More start-ups selling business solutions to MNCs

Mr Gopalkrishna (above) said Workplace, a platform designed for use at the office, grew out of other companies’ requests, after staff from these firms visited Facebook and saw how it used the platform, which was then available only internally. Face
Mr Gopalkrishna (above) said Workplace, a platform designed for use at the office, grew out of other companies’ requests, after staff from these firms visited Facebook and saw how it used the platform, which was then available only internally. Facebook now has 1,000 companies signed on, including Myanmar’s Yoma Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

More technology companies and start-ups are targeting the deep pockets of multinational companies and the public sector.

They are offering services aimed at corporate clients, providing them business solutions. Facebook is the latest to jump on the bandwagon. Workplace, a platform designed for use at the office, is set to be launched early this morning.

Several Singapore government bodies are on board, including the newly formed Government Technology Agency, or GovTech, the Economic Development Board and the National Library Board.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Manulife Singapore have also signed on.

Mr Ramesh Gopalkrishna, head of Apac for Workplace, said the product grew out of other firms' requests, after they visited Facebook and saw how it used Workplace, which was then available only internally.

GROWING DEMAND

It's an inevitable trend as more businesses are looking for efficiency and productivity in their business operations. With more start-ups building great products for businesses, more businesses are now aware and leveraging technology to better run their businesses.

MR JEFFREY PAINE, a partner at Golden Gate Ventures, on the rising trend of B2B start-ups.

"We've scaled up from four people in a dorm room to a company with more than 15,000 employees in 50 countries. One of the things that helped us scale up our culture quickly is this platform," he said.

Facebook began offering the product 18 months ago. It now has 1,000 companies signed on, including Myanmar's Yoma Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The platform, which is also available on mobile, features familiar Facebook's features, such as Facebook chat and Facebook Live. The latter has been popular with companies, said Mr Gopalkrishna, as it allows them to connect with employees more directly and increase employee engagement.

The platform is free until March 31 next year. After that, companies will be charged between $1 and $3 for each active user of the platform.

Other companies targeting the business-to-business (B2B) space include ride-hailing company Grab and local food tech start-up Grain.

Grab launched its corporate solution, Grab for Work, in June to "solve our own pain points", said Ms Adeline Quek, regional lead of Grab for Work.

The portal helps companies to manage their transport spending more efficiently as companies can sync and organise rides booked with Grab, and charge payments automatically to corporate accounts.

Like Workplace, Grab for Work is free for now to entice companies to try it out. When asked if charges would apply later, Ms Quek said the firm was focused on introducing more enterprise-friendly features.

Close to 1,000 Singapore-based companies use the portal, including Park Hotel Group and Chope Group, she said.

Grain's head of partnerships, Mr Terence Yeo, said the company formed a business unit to focus on corporate needs two months ago. The unit, Grain for Work, works with other firms to customise meals and has helped Grain double its growth every month. It now makes up for more than half Grain's revenue.

Mr Yeo said start-ups could get advantages by beginning with a focus on the consumer. "As a consumer product, you build a brand. Thereafter, you can leverage on your brand to go into the business market."

Mr Jeffrey Paine, a partner at Golden Gate Ventures, said that there are more B2B start-ups in South-east Asia, and that the company has done double the number of B2B start-up deals this year compared with last year.

"It's an inevitable trend as more businesses are looking for efficiency and productivity in their business operations. With more start-ups building great products for businesses, more businesses are now aware and leveraging technology to better run their businesses."

Lee Xin En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'More start-ups selling business solutions to MNCs'. Print Edition | Subscribe