Software company out to train next generation with toys


Growing team: Some of the company’s staff working on an app after checking the details of the analytics engine.

LIFE is filled with twists and turns, and for tech entrepreneur Reza F. Razali, that is especially true.

Reza, who has been dabbling with software programming since the age of seven, said he had his dad to thank for his abilities.

“He not only gave me games to play with, but programming books to read as well,” he said.

“With the knowledge, I used the programming language QBasic and was able to recreate the famous classic computer game Pacman. The best part was, it was almost the same as the original game at that time,” he told Metrobiz.

Despite having such knowledge at an early age, he wanted to learn something else in university. For his further studies he opted to do a degree in finance in a US university, hoping to build a career in investment banking.

However, upon graduation in 2006, the financial markets in the US were crashing and he spent a year working with US computer company Dell before deciding to come back to Malaysia in 2007.

Constant upgrading: Reza working on the code for one of the company’s educational apps.
Constant upgrading: Reza working on the code for one of the company’s educational apps.

“I was quite lost and all my experience in the US amounted to nothing as I did not have the necessary connections to launch my career at home. Besides, the job market in Malaysia wasn’t too positive at that time,” he said.

Despite the gloomy prospects, he saw potential in what he calls the iPhone economy. He realised there was potential in monetising the applications built to support the new smartphone launched in Apple in 2007.

Help came in the form of a RM150,000 grant from the Multimedia Development Corporation after three intensive presentations.

He started Terato Tech Sdn Bhd in 2008 with a team of two. Today, the company occupies a 4,000sq ft office in Bangi Business Park, Bangi, with a team of more than 40 people, consisting mainly of computer programmers.

Reza said the company’s first application was Qalvinius, an adventure game which at its peak achieved more than 500,000 downloads a week.

“However, we were clueless about monetisation at that time,” he said.

Additive manufacturing: The company also has a 3D printer. Terato collaborates with startups who want to to do rapid prototyping for all kinds of things, including toys.
Additive manufacturing: The company also has a 3D printer. Terato collaborates with startups who want to to do rapid prototyping for all kinds of things, including toys.

The company’s subsequent offerings, ranging from social and educational apps to games all included elements of monetisation.

Although the use of smart devices is increasing each day, along with the number of apps being created, he said one had to think carefully before jumping into the business.

“Looking at the amount of work involved, it would be hard to do it without passion,” he added.

Some of the work includes continuously improving apps based on feedback received from the built-in analytics engine.

“Some of our apps achieved zero sales, while some could reach over RM50,000 in six months.

“When you’ve ticked all the boxes for what people want in an app, and they start to recommend it to their friends, that is when your app will succeed,” he says, adding that people also have to factor in the marketing and development cost before embarking on app development.

Toys for teaching: Lego blocks that can be built and then programmed.
Toys for teaching: Lego blocks that can be built and then programmed.

In some cases, the company’s apps are co-branded with service providers like the Yellow Pages. In such cases, the app uses the partner’s corporate colours and icons for a fee.

At the same time, Terato Tech can still generate revenue from banner advertisements placed by other companies in the app.

The placement of ads is done via registration with application platforms that source for advertisers. Some of the criteria that advertisers look for include number of downloads and users per day, or they select based on the demographics of users, and other factors.

“We don’t interfere with the banner ads that go with our app, other then when they are competing apps or gambling ads placed on our educational apps. The child’s parents would definitely be concerned,” he explains.

To date, the company has done five co-branding apps with local telecommunication and travel companies for fees ranging from RM50,000 to several hundred thousands ringgit.

He said these companies are keen to co-brand as it may take months for them to develop an app whereas if they co-brand, the his team can get it running in a matter of weeks.

Growing client base: The company has created about 80 apps for 20 companies, including banks.
Growing client base: The company has created about 80 apps for 20 companies, including banks.

“Besides, apps programming is not their core-competency,” he says.

Today, the company also develops apps for clients.

The company had developed over 80 apps for some 20 companies, including banks.

With the advent of mobile banking, his apps play a pivotal role as the interface between consumers and the banking infrastructure.

It also helps banks increase their productivity, as some of the apps allow managers to approve leave for personnel or even loans for consumers via smart devices.

Having invested over RM5mil over the years, Reza said human capital remained the top priority, followed by software needed to do the apps.

The company established Terato Academy in late 2013, to provide children aged 10 to 14 with the opportunity to build robots using Lego blocks, and subsequently, to program the robots’ functions.

This is part of the continuation of the company’s interest to provide new approaches to education.

The company has created interactive fables to be read by children on iPad and also apps to encourage learning via games.

With Daniel Tsen, who serves as Terato Academy’s education programmes chief, Reza said he hopes to bring back the passion and ability to create among today’s students.

The academy has since held four three-day camps in Cyberjaya and is looking at expanding to other locations.

“If the company continue to exist in the coming decades, we hope these students would join us,” Reza concluded.

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