In the midst of the pandemic, there have been a number of Australian companies expanding into Asia and using Singapore as its base. Some of these companies include Anatas, an Australian systems integrator, and Zip Co, a buy now, pay later firm.
iTNews Asia speaks to Stephen Canning, CEO at JCurve Solutions – an Australian enterprise technology solutions provider – to find out why he is intent on pursuing his expansion plans into Asia during this climate, the challenges that come with it, and the difficulty faced in shaking off the perception of being an Australian brand.
iTNews Asia: How does JCurve plan on establishing itself in Southeast Asia, and what are the opportunities that you see in this region?
Our expansion into Southeast Asia started in 2018 when we established our presence in Singapore – which was done through the acquisition of a local enterprise resource planning (ERP) partner.
Shortly afterwards, in early 2019, we set up a delivery centre in the Philippines such that we could implement the solutions for our customers and provide support for them. This gave us the ability to scale in a cost effective manner, and to move to bigger ERP projects for our customers, both in Australia and across Asia.
We have also opened up a sales office in the Philippines and started offering our services there. Even though I am based here in Singapore, we are still looking to expand into other territories across Southeast Asia.
With the COVID-19 climate where cloud migration and digitalisation has become a top investment priority, we find that Southeast Asia shows a lot of growth potential.
When COVID first hit back in March 2020, there was a lot of businesses across the globe scrambling to undergo digital transformation. IT teams were rapidly trying to help everyone adjust to remote working – providing them with the tools for video conferencing, communications, and remote access.
All this contributed to this drive to adopt cloud services. Beyond that however, with the tightened restrictions from recurring waves of COVID, we have noticed that businesses are also recognising that it is not just about moving to the cloud. Rather, it is about being resilient and transforming your business by automating processes.
In order to enable that thinking around resilience, you've got to have the systems and the processes in place so that you can monitor and make decisions with timely, accurate data.
This is why we see that there's a great opportunity, particularly in Southeast Asia, for digitalisation – especially with strong governmental support being offered.
iTNews Asia: How does JCurve plan to change the perception of being an Australian brand?
We have a very strong heritage in Australia where JCurve was originally founded, and we are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. But the reality is, we are expanding into Southeast Asia.
While Australia remains an important part of our target market, our focus going forward is going to be on growth in Southeast Asia in the coming years. We will be aggressively growing our local teams and customer base – following the strong demands that that we were just talking about.
From Singapore, we are seeing opportunities to expand into other markets such as Thailand and Vietnam. Through acquisitions, such as Creative Quest in the Philippines, we are creating opportunities for us to continue to expand our business in this region. Hopefully, over time, the perception will be that we are an Asia Pacific organisation.
iTNews Asia: What are the challenges that Australian companies face?
Just like any businesses, expanding beyond one’s home territory poses a challenge. One of it is understanding the local business culture. That's why when we originally wanted to set up our presence in Singapore, we acquired a local established business to gain that local presence and edge that we needed.
JCurve’s way of overcoming any challenge has been through the acquisition of local businesses that gives us that on the ground presence and understanding of the local business culture.
iTNews Asia: Why do you think Australian brands are less prominent in Asia, and in particular the tech sector?
The tech sector in Australia is going through a big change. It’s evolving, and it is starting to accelerate. Moreover, the Australian government has been taking a number of initiatives around technology.
The government recently released an artificial intelligence (AI) action plan – setting a vision for Australia to be a global leader in developing trusted, secure responsible AI. This shows a greater focus for Australia to operate in a global market.
I think that there's going to be a change over the coming years as Australian tech businesses bring their tech into the Asian market.
It could also be a question of time. I see a lot of Australian businesses, historically perhaps, have been a little conservative. But now, particularly during this pandemic, the drive for change and innovation, for taking smarter risks and embracing the inevitable challenges that come with those risks – this mindset is much more prevalent now.
I believe we are going to see a lot more presence from Australia, and technology businesses in particular, over the coming years in Southeast Asia.
iTNews Asia: Do you think apart from Southeast Asia there are other markets that Australian brands would be more interested in?
Definitely. I think that there's a real opportunity now, and the changes resulting from the pandemic has accelerated businesses to move towards hybrid working, and business resilience.
Furthermore, we can now recruit talent from anywhere as long as the time zones work. The same thing is true of customers and potential customers.
The world has changed. Going back a few years, sales had to be done face to face. Now, people are much more accepting of virtual sales – buying remotely, and implementing systems and solutions remotely. This opens up a world of possibilities for all organisations, but particularly those with a technology focus.
iTNews Asia: Given the current COVID-19 climate, do you think that now would be a good time for businesses to pursue their expansion plans? What challenges do you foresee JCurve having to overcome given Singapore's current heightened measures?
Yes, it is. Even for JCurve, we have continued to expand throughout the pandemic. Creative Quest is an example of a business that we first engaged with in August 2020, and we’ve since completed the acquisition in June 2021. The whole acquisition was completed remotely since nobody could travel to the Philippines.
There certainly has been a lot of challenges, but opportunities have been created as well. Businesses should still pursue their expansion – they have to focus on growth and do it in a safe and resilient way.
There is a growing demand for digital transformation and cloud solutions, and now is the time to seize those opportunities given the focus that there is at this point of time. With everyone thinking about resilience and being agile, I would encourage businesses to take this opportunity to expand and grow.
iTNews Asia: Do you think that without COVID-19, Australian brands would not have pursued their growth plans as soon as they did?
I think Australian businesses were always going to be looking for opportunities – regardless of a world with or without COVID. The business world is changing because there's always disruption.
There is always new technology, and typically with technology disrupting the market, I think these growth plans were always going to happen. The pandemic has only helped to accelerate it.