Emile Chan, co-founder of corporate communications solution provider Origami Labs, says his firm can still satisfy customers’ demands and scale up despite COVID-19. The reason? Making a strategic shift from being B2C to B2B.
How has your business been affected by COVID-19?
Prior to COVID-19, we had been receiving high interest from international customers, which include a multinational hotel group and chain of coffeehouses. Roughly half of our planned deployments were for projects in the US. The global travel bans in the first quarter of 2020 put a halt on most of these projects, which made us put a renewed focus on the Hong Kong market.
Have you taken any measures to minimise the impact of the pandemic on your business and create new opportunities?
In early 2020, we shifted from offering the ORII voice assistant ring for consumers to the OFLO communications solution for enterprises. The shift has coincidently moved us away from the uncertainty in the current manufacturing supply chain, so we have been able to continue on product development and scaling up to meet demand despite COVID-19. Being software focused has allowed us to launch products that aren’t bound to specific hardware and has given us greater flexibility and a pricing advantage to lower the barrier of adoption. The sales lead time can also be shortened from six months to one month, allowing us to move forward at a much faster pace. Being able to accelerate time to market was and will continue to be our priority.
The shift has led to personnel changes and a lowering of our overhead, which as a result has helped us brace for the COVID impact. Our salary expense in the first quarter of 2020 was 11.5 per cent lower than that of the fourth quarter of 2019, even though we proceeded with staff promotions and salary adjustments.
How do you see your business develop post COVID-19?
We expect to have established some successful commercial-use cases of the OFLO and new interest from the local market that will allow us for a deeper penetration when the economy recovers and that will support our global expansion plan when the travel ban is lifted. We will be able to demonstrate to enterprises that they can have their frontline staff communicate with each other more by using the OFLO. We will also be introducing voice assistants to frontline workers in other industries to open up the possibility of visual-less computing.
What have you learnt from this pandemic?
The impact of COVID-19 will cause the survival mentality to remain for many businesses, so that accelerating speed to market and improving the practicalities of business will be even more important than ever before. Only the strongest will survive this pandemic and we are taking this opportunity to harden and strengthen ourselves.