It’s about solving problems

Published 9 August, 2016

Effon Khoo Giok Hong, 37, of Kakitangan.com, says his company’s mission is to help small and medium businesses manage their staff better with automated online systems. LIM WING HOOI chats with him.

What were you doing prior to starting your company?

I spent about eight years working in Beijing, China. My last employment was working as a general manager (GM) at a Nasdaq-listed technology company there. Before that I worked with Microsoft, where I led a team working on products such as Office 2010, Office 2013, Office 365, Microsoft OneNote and Microsoft Lync (now known as Skype for Business) on Android.

That was where I met my co-founder, Ken Wang, who was a developer working on Microsoft Office before he moved on to Bing.com, the search engine in Microsoft.

The decision to come back to Malaysia was because we wanted to raise our families here.

Malaysia is a beautiful country. When I got back here, I had to decide on what I should do. I went through my personal logbook, and I jotted down thousands of ideas that came to mind. The idea of an accessible human resource system for companies made sense to me.

Why?

Having spent five years at Microsoft, I took for granted the conveniences afforded by the software company. They had all the processes and people to make sure that things ran smoothly. That changed when I moved from Microsoft to become the GM of a smaller company.

I found it a struggle just managing administrative and HR processes, from the simplest of tasks, like hiring and approving leave applications, to designing and recording performance appraisals.

When I realised that no one else had created a solution that would help startups and SMEs eliminate these headaches, I decided to put my tech background to good use and co-founded Kakitangan.com in February 2015.

What’s the business model then?

We developed a web-based HR system for the SMEs for free.

The HR system includes functions like leave application and employee database, and we upsell a payroll system and medical insurance to interested SMEs.

Although it is a much-needed application for SMEs, you have to wonder how many SMEs have an annual budget for such a system?

We always joke about such a system being a vitamin rather than a painkiller, and unfortunately, it is always the latter which has a ready market.

Nevertheless, we intend to get SMEs’ attention with our system, beginning with simple applications such as leave approval and payroll.

What would the benefits be for them?

As many SMEs are still using the conventional method, the system will help them to do away with reliance on paper. Paperwork makes record-keeping a pain, not to mention susceptible to errors.

For instance, for leave application, without a proper system, a leave application can take a long time because the manager has to check on the number of days available for a particular worker, not to mention previously approved leaves and so on. Not remembering the number of leave days can also cause delay in application.

And what if the manager is out of the office?

With our software, managers can make informed decisions about whether to approve the leave anytime, anywhere, through their desktop or mobile device.

Payroll is another responsibility that many SMEs struggle with. Some SMEs rely on paper-based payroll processes, and some of them would opt to outsource payroll processing to a third party or they might use a spreadsheet. Our system does away with these.

How do you convert those who use your free, web-based system into paying customers?

We focus on affordable pricing, with the payroll function available on a monthly subscription basis to ease the burden of SMEs who cannot afford to spend a few thousand ringgit on software.

How has it been so far?

We have over 2,000 companies that have signed up to-date. We intend to convert about 1,000 of them to our subscribers of our paid payroll system by early 2017.

What do you do to relax?

I do casual readings and just spend time with my wife and two children.

What is your motto in life?

There are always difficulties, everywhere. Go solve the problems and build a better world, one step at a time.