You might expect that the person behind a successful cloud-based technology start-up would be a tech wizard. In fact, Phil Wong, CEO of YOOV, is a surveyor by training and initially worked in banking and real estate. It was when he moved to a different sector, to establish a franchise of an English learning centre, that he spotted a major opportunity.
Wong quickly realised that the centre’s HR processes were very time-consuming. Approving annual leave, for example, involved forms being printed, signed, scanned and emailed multiple times.
“I encountered so many inefficiencies in the operation,” he explained. “I had the idea to automate the system, and realised that this was also a way to help other SMEs in Hong Kong.”
From this idea, YOOV was launched in 2016, and the language centre became one of the company’s first clients. Now, requesting and approving leave can be done with just a few clicks on a mobile phone, and YOOV has gone on to develop digital solutions across a wide variety of business operations.
“YOOV is an enterprise solution service provider,” Wong explained. “So we help companies to digitalise their workflow and data management.”
The company’s first products were software services for human resources management and workflow approval management, especially designed for SMEs in Hong Kong.
“You can use our system to manage and digitalise your human resources and related workflow, such as expense reimbursement and payroll,” Wong said.
On the approval side, projects can be approved digitally at different stages of the process, reducing paperwork and greatly improving speed and efficiency – and ultimately reducing costs for businesses.
Following the success of their HR and workflow platform, YOOV started receiving requests for similar solutions for other business areas, like customer relationship management and inventory management. But as the requests snowballed, it was difficult to keep up.
“Initially, we tried to customize different systems for each client, but we found that they all had different requests,” Wong explained. “We can do one, we can do ten, but we can’t do hundreds.”
This led to YOOV establishing a no-code development platform. It has templates that businesses can adapt for their own data management and workflow needs, even if they don’t have a lot of IT knowledge.
“No-code means the clients can develop their own software or net applications through our platform, without any programmers.”
This service was an immediate success, particularly among YOOV’s SME clients that usually do not have the technology or engineering expertise to create their own online platforms. Then, in 2020, the arrival of Covid triggered a further surge in demand.
“Suddenly, all companies needed to work from home, so they needed to digitalize their operations to manage their businesses more efficiently,” Wong explained.
Besides the workflow and HR platform, which can be used and adapted by any business, YOOV has also developed a number of products for specific industries, including catering, property and clinic management.
Last year, the company expanded into the financial services area, particularly in lending and insurance for SMEs.
Wong explained that banks and traditional lenders need to see a lot of supporting documents like audit reports and banks statements before they will make loans to businesses, but many SMEs do not have enough up-to-date paperwork. YOOV, however, is able to access the information needed to assess companies’ repayment ability.
“Many SMEs and companies already have a lot of data in our platform, such as revenue, expenses and staff payroll,” he said. “So we can use the most updated data to do credit assessment for lending.”
On the insurance side, it is a similar concept – YOOV has a lot of information about staff compensation and other details, so it can provide insurance companies with the latest and most accurate information.
This helps SMEs by saving them a lot of time and effort, and can also reduce their premiums. With financial services now added to its suite of services, YOOV is now offering a substantial ecosystem for its SME clients.
In just a few years since its launch, the company has grown rapidly, and now has more than 15,000 corporate clients across 50 different industries, and more than 200 staff.
Such rapid growth has presented some hurdles. Like many businesses, YOOV has faced manpower challenges, especially engineers and programmers. To help solve this issue, the company has opened two offices in China to better access Mainland programming talent.
Having attained considerable success in the Hong Kong market, the company is now setting its sights further afield. In particular, YOOV is looking at markets in Southeast Asia, Belt and Road countries, and Latin America, and already has secured a number of contracts in overseas markets.
In Panama, for example, YOOV is working with the government to help around 3,000 businesses in the country’s free trade zones to digitalize their operations. In Malaysia, meanwhile, the company has a contract with the government to help the nation’s million-plus fishermen and farmers to digitalize.
“Developing countries can be more accepting of new technologies to help them to ease their operations,” Wong said. “This is reflected in China, which is already a very high-tech country, more so than Hong Kong and many other developed economies.”
While it has ambitious plans for expanding overseas, YOOV remains rooted in Hong Kong. As Wong noted, businesses here benefit from the protection of a well-established legal system, and a financial system that enables companies to operate smoothly.
And there is still plenty of scope for growth in Hong Kong, as many local businesses still rely heavily on paperwork, or have not advanced beyond using Excel to manage their operations. Wong said that he hopes YOOV’s services can help fellow Chamber members to improve their operations and boost efficiency.
The arrival of the pandemic was a wake-up call for many companies, and opened the eyes of business owners to the wide range of business operations that can be moved online, saving time and resources.
“From now on, the trend for digitalization will be faster and faster,” Wong said.
Company : YOOV Internet Technology Ltd
HKGCC Membership No. : HKY0186
Established : 2016
Website : www.yoov.com
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