Going high-tech helps firm fly high

Mr Praba G. Menon (left), 62, group managing director, and Mr Thomas Fernandez, 60, chief executive of PestBusters. Embracing innovative technology such as live streaming from field staff - an industry first - and intelligent rat traps, which send an
Mr Praba G. Menon (left), 62, group managing director, and Mr Thomas Fernandez, 60, chief executive of PestBusters. Embracing innovative technology such as live streaming from field staff - an industry first - and intelligent rat traps, which send an alert to mobile devices when a trap is activated, gives the home-grown firm a competitive edge as it looks to go global.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

The pest control business has gone way beyond traps and glue boards. Home-grown firm PestBusters has a $500,000 high-tech set-up with a command centre which receives live streaming from staff in the field equipped with body cameras.

Founder Thomas Fernandez says innovative technology gives the company a competitive edge as it looks to go global.

It is this approach that the Bud- get hopes to encourage in its emphasis on transformation, automation and internationalisation.

PestBusters, which employs 135 workers, has a presence in several Asean countries and is eyeing expansion to Sri Lanka, India, Dubai and possibly Britain this year. "It's about thinking like a local multinational corporation. We have captured most of the regional markets, so now we want to take the brand global," Mr Fernandez told The Sunday Times.

In December, PestBusters set up an Operations Command Centre at its new $7 million office near Paya Lebar to improve efficiency. The centre, which has a central viewing station with multiple large screens, allows supervisors to coach several workers at once.

Its live streaming from field staff is an industry first. "When a staff member encounters a situation and he's not too sure how to proceed, we can give him step-by-step instructions from base, rather than send another worker down," Mr Fernandez says.

The firm also reaps substantial savings from the ability to track the location of its fleet of about 30 vans. For example, supervisors will be able to alert staff to traffic jams and plot the shortest route.

This has helped PestBusters cut petrol costs by half to $6,000 a month, and reduced vehicle servicing expenses from $22,000 per month to just $9,000. The command centre was launched with the help of the Employment and Employability Institute Inclusive Growth Programme.

PestBusters uses drones to survey roof gutters for mosquito breeding grounds. It is testing prototypes with an attached spray to dispense insecticide.

Another innovation is its intelligent rat traps, which send an alert to mobile devices when a trap is activated. "Your worker doesn't have to check every single trap, just the one activated. These innovative technologies give us an edge overseas," says Mr Fernandez.

Singapore and the Asean market each accounts for half the com- pany's revenue. But he expects overseas business to contribute 60 per cent in the next two years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Going high-tech helps firm fly high'. Print Edition | Subscribe