JASON Chia's love for information technology (IT) and a burning ambition to run his own business drove him to start his own e-business solutions company, I-Power Bhd, last year.
Chia is the chief executive officer and chief technology officer of I-Power, which stands for “Internet Power”. He is responsible for the overall management and strategic planning of the company, which is based in Technology Park Malaysia, Bukit Jalil.
“My vision is for I-Power to become the leading e-business solutions house and systems integrator in the country with its own products and hopefully outwit the IT giants,” Chia told StarBiz.
Under his guidance, I-Power has grown from a relatively unknown company to one with well-established clients like Amway (M) Sdn Bhd, Sony (M) Sdn Bhd, eCosway.com Sdn Bhd, Ni Hsin Corp Sdn Bhd, Teledynamics (M) Sdn Bhd, and Esthetics International Bhd.
I-Power is also an IBM Corp Premier Business Partner and the first IBM business partner in the country to be inducted in the independent software vendor (ISV) advantage programme. It is also the only IBM e-Business Advisor in Malaysia.
As a member of the programme, I-Power will have priority access to IBM's e-business application knowledge and expertise, including its technical infrastructure, resources and support.
This can be considered achievements to be proud of for the young Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)-status company.
Reminiscing about the early days of I-Power, Chia admitted that it took a lot of hard work and determination to make a name for the company in the highly competitive world of information, communications and technology (ICT).
“When we first started, no one knew about us. We had to do a lot of marketing, convincing as well as boldly asking people for opportunities. We also had to put up with a lot of industry critics,” he recalled.
Chia and his team's perseverance paid off when the company managed to obtain its first client, e-Genting Sdn Bhd. Although the deal was for less than RM100,000, it was the start the company was looking for.
“Then other companies like Amway came in and now we have a portfolio of established clients,” Chia said.
I-Power has six flagship e-business solutions in the market, namely I-Power eProcure, eCRM, eStoreFront, ePortal, eHR and eAuction. It also owns the intellectual property rights to the I-Power branded suite of e-business solutions, valued between RM8.1mil and RM11.9mil.
Chia said owning the rights to the company's creations and building a trusted brand name were crucial for sustained growth.
“Technology companies in Malaysia spend a large amount on research and development (R&D). We need to protect local intellectual property in order to reap returns of such investments,” he said.
I-Power has also filed for its products to be trademarked and is waiting for the licence to be confirmed.
To further strengthen its position in the ICT sector, I-Power is aiming for a listing on the Mesdaq market in December.
It will be making a public issue of 18 million new shares of 10 sen each at an offer price of 43 sen per share. Of the 18 million shares, 15.86 million will be via private placement and the balance 2.14 million for directors and eligible employees.
Upon listing, its entire enlarged issued and paid-up capital will be 63 million shares.
The listing exercise will raise RM7.74mil, of which RM3.5mil will be used for R&D, RM2.74mil for working capital and RM1.5mil for listing expenses.
Chia said that while I-Power's core business was in three areas – e-business solutions, systems integration, and the provision of professional services and consultancy – the main focus would be on e-business solutions.
“It is an area with high growth potential. The trend is moving towards Internet-based solutions, as many companies want to leverage on the latest Internet technologies to conduct their business,” he said.
According to IDC Market Research, the e-solutions market in Malaysia is expected to grow to a staggering US$7.8bil by 2005.
“We feel the Malaysian market is still untapped so we are always developing new products for the market,” Chia said.
I-Power is working on three new products at present: the I-Power ePos, eFinancial, and a data-mining engine based on artificial intelligence.
Chia said the company was in the process of doing a parallel run of its ePos, a point-of-sale solution for Esthetics and had already implemented the eFinancial, an accounting solution, for Ni Hsin while the data mining engine solution was still being developed.
“The data mining engine should be in the market by the first half of 2005. We will be targeting banks, insurance companies and the retail industry for the product,” he said.
The R&D investment in data mining engine is supported by a RM2.49mil MSC R&D grant from Multimedia Development Corp.
Chia said I-Power intended to gradually increase its R&D spending from RM500,000mil to as much as RM6.49mil in the next five years.