Kaodim is an online service provider in Malaysia that allows you to hire workers within minutes.
Launched in 2014, Kaodim allows users to hire an electrician, plumber, or other service providers within minutes through their app. Not only that, it also allows you to easily compare quotes of different providers.
Human Asia conducted this exclusive interview with Kaodim founders Jeffri Cheong and Choong Fui-Yu.
What is the story behind the name Kaodim?
Localisation is needed to connect with our customers in Southeast Asia. Kaodim is a cantonese word that means “done”. It represents our values, what we’re about and the services we offer. Any service you need, from plumbing to photographers, we can get it done for you.
We’ve maintained that consistent message in Manila where we’re called Gawin (which means “do it”) and Beres in Indonesia which also means “done”.
Tell us about the beginning. Why start Kaodim?
The pain experienced by almost everyone we knew of finding service providers, compelled us to do something about it. We knew from the beginning we wanted to use technology to help people in a meaningful way. We’ve seen apps for people to book taxis and order food, so there should be one for people to hire services effectively.
We believe that with the speed, precision and value you get from hiring professionals through our platforms, people will find it very difficult going back to the old way of hiring them. We want to be the go-to for all services. Both Fui and myself were involved in the creation of the concept, but it is largely based on a valuable business model that’s existed in the U.S. for a number of years now.
What were the main challenges in getting the concept to product?
We had to find the right people who could build the product for us. Both Fui and I also had to do a lot of manual work at the beginning, with the help of one or two interns.
One and a half years ago, every request that came through the platform was processed manually. We would call up every customer who submitted a request to ask them questions about what they needed, then we would call up service providers, convey that information to them and ask if they were interested in the job.
We’d compile various quotes into an email (with pretty formatting) and send that out to the customer, with a Kaodim logo on the top left. It was a tedious, manual process but it allowed us to really understand what our customers cared about.
What does Kaodim brand itself as?
We are certainly much more than a directory, or an online classifieds. There’s a technological component that allows us to make fast, precision matching between people seeking services and the professionals who provide them.
But we don’t force people to change the way they normally like to do things, and people are on their smartphones all the time anyway. We want to make the way people typically do things just a little bit faster, more reliable and convenient.
How do you then convince users and providers to get on-board and use Kaodim?
People are used to their habits and it takes time for people to embrace new ways of doing things. It took a while for people to convert to smartphones, start buying stuff online, using Facebook, Whats App or Uber, but now everyone’s using it. It will be the same for the way people hire services.
Because of the speed, reliability and accountability we deliver through our apps, people will share their experiences with others- this happens a lot for us and that’s when you know you’re doing something right.
Who are your direct competitors right now?
As first movers in Southeast Asia we’ve demonstrated that this could be a very exciting business model, in a $17 billion per year industry, which many people wanted to disrupt.
Since we started a year and a half ago we’ve seen many other players enter the space and launch similar or identical platforms, some even with the same brand names as us.
We’ve learned a lot, overcome many hurdles, and discovered many solutions to problems that anyone in this space will encounter. Our speed, execution and judgment has allowed us to maintain our position as the market leader, pioneering innovation in processes, technology and brand equity.
We are maniacal about providing immense value to both our service providers and customers, ensuring that everyone has a fantastic user experience.
You have a presence in the Philippines and Singapore, in addition to Malaysia. Any further expansion plans?
In addition to Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore, we are also in Indonesia. We’ve been there only for six months and growth there has been absolutely fantastic. We’re really excited about the Indonesian market and our partnership with Ventura Capital, who is backed by the Lippo Group, has been a tremendous asset to our foray into this massive market.
If you are passionate about helping people, respecting their culture, values and their way of life, it makes expansion into other markets a lot easier.
Where do you see Kaodim in 2 or 3 years from now?
We value the services industry to be around $17 billion per year and with the amount of sales we are facilitating from small scale air-con repair jobs to large commercial renovation projects, we see ourselves being a very valuable conduit in a very large valuable industry.
What factors would be the main limitations for Kaodim to become huge?
If Southeast Asia continues to remain bullish about innovation, their economies, improving efficiency, quality of life and striving to continuously get better at everything, then there is very little to limit Kaodim from becoming an immensely valuable company.
For people interested in working for Kaodim, tell us about the company culture.
We have a very young team, and we believe that people are capable of amazing things regardless of what background or education they have. We have people from Ivy League schools and people who don’t have university degrees, both have accomplished things they never thought were possible.
We believe that if you emanate positive energy, think positively, courageous, disciplined and practice good habits, you’ll be able to realize things you once only dreamed off. Well, we did, so can anyone else.
What value proposition would you propose to potential investors?
We are the leading platform in Southeast Asia for hiring local services worth $17 billion, with a leading presence in four countries. We’ve got an acute focus on business fundamentals, including sound unit economics, excellent revenue growth, and most importantly, a sincere passion towards helping businesses grow and making lives easier.
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PERSONAL STORY ABOUT THE FOUNDERS
Tell us about your childhood and upbringing.
Jeff: I was born in Malaysia, but spent some time in the U.S., during elementary and middle school, then I moved back to Malaysia for high school. I read law in the UK and completed Bar School there before starting my career as a litigation lawyer in Malaysia for 5 years.
I’ve always been a creative person since I was a child, obsessed with art and music. I always aspired towards a life of authenticity, creative expression, generosity and helping others.
Fui: I was born in Malaysia. Read law in the UK and came back to practice in Malaysia. I practiced as a corporate and commercial litigation lawyer for about 5-6 years. As a kid growing up I didn’t actually have a specific idea of what I wanted to become.
But I was and still am very driven – always wanting to solve that next big problem, take on that next big challenge. I never thought I’d start a company to be honest. But of all challenges, this is definitely the biggest so far.
From being lawyers, you jumped into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship. Why?
Jeff: For many years, service providers were still relying on recommendations from friends to get new customers. Today, when everyone is booking transport, buying products and getting almost anything done instantaneously through smartphones, it was the right time to provide them with mobile tech that brought send customers straight to them via their smartphones.
Our apps have rapidly transformed their livelihoods and that of their families. I always wanted to live an authentic life, where the work I do had meaningful impact on others. I like to live filled with creativity, in an environment where I can be expressive and test my ideas. Entrepreneurship gives me this opportunity.
Fui: I learned a lot as a lawyer but I’m not so sure about the glamour part to be honest! But after those years in practice I really just felt that there were bigger things out there that I could contribute to.
And that’s what Kaodim is really about. I don’t see this endeavor as just starting a business or a company – I see it as creating a new and better way of doing things within the local services space, both for consumers and the service providers.
I feel like we’re literally creating the a new default behavior when it comes to hiring local services – a lot faster, more convenient, safer, more transparent and just a whole lot better.
Is your work experience and the skills gained as a lawyer relevant now?
Jeff: My training as a lawyer has definitely been transferable. We were trained to analyze a lot of complex information very quickly and make sound decisions while thinking on our feet. I had to learn fundamentals of digital marketing, operations, accounting, finance, talent management from scratch and my training as a lawyer has certainly helped to absorb that information quickly and execute effectively.
I think entrepreneurs who want to move to an unrelated field need to believe in their abilities, strive towards continuous self improvement, and have tenacity. It’s not necessary to have a tech background. If you’re curious and excited about learning new skills, you’ll be fine.
Fui: Being a lawyer, you learn to think on your feet, be very analytical and logical. And also very methodical in everything you do. All of those things are really powerful tools that form the foundation and can be used to learn many things, master new skills.
So I wouldn’t worry too much about not knowing something at the beginning – you can always learn it. I think it’s far more important to have the right reasons in wanting to do something, the right drive and ambition – and then just go for it.
What is the most difficult thing in creating a start-up?
Jeff: A lot of the early challenges and struggles ranged from acquiring customers, figuring out how to market effectively, how to fund-raise, hire people, develop processes and systems. All of which were completely new to us and we had to manage all of it at once. There are many obstacles and a lot of things cannot be anticipated, what matters is how you react when you’re faced with them.
Fui: Seeing and staying ahead of the curve because things move so fast. Adaptability is crucial. And you need to be super focused and prepared to give up quite a lot – like hanging out and sleeping in.
Tell us about a typical day for both of you.
Jeff: Exercising and keeping active is definitely important. My mood and energy is definitely a lot more positive and inspiring after a work-out. Eating healthy and keeping fit has a direct correlation to how impactful I can be and the energy I emit towards those around me. It energizes me and my team, and gives everyone tremendous inspiration to move the company forward.
Fui: I work 6 days a week, but never on Saturdays. I spend Monday to Friday executing and managing work that I have prioritized every Sunday night. On Sundays, I tend to do a lot of thinking, reflecting and planning for the week ahead.
Exercise is important. I go to the gym 3 – 4 times a week and keep to a pretty strict diet. I don’t have a lot of time for much else, maybe just reading. Business books, news, startup related stuff to keep updated and business magazines.
Tell us more about your personalities, and what personality traits make the best entrepreneurs?
Jeff: Tenacity, gratitude, positivity and being maniacal about giving your customers and excellent experience is the most important in becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Fui: I think I’m pretty calm and composed most of the time. I consider myself pretty analytical and a very deep thinker. I think I listen and learn more than I talk. I don’t think there are any specific traits that one needs to have to become a successful anything, let alone entrepreneur. But you do need a huge dose of passion, positivity, ambition and perhaps most importantly, persistence.
Define what success is for you personally, and for Kaodim.
Fui: Tough one. Personally, it would really be to continuously challenge and reinvent myself – so that every new version of me is better than my previous self. For Kaodim, it’s still early days and I see so much potential in it so putting it in a few words would probably do injustice. But I think we can say we’d have achieved success if we have managed to improve the local services ecosystem and continuously help our service providers grow bigger and better.
Visit Kaodim at https://www.kaodim.com/