Growing a business is never easy, but digitalisation can give you the right boost.
Just ask Goldbell Group and Oneberry Technologies, two homegrown companies that have been able to leverage digital technology to not only overcome challenges, but also reinvent themselves to keep growing.
Oneberry Technologies: Changing the game in security
With its roving security robots, cutting-edge video analytics and artificial intelligence, Oneberry is today known as a security and surveillance technology solutions innovator. But it wasn’t always so.
In fact, the company originally started out in 2003 by providing security manpower services. And like others in the industry, its security officers would work long hours while juggling various duties, from physical patrols to manually recording observations and reporting incidents.
This inadvertently led to delayed communication or miscommunication with clients at times, an issue in an industry where speed and accuracy are of the essence. Meanwhile, the industry was also facing the prospect of a shrinking and ageing workforce.
Determined to resolve these challenges, Oneberry founder Ken Pereira looked towards digitalisation. The company started by digitalising manual processes to improve efficiency, and later invested in developing security software to complement the security officers’ roles.
In 2006, for instance, the firm rolled out a security management software system to monitor and track movements within a security perimeter in real-time. It meant that security guards no longer needed to record visitor details; fewer guards were also needed.
The digital solutions were welcomed by employees, but not so by clients, who were accustomed to security being performed manually. Mr Pereira was undeterred. As he put it: “They did not want to take the risk. We took the risk.”
So, Oneberry pressed on with its research and development of new solutions, and eventually convinced clients with the promise of at least 30% in manpower cost savings.
Since then, Oneberry has continued to disrupt the notion of needing boots on the ground with game-changing solutions, making the leap from traditional security firm to security and surveillance technology solutions provider.
Take Oneberry’s rapid mobile surveillance solution that’s supported by intelligent cameras with video analytics to reduce the reliance on physical surveillance. This provided the Singapore Police Force with behind-the-scenes support during the historic Trump-Kim Summit in 2018, which the police later described as its most intensive large-scale security operation.
Oneberry continues to grow, leveraging digital technology to expand its range of high-tech solutions and venture into cybersecurity, a new segment for the business.
During COVID-19, the firm also created a software that reads SafeEntry or TraceTogether passes to help clients automate access control at building entrances, keeping up its innovative streak.
Goldbell Group: Reinventing the wheel
For anyone taking over a 41-year-old family business, it may be safer to keep things status quo. But brothers Alex and Arthur Chua decided to go against the grain when they took over the helm at Goldbell in 2012, by digitalising the business.
To be clear, it was not digitalisation for digitalisation’s sake. For the duo, it was about preserving a legacy and building their father’s work into something even better. And their efforts appear to have paid off.
For one, Goldbell, Singapore’s largest commercial vehicle and industrial equipment distribution and leasing company, retains its edge within the industry. With digitalisation, the brothers have also branched into financial services.
It all started in 2012, when one thing became apparent to Alex and Arthur: the lack of data. This was especially so to Alex who, as a former investment banker, had been used to analysing data to back investment decisions.
And if the company had any data, it was lagging. For instance, Arthur noticed that business decisions were being made belatedly based on lagging profit and loss numbers. The brothers thus decided to digitalise the company’s systems, to be able to gather and analyse data, starting with revamping the enterprise resource planning system.
This was no mean feat. They had to invest time and money and, perhaps worst of all, grapple with strong pushback from employees. “A lot of people were not used to it,” Arthur recounted.
Still, the duo pushed ahead, eventually spending three years and some S$4 million to digitalise the business. The investment has reaped returns. With the data today, they are not only able to track the company’s performance better, but also serve their customers better.
For instance, if the company’s trucks are delayed in the workshop, it can find out why using its intelligence system, and turn to alternatives to prevent the delay from affecting clients.
Alex, with his background in banking, was also inspired to move into financing, by offering loans to Goldbell’s customers, who were mainly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). "We thought, since we understand the customer's business so well, why don't we also finance the customer since we know what they want?" he shared.
The rationale was this: the data on customers that Goldbell had gleaned after digitalising would enable the company to assess the risk of loaning to a customer, as well as tailor the loan to the customer's needs. And it would set Goldbell apart from banks, which typically packaged products for firms based on their industry type.
This was how Goldbell Financial Services (GBFS) was born in 2015. Today, GBFS offers SMEs a wide range of support, from loans for equipment, to loans for working capital and commercial property. And it’s now a second core business for Goldbell, with over S$906 million loaned out to SMEs.
The Chua brothers are not stopping there. Leveraging mobility data and digital technology, they are spearheading innovation in transport to ensure Goldbell stays ahead of the curve.
The company’s Future Mobility division, for instance, is eyeing electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Autonomous forklifts are among its recent developments; in February, Goldbell also acquired electric car sharing firm BlueSG.
Make the digital leap
If you’re keen to follow in Goldbell and Oneberry’s footsteps, check out the Digital Leaders Programme.
Jointly run by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the programme helps companies put digitalisation at the core of their business strategies and build in-house digital capabilities, so that they can develop innovative business models and capture new growth opportunities.