Digerati50: The ‘behind-the-scenes’ entrepreneur

Chan Kok Long, a founder of iPay88, which has become one of the most widely used payment solutions in South-east Asia. — DNA pic
Chan Kok Long, a founder of iPay88, which has become one of the most widely used payment solutions in South-east Asia. — DNA pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — It may not get all the buzz that other startups do, but when it comes to the e-commerce boom Malaysia is enjoying right now, much of the credit would have to lie with the pioneering efforts of iPay88.

Most online shoppers in Malaysia would have either used its services, or at the very least, have heard of the local online payment gateway provider.

Founded by Lim Kok Hing and Chan Kok Long in 2006, iPay88 has become one of the most widely used payment solutions in all of South-east Asia, in fact. The company has a presence in Indonesia, its home market of Malaysia, as well as Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

But while Lim, an inaugural Digerati50, has been the “face” of the company since its inception, his cofounder Kok Long — or KL as he’s better known — is as much a guiding force behind the venture.

KL, however, prefers to stay on the sidelines instead of being in the limelight.

“Our philosophy in iPay88 is that there is no such thing as a ‘personal’ contribution. Lim, our other partner Chong (Lee Kean), and myself work very closely together.

“That said, our roles are different and we don’t duplicate our efforts. Lim usually represents the company, Chong is in technology, and I’m in sales and business development.

“The three of us have our own strengths and we play our roles perfectly,” he says.

After almost a decade of toiling together, their efforts have finally paid off. According to iPay88’s income statement for the financial year ended December 2013, revenue stood at RM3.7 million while net profit was RM1.1 million.

To top it off, in September 2015, iPay88 was acquired by Japanese giant NTT Data for an undisclosed sum.

KL believes that NTT Data acquired iPay88 because of its stable business and large market share in the region.

“We also have proven homegrown technology with a state-of-the-art core payment engine, which has a fraud management system built in,” he says.

“Besides this, our strong management team is paramount. In fact, the trust among us founders is beyond words,” he adds.

KL says the founders all believe in the philosophy that when you’re on top, it’s time to review and revise your business plans.

“We firmly believe in the 10-year (economic) cycle, and that’s the reason why we felt that it was timely for us to work with a good partner like NTT Data.

“After 10 years growing the payment gateway business, we realised that the space we’re in is big in terms of opportunity and challenges. We anticipate competition, and we must protect ourselves with larger financial, branding and technology muscle,” he says.

So what kind of advice does this 49-year-old entrepreneur have for the younger generation?

Firstly, KL says that when entrepreneurs find themselves up against challenges, they should take a step back, conduct a self-assessment, and reflect on what they can do about it — all as calmly as possible.

Secondly, he says he truly believes that success in any business will only come if entrepreneurs have experienced failure, or at least some problems and challenges.

“As entrepreneurs, we learn how to solve problems every day, and that skill will bring us success. The bigger the problem or failure, the bigger the success one can achieve,” he adds.

And what would he do differently if he could do it all again?

“I will go straight to Silicon Valley and learn how to build a big business there.

“Why? Because in Silicon Valley, failures and successes are viewed equally. The community is so cooperative in wanting to see businesses succeed, and this is a great atmosphere to be in,” he says.

As for the future after iPay88’s acquisition, KL says, “We will continue to innovate our payment technology and services and work closely with any disruptive technology.

“We will also continue forming strategic partnerships, and invest in research and development to capture a bigger market share, as speed to the market is very crucial nowadays,” he adds. — Digital News Asia

* This article was first published here.

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