SINGAPORE –Two years of the Covid-19 pandemic have compressed the tech cycle, changed working habits and entirely transformed the workplace, while the “Great Resignation” of workers young and old has left companies short of staff.
But these challenges have propelled the growth of home-grown “agile” tech services player ServBridge.
Founded, led and operated by Ms Ivy Sim, 40, ServBridge started out in 2010 buying and selling computer servers and setting up switches and storage systems, with Ms Sim running a one-woman show.
The firm is now a thriving business providing niche IT-based management services and “smart-tech” building and facilities management solutions, while competing against larger companies struggling to fill gaps in hardware and software. It also provides outsourced engineering talent.
Though it has a staff of just 14 IT professionals in Singapore, it operates across 100 countries by tapping around 300 professionals through a global network of 96 partners.
“The past two years have accelerated digitalisation and the demand for ‘agile’ solutions,” Ms Sim said. “Our size and global alliances have enabled us to move quickly and beat out larger competitors who may not be as agile.”
ServBridge provides three core services.
The first is agile solutions, where it moves faster than large competitors to fill gaps in products, solutions or services, including IT talent.
Its second is global technology deployment, which provides consultation and procures, ships, installs and maintains products for customers.
Ms Sim related how a few years ago, ServBridge beat out much larger competitors to secure a project to deploy 2,000 computer terminals globally for a European financial information services provider.
“We won this project over a world renowned systems integrator company,” Ms Sim recalled.
“Our competitor said they would take 2.5 years, but we were able to commit to completing the project within six months, and at a cheaper price.”
ServBridge’s third core business is life-cycle management, which enables clients to extend warranties on major brands.
“These clients operate in locations where the major IT brands may not want to set up service centres themselves,” said Ms Sim.
ServBridge also facilitates the leasing of new hardware or software for companies not willing or able to make purchases.
Ms Sim said such services have become critical, given severe disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. She added: “Equipment and services are harder to secure, yet the pressure to increase revenue while lowering costs continues.”
All this is happening even as environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) have become increasingly critical for corporations.
“The pressure to meet ESG compliance has increased tremendously. Meanwhile, there is an acute shortage of IT tools, processes and professionals to help corporations improve their carbon footprint,’’ Ms Sim said.
She reckons a good place to start would be to make buildings and facilities “smarter” by using sensors, apps and other IT tools to measure energy usage.
So what is next for ServBridge?
Ms Sim, who owns 75 per cent of the company while her husband Vincent Tan owns the remaining 25 per cent, plans to expand organically and via mergers and acquisitions.
The firm aims to tap capital markets to fund growth and help build up a fourth pillar in ESG-related IT solutions.
“While we are growing organically, we are not tapping the full potential of the opportunities out there. We have to expand by recruiting more talent, creating more resources, and possibly acquiring adjacent businesses.”
Some of the key businesses ServBridge is looking to acquire are for ESG solutions, green tech-related and “smart building” solutions providers.
The company chalked up revenue of $14.9 million in 2021, a 63 per cent increase from a year earlier, and more than double its 2019 revenue. Top-line growth in 2022 is expected to be in excess of 10 per cent.
“Profit margins have been very healthy,” Ms Sim said.
Ms Sim – a heartlander daughter of hawkers, a former flight stewardess who left school after sitting the O levels, and the mother of three teenage boys – still finds it hard to believe how quickly her company has grown.
Splitting her time between school and helping her parents at their fishball noodles stall, she later went on to study for a diploma in design at LaSalle College of the Arts.
“The fees were quite expensive, and I had to work full-time in a cafe while taking on gig jobs such as designing menus for a Japanese sushi chain,” she said. “After the first year, I couldn’t focus due to the distractions at work. Later, I found another school to learn IT.”
Her interest in technology started at a young age. She said: “I was 10 when my dad bought me my very first computer (an HP 286). I took it apart, which made him furious. But I fixed it back. So I had a natural passion and ability which I didn’t realise until I grew a little older.
“Later, I got my first IT job at HP to assist Ministry of Education teachers with their tech problems. I climbed the ranks to become an engineer, and then a command centre engineer.”
After flying as cabin crew with Singapore Airlines for two years to “see the world”, she took on a sales job at a systems integrator in 2006.
“I realised I loved to meet people. I combined my technical skills with my SIA customer service skills, and after a year, I was promoted to become a team lead.”
After three years, she incorporated ServBridge in 2010, at the age of 28.
Where will ServBridge be in five years?
“We hope to be a leading global solutions provider for tech infrastructure,” she said.
Not bad for a self-declared “academically mediocre” young girl who started out helping to serve fishball noodles at her parents’ hawker stall.