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How Malaysia’s Gain Secure stood tall amid Covid-19

Walter Wong, executive director of Gain Secure and former Microsoft employee, talks up how his business is coping during Malaysia’s lockdown

Even before the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Malaysia’s digital economy ambitions included addressing considerable digitalisation gaps in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which accounts for 98.5% of the country’s businesses.

According to the World Bank, Malaysian businesses have been slow to adopt digital technologies compared to large enterprises and the government sector. Recent moves to propel the country’s SMEs into the digital economy include the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation’s quick-wins digital solutions programme.

In a snapshot of how one company is faring, Computer Weekly spoke with Walter Wong, a former executive at Microsoft Malaysia, and now executive director of Gain Secure, a company that specialises in application modernisation.

For the past three years, Gain Secure has been focused on enterprise system modernisation for both cloud and on-premise environments, including desktop, web, mobile and self-service payment kiosks. It counts well-known names such as convenience store chain 7-Eleven and South African restaurant chain Nando’s Singapore business as clients.

Maintaining momentum

Unsurprisingly, the main challenge in the Covid-19 era lay in pivoting presales and sales activities from face-to-face to virtual interaction. Adapting to the new normal remains challenging for both customers and the team, Wong said.

“As the leader of the ship, I’m here to ensure the work-life balance of my team members, which I strongly believe in. To avoid burnout, I reminded my team on maintaining work-life balance, especially when working from home, and I encourage this by delivering snacks and treats to their families,” he added.

Wong said Gain Secure’s focus on making solutions user-friendly and its almost evangelical zeal to help customers have been its competitive edge.

“We take a different perspective in separating the hype about building new solutions to take on the rise of e-commerce, delivery or food ordering apps in the new normal,” he said. “Instead, we focus on helping customers to strengthen their IT foundation, so that they are able to manage their business online.”

An example of this is a recent request from a restaurant chain in Singapore to develop food delivery capabilities for its existing mobile app, which previously only handled dine-in requests.

“This necessitated strengthening and integrating the company’s kitchen operations – from mobile app to the kitchen,” Walter said. “We intend to get our customer ready for next phase of IT transformation, which will be critical for next few years.”

Post-pandemic wish list

Wong recognises that building Malaysia’s digital economy is a complex task involving a slew of measures such as strengthening affordable access to digital tools and services, as well as delivering secure and stable high-speed connectivity.

From his observations of digitalisation efforts during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order, he was heartened that Malaysians have been quick to adapt to changes.

“Many SMEs are moving their business online, either via e-commerce platforms or social media,” Wong noted. “Examples include hawkers moving their menus to Facebook advertising, and maintaining offline payments such as cash-on-delivery or payment before delivery via bank transfer,” he said, adding that the government can encourage SMEs to adopt online payments through payment gateway incentives.

Gain Secure itself had benefitted from the government’s financial support schemes such as the market development grant (MDG) and the services export fund (SEF). These schemes, Wong said, have fuelled the growth of the company in the region.

“Admittedly, during the pandemic lockdowns, the MDG and SEF may not be practical, so more appropriate schemes, coupled with industry engagement and feedback, are needed,” Wong said. “However, we should first collate what Malaysia’s digital efforts have achieved, so stronger plans can be included in the 2021 Budget.”

On future plans, Wong said although Gain Secure is unable to forecast its revenue with the uncertain market conditions, it is looking at new ways to help customers fortify their business and position them for recovery.

Wong said he may also consider listing the company on the Leap market of Malaysia’s stock exchange, which is said to be a fast, efficient and transparent marketplace for entrepreneurial businesses to grow and raise capital.

A publicly listed company had offered to buy Gain Secure last year to boost its bottom line, but Wong declined the offer, noting that “the timing and valuation weren’t in line with our expected growth trajectory ahead”.

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