- Focus on PMF to unlock the right go-to-market strategy, but it pays to be global-first from day one.
- Build global credibility and branding through strategic, institutional partnerships.
- Leverage industry network effects and communicate peer case studies and best practices.
- Don’t just sell for the buyer, sell for the end-user or end-consumer, and create a win-win proposition.
- Strengthen distribution by going the extra mile in relationship building.
- Create a seamless customer experience from deal origination to customer success.
- Maximize the SaaS advantage through product iterations that bring together “big picture” and “small picture” insights.
- Prioritize technology availability (automated testing) and security (ISO certification).
With the first generation of unicorns in Southeast Asia bringing consumers online, opportunities have arisen for the next generation of billion-dollar companies focused on strengthening the infrastructure — the “highways” — of the internet, from the digitalization of frontline business operations to enable the distribution of brands and SMEs in a time of next-day/same-day commerce.
Already we have seen several companies from the region like Appier, Nium, Patsnap reach billion-dollar valuations over the past year on top of driving the digital transformation not just of Southeast Asia, but even the world — and as more global and foreign capital looks to the region, we can expect more of these plays to attract greater funding.
Over this past season of our podcast On Call with Insignia — listen to our latest episodes and catch up on the best ones on Spotify and Apple Podcasts — we’ve had the privilege of having on the show several founders and CEOs leading the digitalization rush in their own industries or aimed at specific value chains and pain points.
From our conversations we’ve gotten several pieces of advice and points of view on selling digitalization to businesses, specifically enterprise (medium to large and multinational businesses), and we’ve compiled a list of eight of the most impacting and thought-provoking ones for both the B2B (SaaS) founder and investor in Southeast Asia.
(1) Focus on PMF to unlock the right go-to-market strategy.
In our conversation with Rajive Keshup, investment director at Cathay Innovation, he mentions that the SaaS industry in Southeast Asia will still take some time before the region sees verticalized SaaS, where there’s wide adoption among enterprises in the region of software also developed in the region. That means that many SaaS players from the region have also been looking to sell beyond the region from day one.
“I’ve worked closely with a number of SaaS players here and they’ve been able to get a little bit of enterprise traction, but really the best route to sell for them has been to go to the West, get a little bit of traction and then get the office [in Southeast Asia] to adopt it, which is bizarre but that’s sort of the route that they’ve taken…[Then] the folks that we have seen who are building locally it’s because they’re hyper-localized. They’ve picked up on a regulation. They’ve picked up on a theme and they’re sort of driving beyond that.”
That said, there is still room for SaaS in the region, especially if the solution is targeting a specific pain point or operation highly dependent on language or regulation — software for tax issues or human resources are an example for that. It also doesn’t mean that SaaS companies that get their start in Southeast Asia are locked in the region forever.
Again, the key here is to find product-market fit, and maximize geography or growth trajectory based on that. As Anthony Chow, CEO and co-founder of igloocompany, shares in our latest conversation with him, “Not just looking at market expansion, I think it’s important for every company to be very focused on the market that the product is being built for, the product-market fit, not specifically looking at the geography. The market fit is actually more important than anything.”
In the case of B2B sales tech startup Nektar.ai, they look to expand their potential client base to the US as they move from beta to their full public launch next year. While there is already Salesforce, which brought CRM into the cloud, and then sales enablement tools built on top of that CRM market — like Zoominfo, Gong, Outreach, etc., CEO and co-founder Abhijeet Vijayvergiya shares on our podcast that there remains massive market potential in the US — which could eventually lead to global growth opportunities.
“There are some of these unicorns which are there in sales tech, but if you look at all of their customers put together, the six, seven of them would be a fraction of the customers of what Salesforce has. Salesforce has more than 200,000 customers globally. Their dominant market share is in the US.
There’s a system of record and there is a system of enablement on top of it. It should be as big a market as CRM, and it could be an even bigger market as businesses continue to grow and more and more B2B businesses adopt technology because CRM is still seeing massive adoption.
If you look at it globally, it continues to grow. Salesforce grows at 22% year on year, even at their current scale. So we see a huge market, a fraction of it is taken by certain unicorns and they’re all playing in specific categories. So I mean, we’re not worried about the competition per se and if you build a great product solving an important key need of the customer, product-market fit happens naturally. So we’re quite confident there…multiple players can exist in B2B SaaS, unlike B2C, where it is a winner takes all business. B2B SaaS is about multiple businesses coexisting in a particular sector.”
Abhijeet’s thinking is that it’s better to take advantage of the space now in the US while still developing in Asia, where the market is relatively slower on the uptake. “The thing that we don’t want to miss out on is a delayed launch because the US would be a market to lose. Asia would probably be still in the air for the taking. Three to four years down the line, we could still when, Asia and it’s not like we’re not having customers in Asia are not going to focus on it, but in terms of our GTM investments and outbound efforts are going to be largely focused towards the US market to win that opportunity.”
On the other hand, in Southeast Asia and emerging markets, the opportunity is less in what already exists (e.g. Salesforce unlocking the CRM market), as it is in what is changing (e.g. new generation of leaders).
As Nimbly Technologies CEO and co-founder Daniel Hazman explains on our podcast, “I would say there are very, very traditional industries like manufacturing, agriculture. They’re not as easy, but if you have really strong and visionary leaders, that opens the door. And we’re seeing particularly in Indonesia, and I’m sure in other emerging countries too, that you have this sort of changing of the guard from the older generation to the younger generation. Maybe they were educated abroad, et cetera, so they’ve been more exposed to technology, even this concept of SaaS. It’s so hard for, and not to be ageist, but for older folks to understand. I’m just renting. I don’t want to rent. I want to buy it. No, it’s different because you’re continuously enhancing the product. You’re maintaining the product. It’s software, it’s not hardware.”
While starting with product-market fit to determine the best growth trajectory is important, Abhijeet from Nektar.ai also argues the importance of having a global-first mindset from day one.
“I would recommend having the global first approach and that mindset from the early days is very important. Because once you have that mindset, then you’ll start thinking about the users in that market, and you’ll start talking to those users. You’ll start understanding their problems, their workflows, which are very different from what we see here in Asia. That’s important because that defines your roadmap, that defines your solution, that defines your positioning, that defines your go-to-market strategy. The longer you delay the worse it gets for you. It’s a harder climb later on.
You have a lot of companies thinking, “Let’s build a four, five million ARR business in the first three, four years here. And then we go after the US market or other international markets for that matter. I think then you have to reinvent the wheel, and we realized that the existing product and solutions don’t directly fit into that market in terms of your distribution or even product use cases and all. So I would strongly advise any Southeast Asia and/or Asian SaaS company that is building today or in the works of looking for international expansion, to start thinking about it from day one.”
I would strongly advise any Southeast Asia and/or Asian SaaS company that is building today or in the works of looking for international expansion, to start thinking about it from day one.
(2) Build global credibility and branding through strategic partnerships.
Nearly all existing B2B unicorns from Southeast Asia have their headquarters in Singapore, and that is for a reason. One of the strongest assets of the city-state has been its brand, built through an accumulation of regulation, talent, and capital.
And this brand is what many B2B SaaS startups from Singapore are able to tap into and mutually benefit from. In the case of igloocompany, their collaboration with government programs and institutions enabled them to get a headstart in securing partners and contracts globally for their B2B business, as CEO and co-founder Anthony Chow shares on the podcast.
“The first [way Singapore has been helpful in our global expansion] is Enterprise Singapore that supports many small, medium enterprises to upgrade and internationalize. We have been beneficiaries of many of the grants that they put up there for us to use. And specifically with internationalization, we have been tapping on their extensive network globally to be able to find distributors, go for trade shows, find potential clients all around the world, through the network that they have set up. And they were the ones that helped us springboard. In fact, our very first partner in the US was an introduction from Enterprise Singapore back in about four years ago.
The second one that has been very helpful for us is IMDA, which is the InfoComm Media Development Authority of Singapore. They help to regulate the InfoComm sector within Singapore. So IMDA has a program called the IMDA Green Lane Accreditation program, and it helps to create enterprise software products and innovative hardware solutions that have been developed by Singapore companies, that are ready for government deployment as well as large-scale enterprise deployment.
In fact, we went through the program. They assisted us in getting our backend solutions, our software and hardware certified for cybersecurity, and also certified the company ready for large-scale enterprise clients. And through that, we got the accreditation program. And from there, we also managed to get quite a number of potential clients within Singapore, and also beyond Singapore as well.
But I think one of the important things that I feel about being a Singapore company is the amount of credibility in the brand that being based here gives you. Especially in this world during the pandemic where everyone’s working remotely, the most important currency in business is trust. And being able to honor contracts, documents that you put out there with your partners around the world and knowing that you will be good on your word, I think has been very important for us to do business, especially during this time.
So I think we’re quite proud to share that during the past 12 months, we have not lost a single partner around the world. And a lot of it has been the way we carry out our work, the reputation that we’ve built with our global partners and being a Singapore company definitely contributes a huge part to that as well.”
It is possible that with the rise of markets like Indonesia and Vietnam, Singapore may not be the only fertile ground for B2B SaaS startups to go global in the next decade. The point here is that acquiring new customers and even retaining them in the B2B world hinges a lot on credibility, and the strategic partnerships a company has (in the case, tied to their location and headquarters) can have a significant role to play in that.
During the past 12 months, we have not lost a single partner around the world. And a lot of it has been the way we carry out our work, the reputation that we’ve built with our global partners and being a Singapore company definitely contributes a huge part to that as well.
(3) Leverage industry network effects and communicate peer case studies and best practices.
The next piece of advice on selling to enterprises is to communicate case studies and best practices from industry peers to drive home the point that a company A needs a certain product X to stay ahead of the market, but exactly how this product X will impact company A’s costs and operations in the long-term. The principle behind this best practice is to leverage network effects within the industry and create urgency in why businesses need to use a particular product or solution. Of course, this works best for companies that have already a convincing early adopter base of “logos” and case studies to share — in other words, a track record. Some companies will generate this resource by running a closed beta for their product, or by tapping into personal networks in the industry, before going public with the product.
Nimbly’s Daniel Hazman points this out on the podcast. “We show [potential customers the] kind of value we’ve extracted for different clients that are their peers. And I think that helps, not so much to create that FOMO, but really in terms of seeing what their peers and competitors are doing and that they’re not doing and somehow maybe they’re not doing something right. That’s something that we try to articulate and communicate.”
With the pandemic already convincing (or even forcing) many enterprises and businesses to go digital in terms of their operations, the point of sharing case studies and best practices is to actually demonstrate effectiveness of the solution in practice. Education on digitalization has shifted, according to Shawn Seet, Chief Commercial Officer of B2B procurement platform Eezee.
“So previously, education was in its earlier phase. A lot of just talking about e-commerce and bringing shopping experiences to the B2B customer. There needs to be a lot of reconciliation because to a lot of people the B2C shopping experience doesn’t match what needs to happen in the B2B world in terms of processes and such.
Now when we have meetings or pitches, it’s a lot more clear-cut. They know that there are perhaps like five, six things that they need to look at immediately when they’re making a change through digitization.
We can dive straight into the sharing of best practices. So if let’s say the original state of the procurement workflow takes on average seven hours or eight hours and that costs up to let’s say a few hundred thousand dollars. If you have say, 2000 transactions every month, we can walk them through the ideal state of doing integration, punch out, and reducing procurement costs by 80%. They seem to get it straight away because they already have that foundational education piece with being more aware of what’s happening everywhere.
So diving into best practices is our favorite approach because it’s real-life use cases that are applicable, and everybody wants to know what world-class workflow processes look like. So that’s really what has shifted since our original conversations with customers last year when they were more focused on learning And more focused on keeping their companies afloat.”
Diving into best practices is our favorite approach because it’s real-life use cases that are applicable, and everybody wants to know what world-class workflow processes look like.
(4) Don’t just sell for the buyer, sell for the end-user or end-consumer, and create a win-win proposition.
When it comes to B2B and enterprise sales, it is often the case that the end-user of the product is not the same as the buyer. For startups in the space, it is then useful to communicate benefits of a particular solution as it relates to the end-user or end-consumer of the product, going through the whole value chain.
But as Abhijeet from Nektar.ai points out, it’s not just about communicating the value proposition for the end-user, but also building a product that actually takes into consideration the needs and experiences of the end-user, because that can be very different from the buyer’s perspective.
“If you look at most of the conventional sales tools that exist today, that are built with the buyer in mind, which is the VP of Sales or the Chief Revenue Officer or the CEO of the company, their needs are very different. They would like the dashboard, they would like to look at the summary.
Whereas when you’re looking at your users, they are generally overlooked. And in sales tools, they are mostly overlooked because the deal is done with the buyer. Then you (the user) just have to deal with the product as is, and it may not fit into their workflow. It might be too clunky, too complex. That UI is not friendly. A lot of time goes wasted, which happens with most of the existing tools today, which is where we also want to take a differentiated approach — thinking about the account executive or the frontline manager was working with his account manager and rolling up their sleeves, trying to win that quarter, trying to win that critical deal in that quarter that’s really important, how we can help them?
Because if we look at VP of sales or sales leadership, they have a lot of accessibility to resources, not just tools and dashboards, but also resources will manually extract data like business operations, team sales, operations team, which churn out a lot of data points for them on the fly. The same thing is not available to a manager or an account executive, because they also need some of these insights and data points, but they are overlooked and underserved.
We just wanted to build from a user-first approach rather than a buyer-first approach. Obviously, our checks will be signed by the buyers, but when they see that their users are more productive and they’re bringing more business or more of their apps are successful, they won’t mind investing in it. And I’m sure they don’t hate their salespeople because they want them to use bad tools or bad UIs.
This whole trend is also pointing towards that where new-age tools are focused on the users from day one, rather than just helping the buyer. So we definitely are looking at that scenario as well.”
The point of selling for the end-user or end-consumer as well is not just to maximize awareness of the potential impact of a solution, but also to communicate that using the product is ultimately a win-win scenario for everyone involved. Insurtech Symbo CEO and co-founder Adrit Raha shares on the podcast how their attachment approach to insurtech (i.e. embedding offerings in customer journeys), creates that win-win scenario for brands and end-consumers.
“This is the future, this attachment approach, products looking at large scale distribution channels that have that customer loyalty already, I think this is going to be the future and I love giving the example of how Apple and Apple Care have really dominated the market in this space. And I used to have some exposure to that through my old work, but really it’s about going to the partners, the brands, and understanding what their problems are.
That’s the starting point. You’ve got to go in and say, “Okay guys, what is your fundamental problem right now? What are the components that you’re not able to solve for, from a perspective of customer engagement, potentially customer loyalty, potentially warranty or damage?”
At that point, you fall back and start curating a product that is relevant for that particular client or particular category. That’s how we really influence the decision for them to look at us as a key partner. So when you start with solving a problem, you then end up having the right kind of outcomes, and we are seeing market-leading attachment rates.
We’ve given you examples of, or at least from my perspective, I’ve seen examples of attachment rates in the most traditional sense of travel insurance, where it’s typically anywhere in the range of 20 to 25%. And on a good day. We’re seeing double that in terms of attachment rates. And we’re seeing that because ultimately we believe we’re solving a core problem for the brand and a core problem for the end customer.
And then, as I said, the other key component has to be that this entire process is solved through a seamless technology platform. It’s gotta be a no-touch solution, not a low touch, but a no-touch solution. And when a customer buys something, they shouldn’t be filling up proposal forms. They shouldn’t be giving more information. It should all be readily available, pulled in real-time, and communicated to the customer in real-time. And that’s really where we’ve seen some of the earliest success points.”
In some cases, selling to the end-consumer is not as practical as it is to go through businesses that already have that massive consumer base or distribution. This is often the case for B2C companies that pivot to becoming B2B2C, where the solution or technology might have better chances of getting adopted if they are vetted and promoted through organizations that they are already familiar with.
That’s the case for AR company Assemblr, as CEO and Founder Hasbi Asyadiq shares on the podcast. “As we are in the deep tech industry, with immersive technology, it needs some time for the technology to be developed, to be accepted by a mass audience.
It’s a very big challenge for us, but this kind of future is inevitable since, as I mentioned before, tech giants will drive the adoption and also 5G advancement, et cetera. So I have to be really agile in terms of managing resources, building the company and proving that this technology is not a gimmick, it can be useful for your business. It’s such a great challenge for me.
The number one challenge is to bring this product to people so that they can understand the value…and shift their mindset that AR is nice to have to AR is a need. That it is not only gimmicky or nice to have, but it can help them save costs, save time and increase sales, et cetera. So we have to bring that mindset to the mass audience and we alone cannot do that.
That’s why I work with big enterprises and big companies. They can help us in terms of echoing the message from us, because they already have thousands of customers. So once the businesses adopt Assemblr, the technology is also being echoed to their user base or their customer. So it is very challenging, but this is the most efficient way to go to market or to educate the market.
So a lot of big companies trust us to work with them together including Apple, WWF, Google, Ducati, they see us as a leader of the AR industry. And that’s the proof that for these four years we are running on the right path and moving forward, it will be even bigger and even stronger going forward.”
We’re seeing double that in terms of attachment rates. And we’re seeing that because ultimately we believe we’re solving a core problem for the brand and a core problem for the end customer.
(5) Strengthen distribution by going the extra mile in relationship building.
When it comes to driving digitalization globally, it’s not just about the product, but also about distribution. In the case of igloocompany’s B2B business, they invest a lot into their global distribution network, as CEO and co-founder Anthony Chow describes.
“We wanted to focus on the global market from day one, and it’s important for us to put in the relevant infrastructure to support this global vision that we have. So one of the important things that we put in as a tenet within the company is that it’s always important to treat all of our sales partners around the wall as if they are part of our team, continuously build trust and have transparent communications with them.
This really goes down to not just when we have product launches, but also in the way our product failures affect them as well. We share with them what is wrong and what we are doing to correct our issues so that they can continuously have faith in us. And they can do their jobs within the market, which is to sell and service and deploy the products within the market.
And in fact, we take this quite far as well to the extent that sometimes where we have individuals within the headquarters in Singapore or in China, sometimes we also deploy them into our distribution partners.
For example we have one of our business development guys deployed in Vietnam for a month to help our distribution partner within Vietnam to get onboarded. We have somebody that spent about two months over the US as well with our local partner in New York to enable the entire onboarding of our partner, and also get first deals and first wins together with them. This creates that nice relationship between our company, as well as our partners around the world. And we all see ourselves as the same team.
The second point is how do we enable everyone to be continuously connected, not just during the good times, but also during the tough times? And this is something that our business development team, our marketing team, our commercial team spend a lot of effort with, not just understanding the market, but also understanding their operations. How do we ensure that they are able to perform effectively within the market?
So one great example that our team actually did was when we were building distribution points across Europe, and today we have probably about 20 of our distribution partners within Europe. It is very challenging to ship containers and products to different markets within Europe because of different tax laws, different import duties and it’s different from France to Latvia, to Norway, Sweden.
What we did was we worked with our local partners to come up with a strategy to consolidate all the shipments to one specific location over in Ireland where everything is shipped there and it will be disseminated through there and this is something that our team doesn’t have to do.
We could have just left it to our partners on the ground, but by our team stepping in, we help optimize the cost for everyone involved. And that helped to build trust and loyalty and the long-term working relationship with our partners on the ground. And this is just one of many examples that we have.”
This is ultimately a matter of ownership of distribution. In developing global distribution, startups will often have to work with partners across various markets and it can be easy to lose ownership especially if distribution partners do not feel valued, so building trust and loyalty is critical, whether that means having a physical presence or going the extra mile in servicing the needs of partners as in the case of igloocompany.
We wanted to focus on the global market from day one, and it’s important for us to put in the relevant infrastructure to support this global vision that we have.
(6) Create a seamless customer experience from deal origination to customer success.
Enterprise or B2B sales is not just about getting customers to buy a product — it covers origination of these customers (the whole marketing funnel) all the way through to the other end with customer service and retaining these customers through healthy engagement and new offerings.
In this regard, Daniel Hazman points out that sales is about having marketing, sales and customer service to have a seamless workflow in order to acquire and retain customers. The principle here is that customers only see one organization rather than multiple departments, so having a well-coordinated organization trumps siloed departments any time.
“What we’ve seen is we’ve implemented some of the best practices around structure. For example, sales dev reps that do outbound marketing that brings inbound leads, account executives who actually close the deals, and then the customer success who actually helps onboard the clients implement and expand right along with sales. We see that marketing, sales, and CS have to be seamless because the customer doesn’t care whether it’s CS or the sales department. To them, you’re Nimbly.
And so I think the cadence part is very, very critical, aligning these three departments together around certain accounts, strategic accounts, bigger accounts, et cetera. It’s really, really critical to have that cadence and make sure we’re continuously marching to the beat of the same drum.
At the end, we need the right folks with the right skill sets, in the right seat. And that’s difficult because as you know, the market here is growing and when the market grows, that means you have the Series B, Series C companies, big companies from US, Europe coming here. They’re also trying to hire the same people. That’s the part that I would say is challenging. It’s always hiring, whether it’s sales or engineering. It’s definitely challenging.”
We see that marketing, sales, and CS have to be seamless because the customer doesn’t care whether it’s CS or the sales department.
(7) Maximize the SaaS advantage through product iterations that bring together “big picture” and “small picture” insights.
The advantage of a SaaS solution over an in-house solution is that the team working on the SaaS product is incentivized and driven to continue iterating the product for their customers, whereas an in-house solution could easily fall apart after an initial implementation especially if the solution is not part of the business’s core operations.
Nimbly’s Daniel Hazman explains this in the context of the competition posed by incumbents developing their own tools in-house. “We face this all the time. In fact, when investors ask us, who’s your number one competitor, I would say, in this region, it’s the IT team of these companies. And we say, “Hey, it’s okay. We don’t have to beat everybody.” And we said, “Go ahead, choose to do that.” Look, having worked at Walmart, I understand how these things work. Even if we have a C-level sponsorship, IT will just look at you as another project. “Take a number. Okay. Now we’ll build your product.”
And then after a product is done, they go onto another initiative. And what about the maintenance? What about the enhancements? What about the feedback from the users? They’ll say, well, “Take another number, And meanwhile, all the users are saying, “Ah, see, this is something that doesn’t work. So I’m going to go back to pencil and paper.” We’ve seen probably roughly 20 to 25% of the folks who said they’ll build it themselves. A year later, they come back to us and say, “All right. Hey, let’s talk. We tried it, but it failed.”
And when it comes to iterations and developing a product roadmap that works, it’s a combination of looking at the big picture trends and small picture individual user engagements.
As Daniel explains, “First thing is that we understand what parts of our product they’re actually using the most and which ones they’re not using. So it helps us with regards to crafting our product roadmap and tech roadmap. That’s number one.
The second part is that we get a glimpse of the overall trends of what’s happening sometimes. For example, we see folks maybe measuring things differently after COVID. We no longer want to use this checklist. We want to use this checklist. Why is that? And you start seeing patterns across sub-sectors, not just F&B — dine-in versus grab-and-go or chicken versus coffee versus bubble tea, et cetera. So you start getting that granularity, of course at aggregate levels, cause we don’t look at each individual account or anything like that, but you start seeing those types of trends and that really helps us to think about how else we can help our customers.”
We’ve seen probably roughly 20 to 25% of the folks who said they’ll build it themselves. A year later, they come back to us and say, “All right. Hey, let’s talk. We tried it, but it failed.”
(8) Prioritize technology availability (automated testing) and security (ISO certification).
When it comes to enterprise and B2B apps, the main considerations can be quite different from B2C apps. For the former, application availability (24/7 and backups) and security are critical because these two aspects of the technology ensure that the circulation of the business is unbroken and seamless. Jasper Yap, CTO and co-founder of Eezee, goes into detail about what ensuring availability and security means in developing enterprise applications, and how ticking these two checkboxes can secure deals for a B2B or enterprise-focused startup.
“What I’ve seen from my experience is that when it comes to developing for enterprise, certain factors are more prominent. Our enterprises care about availability, security, right? These are things that are important because when an enterprise decides to use our software for work, system downtime will cause their employees to be idle. As a result, work gets stuck and employees get frustrated. Purchase orders can’t be sent out. Quotations can’t be generated. All that time-saving is gone. And that’s why system availability is very important.
Stability and availability are crucial for B2B mission success. Whereas when it comes to consumer apps, you’re using YouTube or using Google, whenever it goes down, it is a pain, but it’s okay. You can still do something else. It’s not like it’s a need for you to live for consumer apps. Whereas for B2B, it is a mission-critical app for work, and that’s why availability is important. And we put in place many things to make sure that our apps are available 24/7. Our containers will auto recover whenever it goes down. Our systems have automated testing. They will make sure that every time we push an update, 90% of the time nothing will happen. Nothing bad will happen because we have automated testing systems. So that’s availability.
The other thing that our enterprises care about is security. In recent years, we have seen many cyberattacks crippling organizations and affecting their reputation. As such our MNCs and enterprises are starting to ask us if we are ISO certified. So think about it. We are a startup. We are the people that do first and think later, that’s typically what startups do, right? So when it comes to building a B2B enterprise, that’s something that we had to learn along the way. Our MNC started to ask us, ” How are your systems secure and how do they process data? And how are you putting in place processes that make sure that the right people get access to the right data?”
That’s interesting because from an enterprise perspective, that is super important. Sometimes deals can be lost because we do not have ISO certification. Whereas when you’re using a consumer app, oftentimes you do not care whether YouTube has an ISO certification or certain systems or Grab or Go-Jek has any ISO certification, you just happily create an account and use the service. So that’s how it’s different. Enterprises require different things and different things speak to them.”
Our enterprises care about availability, security, right? These are things that are important because when an enterprise decides to use our software for work, system downtime will cause their employees to be idle.
Bonus: Supply Chain as the key to drive SaaS adoption for SMEs (i.e. Channel Finance)
In this article we’ve been covering mostly best practices for enterprise sales, but how are startups driving SaaS adoption for SMEs?
First of all, there are a number of challenges in driving SaaS adoption for SMEs: (1) lack of data, (2) willingness or capability to pay for SaaS solutions (therefore leading to subsidies that are costly for a business), and (3) pain points can be niche and localized, which does not intuitively make sense for a SaaS business.
As AwanTunai discovered, the key to unlocking SaaS adoption for SMEs is tapping into the supply chains of these SMEs and enabling financing for transactions along their supply chains as a go-to-market for eventual SaaS solution rollout. And this is not just a unidirectional trajectory where lending leads to SaaS, but the SaaS rollout also fuels an ecosystem that also informs the lending to be more real-time and flexible.
AwanTunai CEO and co-founder Dino Setiawan explains the interactivity between SaaS and lending on our podcast. “I definitely feel this digitalization of the micro-merchants out there is inevitable. It will happen. The issue is who’s going to figure it out. Because I think SaaS adoption is tough in Indonesia. This is why you see that a lot of the Chinese business models simply didn’t work in Indonesia. The user base is very different. This I think is where our approach is a little bit more nuanced. We leverage the supply relationships that we’ve achieved by building a fairly large supply network out there.
We’re providing our suppliers with a lot of SaaS solutions. That’s in a way driven by lending. This is not the first time anyone’s tried to put some kind of SaaS solution into the downstream supply chain. Many have tried — all the major principals, even some of the major banks that will try it. And essentially it’s all failed because tech adoption is extremely difficult in Indonesia. And that’s why we really lead in with the low-cost working capital. Everybody needs that in this particular segment. And it’s the lending that actually pulls the SaaS adoption at this supplier level. And that’s how we build our supply network. And from there, a lot of these suppliers have very tight relationships with their customers. These are like micro-merchants. And this relationship is what we leveraged because there’s already trust established there.
The micro-merchants listen to their suppliers and when we offer a much better way for the suppliers to operate, essentially digitizing a lot of their orders, where historically a merchant would write the order by hand, messy handwriting, maybe photograph that using WhatsApp and then send it to the supplier. Now it’s all essentially digitized through an app. So that simplifies a lot of the fulfillment functions that happen at the supplier. It runs through our POS system that we also provide to the suppliers. And the synergy there is when all that data starts coming into our system.
It makes those customers bankable, those micro-merchants that were historically simply not bankable due to a lack of any kind of credit history data or any kind of digitized transaction data, be it bank transfers or anything like that. Now, all of a sudden through AwanTunai we become able to access the low-cost bank capital that we deploy through our platform.”
Essentially it’s all failed because tech adoption is extremely difficult in Indonesia. And that’s why we really lead in with the low-cost working capital. Everybody needs that in this particular segment. And it’s the lending that actually pulls the SaaS adoption at this supplier level.
Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies, and co-author of the book Navigating ASEANnovation. He is currently Editor of Insignia Business Review, the official publication of Insignia Ventures Partners, and senior content strategist for the venture capital firm, where he started right after graduation. As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.