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V3 Smart Technologies all set to grow global
V3 Smart Technologies, the homegrown tech developer that specialises in fleet and asset tracking and mobile workforce applications, is determined to establish itself as a global brand.
But unlike most companies that are wired to follow the path of least resistance when they venture overseas, V3 went straight for the big leagues.
In 2016, it chose India as its first focus market outside of Singapore, a bold move that many would call unorthodox.
Executive director Wong Shih Jon admits that India was indeed a tough market to crack: "It's not just competitive, the customers are also very demanding. Today they want that, tomorrow they want this, tomorrow they say I don't want you."
But V3 turned that to its advantage, he told The Business Times: "To circumvent this, you need to prove that you are good . . . India is a very good sparring market for us. It helps us to keep improving. The pace is so fast that your product improves at a pace that you will never achieve in other places."
Now that V3 has made it work in India, it can make it work in any other part of the world, Mr Wong believes.
V3 currently has a presence in India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, and is now making inroads into the Philippines.
The company develops its own hardware and software products and operates on a subscription model with annual recurring revenue growing at a steady 10 - 15 per cent clip.
Over the last year, V3 has invested in user experience redesign for its products, which will be launched next year in all markets. It's also launched a test branding campaign in India and will ramp up digital marketing around the region next year.
Small and medium-sized enterprises account for the bulk of V3's customers, though V3 serves the regional arms of large companies as well.
V3 started out in 2002 by helping companies with a large fleet or field force to digitise and capture data, analyse it and optimise it.
It has built a technology platform that incorporates GPS telematics to serve logistics, security and taxi companies. Two years ago, V3 added vertical positioning tech to the platform. It used that platform to develop an app for Tampines Town Council that taps Wi-Fi access points in a block of flats to track the movement of cleaners through the building.
Many companies choose to outsource similar IT work to V3 because of the cost-efficiencies they get, Mr Wong said. By getting V3 to develop and run these systems, customers avoid the hassle of having to hire their own maintenance teams.
V3's customer churn rate is less than 1 per cent, a testament to the V3 team's research and development capabilities and continuous product improvements. Most of V3's 50-strong workforce are engineers.
BUILDING A BRAND
Mr Wong said: "We are a research and development company. There are certain patterns that AI (artificial intelligence) can read that humans may not be able to discover, so we're developing algorithms and models so that we can help our products do better with the data that we have, to achieve a certain output and assist our customers in using that output to produce significant improvements in their operations."
V3 is debt-free and has been profitable from day one. The scalable nature of its business also makes for decent margins.
Asked if he is mulling over an initial public offering (IPO) down the road, Mr Wong stressed that his motivation has always been to grow V3 and build capacity. "You need to have capacity to have more career paths for your employees," he explained: "The company has to be something sizeable that people look forward to joining, and existing employees want to stay.
"We want to give them (employees) the feeling that we are serious about building this brand and this company."
Likewise, building a strong brand also boils down to building capacity.
Mr Wong said: "A lot of marketing companies say - and the government says - you need to create a brand. Okay, but what is (your) brand? You need a market first. Once you have a sizeable market that is using your product, then you have a brand."
Right now, V3 still derives most of its revenues from Singapore. "Is Singapore a big market? No. So that's a big issue - capacity."
Fundraising through an IPO is one of the avenues that V3 is looking at to build capacity, Mr Wong said: "(But) whether we go to the capital markets is not the main issue. The main issue is how to create the capacity."
Other options would be to grow via synergistic mergers or acquisitions.
For example, V3 is open to acquiring regional companies that are developing enterprise products in warehousing and robotic process automation, he said.
Logistics is a key vertical that V3 is focused on right now, he added: "Emerging markets all start with logistics."
But V3's platform is really sector-agnostic, and, as a technology enabler, V3 is comfortable working with all kinds of firms over the business cycle.
Mr Wong said: "I don't need to be a disruptor, I'm just an enabler."