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FOUNDER and chief executive of EPS Computer Systems Kevin Liang is unabashed about using off-the-shelf software to automate his firm's work processes and store important business data. Despite this jarring mismatch - the group, after all, has on hand its pick of IT talent - it is precisely this ability to think outside the box that has transformed the group's business model into what it is today.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel, states Mr Liang. "These are market-leading software so it doesn't make sense for us to develop our own, especially with cloud-based (programmes) - these are done by third-party providers and are very convenient and easy to use (so) rather than we reinvent the wheel, we use these products."
He is also quick to accept that his group has its limitations - not that that stops him from rising to the challenge.
"Investment in state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and equipment is very expensive with high depreciation costs. EPS does not have the financial muscle to invest in world-class IT infrastructure to meet the standards of global companies," says Mr Liang.
Recognising this limitation, but not willing to limit himself to smaller projects, Mr Liang, in tendering for a project which would require EPS to provide support for a global network, coined the term "joint outsourcing" more than a decade ago.
This essentially required EPS and its client to enter a collaborative partnership in which the client, itself a global IT company which produces laptops, desktops, printers and accessories, would supply the facilities and infrastructure while EPS would deliver the full suite of services.
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The "accidental entrepreneur", as Mr Liang calls himself, started EPS Computer Systems in 1993. Then, the company's mandate was to offer customised software solutions and IT consultancy services in executive information system and decision support system.
"Although this was a growth area at the time, I soon realised it is not easy to run a startup with limited capital and an unknown brand name, even though I was doing well previously as a salaried employee in the corporate world," says Mr Liang.
Within three years, he decided to change the group's business model to providing IT talent management and IT outsourcing services, riding on the strong demand for IT talent driven in part by millennium software bug fixes.
In 1997, he decided to expand the business by starting another entity - EPS Consultants Pte Ltd - to offer recruitment and executive search services for both the IT and non-IT sectors.
Today, the EPS Group comprises five legal entities in Singapore and Malaysia. In addition to recruitment and executive search (provided through EPS Consultants), the group offers contract staffing services, IT talent management, IT outsourcing, IT technical support services, and business process outsourcing.
Of its more than 500 employees, over 400 are IT professionals. But it is the blend of human resources (HR) and IT knowledge that gives the group its edge, says Mr Liang.
"Our business management team and staff possess substantial HR and IT knowledge and experience, and this 'hybrid' combination gives us a strong competitive advantage as we are able to communicate effectively with our customers using the same technical language."
Looking ahead, Mr Liang has plans to set up operations in three other countries - Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines - in 2016.
"We are already in talks with some target companies - the arrangement is likely to be M&A (merger and acquisition), failing which we will set up directly on our own," says Mr Liang.
"With our strong business base firmly anchored in Singapore and Malaysia, and the emergence of an Asean common market, we want to expedite our presence in the other countries of Asean, which is expected to be a strong growth region in the years to come," says Mr Liang.
In addition to Asean, the group has its eye on economies including Australia, China, India, Japan and Taiwan.
"With a stronger regional presence, we will be able to pitch for larger projects and contracts to deliver our services to our global and multinational clients who may demand a region-wide service level rather than just in-country ones. This allows us to raise our profile and to compete and succeed better in the marketplace."
He adds: "I believe the demand for IT talent will remain strong because with every technology change, new skill-sets will be required to develop and customise new applications using new tools.
"In addition, the demand for services such as IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing will remain strong as companies see value in outsourcing these services to service providers and partners who are expert in these fields and can deliver these services in a cost-effective manner."