After realising that there was no proper platform for service providers in Malaysia, Jeffri decided to quit his 9 to 5 job as a commercial and intellectual property litigation lawyer, kickstarting Kaodim with co-founder Choong Fui-Yu. As the managing director of the startup, Jeffri now manages a team of 80 people across four countries in Southeast Asia. Last November, Kaodim successfully raised $7 million in a round of funding, with a focus on marketing and expansion this year.
What made you decide to start Kaodim?
I always wanted to live a life of creativity and authenticity, so I thought the best way of doing that was to start a business of my own. At the same time, we were seeing a lot of things that we do everyday being digitally assisted. You can shop online, you can get from one place to another using an app, but no one was trying to tackle the problem of finding a plumber or a contractor. That was a major pain point where we did not see any digital assistance or improvement.
On the service provider’s side, a lot of these small businesses are also struggling to get customers and to grow their businesses using their mobile phones. So there was a business opportunity there, and aligning that with my desire to live creatively and authentically, as well as to deliver social impact to millions of people in Southeast Asia, it is my true work and I’m really happy with what I’m doing now.
What is one thing first-time Kaodim users should know?
It’s a product that allows you to find almost any type of home service that you need, whether it’s a mover, air-con servicing, a contractor or a cleaner. You can get reviews from other customers who have hired them to be assured that the decision you’re making is the right one. All the service providers are verified and background-checked by us. We’re with you every step of the way to make sure that your experience from start to end is a satisfactory one.
How was the transition like, from being a lawyer to leading your own startup?
Entrepreneurship now is a life of really high rewards and very bad lows — it fluctuates tremendously. There’s no consistency, stability or certainty to it. Now I take a lot of risks and sometimes a lot of these decisions don’t pan out the way that you want it to. You need to understand that this is the life that you’ve chosen, this is the path that you’ll be taking and you need to be very comfortable with that. There’s a lot of anxiety involved and you might go a little bit crazy sometimes, but it can also be very rewarding when you make the right decisions.
Describe some of the challenges that you’ve faced with your startup from the beginning vs. now.
At the beginning, I was doing everything myself. It was just me and my co-founder working out of the house, so I was doing things like getting all the quotations from the service providers manually, learning the basics of digital marketing — these were all very new to me, so that was quite challenging. But now the business has stabilised a lot so it’s all about working with the team to figure out how do we get better and improve. Now that the product has exceeded the original aspirations that we had, how do we take it to the next level?
Back then, you were one of the first home service platforms. But now that there are similar apps out there, how do you distinguish yourself from the rest?
What I hear from our service providers is that we provide them with the most leads compared to anyone else. I think that is very important — that we are giving them a tremendous amount of stability for their businesses to grow. On the customer’s side, we are making sure that we are really fast with the responses and that the quality of the service providers is high. We also offer them money-back guarantees, insurance — basically we’re focussing on the product and the technology to make sure that the experience on both the vendors and customers’ sides is really flawless.
What are the key areas of expansion you’re looking to focus on with the recently acquired funding?
We’re able to hire a lot of people that we weren’t able to hire before along with building up divisions within teams. Money is also going into product development to see how we can improve the product even more, and also to use that technology to automate a lot of things that were previously done manually. We’ve also moved into a new office recently. Everyone is really happy with the new space, and it’s a great sign of things to come.
What has this journey taught you about leadership so far?
I’m still learning and growing as a leader. I think that you need to give your team empowerment, discretion and flexibility to try and achieve things that they thought was not possible. At the same time you need to give them the guidelines and the support in doing that, and set difficult targets for them to hit while also supporting them so they can graduate through those targets. Empathy and compassion are also really important. I think these are the things that have worked pretty well for me so far.
What are some of the top qualities that an entrepreneur should have?
I think you’ve got to be very creative. You need to have very powerful daily habits and routines that allow you to increase the chances of fortune coming at you. I think that if you’re consistent and diligent with your good habits, then success will be more likely. You should also persevere and remain positive all the time.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
You shouldn’t get into a business if you’re doing it with the sole intention of making a lot of money. You should do it if it’s going to make you happy, if it’s going to give you a life of authenticity and allow you to feel free and liberated — I think that’s the most important thing.
If you weren’t the MD of Kaodim, what would you be doing now?
I have tonnes of ideas, a lot of different projects and cool stuff that I have in my head. If I had time to do all of that, I’d definitely try out some of those things. If I could do something that associated with art and music, both of which I love, that would probably be pretty fun.
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
Right now we’re fully focussed on growing the business and making Kaodim an even better experience for both vendors and customers. So expect a lot of product improvements and developments in the coming year. There could be some personal art and music projects but I don’t think anyone is going to want to see those (laughs).