When the joy is gone, and work is just about security and comfort, it may be time to move on. Darren Lim Weng Chee, 35, tells LIM WING HOOI he started his own mobile app company with a partner when it became a drag to go to work.
What made you decide to start your own company?
Two-and-a-half years ago, I was the project director of a security solutions provider. The remuneration package was well above the market rate. However, I was really unhappy with the monotonous job scope and the bureaucracy.
One day, after I had parked my car at the office, I found I just couldn’t drag myself out of the car. I decided I couldn’t live another day like this, and I did not want to leave the world thinking that I had lived in complacency for years, despite the comfort and security of the job.
I shared my plans with a colleague who I had been working with for more than 10 years, and he too felt the same — that we needed to take charge of our future. At the time, we saw unlimited potential in the mobile application development space as there was a healthy growth of mobile adoption rate in Asia.
The industry climate encouraged us to go all out. We put in all our savings and raised some funds from investors from the region and started Ingenious Lab in 2012, targetting enterprises.
Were there any naysayers who discouraged you?
I don’t listen to naysayers, and my parents have been very supportive all the while, although they are aware that entrepreneurship can be a long and tough journey.
They reminded me that if I had the determination and courage to embark on this journey, ultimately hard work was what’s going to make me successful. We started with four programmers in a rented office in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya. Today we have expanded to 20 staff and moved to Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur.
What is your business model?
We started the business by doing turnkey projects in software development. We worked closely with our clients to develop software and mobile apps based on their business needs and specifications. After it is done, the clients will own the product fully.
After two years in the business (2014), we realised that turnkey projects were not conductive for long-term growth due to the lack of recurring revenue. We have since then focused on R&D to produce more proprietary solutions, such as insurance mobile point of sales (MPOS), mobile optical character recognition (OCR), mobile sales force solutions and mobile ordering systems which allow us to collect fees from usage.
Some of these mobile apps have become catalyst of growth for many businesses, while some have delivered tremendous cost-savings and transformed the way business was conducted.
Early this year, we built a mobile field-support system for one of the major healthcare suppliers in Malaysia. The client wanted to revamp the field-support process, giving customers faster response and automate end-to-end processes like receiving calls, assigning jobs, delivering the services and managing stock. Typically, mobile apps of this scale would cost anything between RM200,000 to RM500,000.
Apart from the local market, we are developing products for clients from various industries based in Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe as well. We see that financial institutions and automobile industries are continuing to invest heavily in mobile technologies to keep themselves ahead of their competitors, and we are tapping into the potential of this segment.
What’s your philosophy in life?
We have to take charge of our lives. Life is not just about money and work; we need to spend time with our family too. Being an entrepreneur gives me that flexibility, and I’m also giving this to my staff.
Surprisingly, while the work-load has increased, having the flexibility to deal with it makes all the difference. In our own company, we have very few rules. Our staff know their role and deliverables.
Do you have any hobbies?
My hobby relates closely to my work. I am passionate about technology, and I spend most of my time trying out new mobile gadgets and research. This helps me to keep tab on the latest innovation and apply my knowledge to mobile projects.
But when I have more time, I would like to do more gardening. It really gives me peace of mind. And when I am with my family, we all put our gadgets aside and enjoy quality time with one another.