-one messaging, comprising utilising the business feature in WhatsApp that the company owns. The business and personal features of Whatsapp can then be are segregated. The conversations carried out in the business feature of Whatsapp will be owned by the company, and the company can maintain these customer relationships even if the staff leaves the company.
The ASEAN markets are highly differentiated so their level of tech adoption, purchasing power and culture are all different. So, the advice that I would give to tech start-ups is that they really need to understand the market. If you want to venture into new markets, there are risks involved that you might not be ready to take. To de-risk in such situations, it is beneficial to look for partners to work with. And we have been lucky to work with The FinLab.