JoongAng Ilbo’s Interview with Jeffri Cheong, Group Managing Director

Kaodim was recently featured in JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo is South Korean daily newspaper and is one of South Korea’s biggest news outlets. The paper also publishes an English edition, Korea JoongAng Daily, in partnership with the International New York Times. Below is the translated version from the original article can be found at https://bit.ly/2Rta7vP

Interview with Kaodim’s Co-Founder and  Group Managing Director, Jeffri Cheong

Malaysia is hot and humid all year round and an air-conditioner is a must have. However, it is hard to find someone that can repair it when it breaks down. There are many types of languages spoken in Malaysia –  English, Chinese, and Malay. Thus, making it difficult for people to find services for different occasions. Two young lawyers, Jeffri Cheong and Choong Fui Yu, asked, “Is there a service which allows consumers to easily call a repairman as if calling a vehicle with a ride-hailing app?” I liked this idea for a business. If you list the desired service with the date and the requirements through the homepage or mobile application, the companies registered with Kaodim will send a quotation. The client can look at this quote and choose the service provider he wants. Kaodim then receives a brokerage commission from the company when they put out a quote to the customers. Kaodim opened its doors in 2014 and received explosive responses from 500 service providers which registered the month after its launch. It has attracted an investment of 11.6 million USD (12.5 billion won) to date and has a brand presence in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The platform has developed to provide not only simple home maintenance and repairs but now offers other services such as photography services, English lessons, yoga lessons and, office and event space rentals.   

On November 22nd, last year, I visited the headquarters of Kaodim in Petaling Jaya and met Kaodim’s founder and group managing director, Jeffri Cheong. He was in the office with a laptop seated together with the rest of the employees.

The following is an interview:   

Question: Why did you leave your stable career as a lawyer to start a business?   

Answer: At the time of Kaodim’s establishment, Southeast Asia was at a rapid rate of technology entry. As Uber and Grab emerged, the e-commerce market grew rapidly, I felt that the speed of progress was the same as the ‘Industrial Revolution’. I saw a new and innovative industry, and I saw the possibility of being a part of this industry. At the time there were developed traffic and delivery start-ups but there was no company providing a services-marketplace to customers. So, if we did not do it, somebody else would have done it. I thought if it does not take off within 3 – 4 months I would go back to being a lawyer. I am fortunate that Kaodim is still going strong. (Laughs)

Question: What does Kaodim mean?

Answer: ‘Kaodim’ is a  Cantonese term which means ‘It’s done, it’s done’. It is a common Malaysian slang used by Chinese, Indians and Malays. In the Philippines and Indonesia, we use their local word for ‘Kaodim’ to show our efforts to localize.    

Question: Did you refer to a business model of a similar US company, such as Thumbtack?  

Answer: Thumbtack is a US company that posts existing job ads into their app using contacts and information from newspaper ads. We have created something similar here. One year later, our technology has improved and now our platform is the biggest platform that connects all these services in the Southeast Asia region. Also, our local service providers only provide manpower and skill, but, they do not know how to market themselves, or manage their accounts or customer reviews. Thus, we have created a system that supports and assists the service providers in these areas.  

Question: Although the amount of service that Kaodim provide is good, the profitability seems to be low due to the small commission income.   

Answer: If you move once, it will cost up to 200 ~ 250 Ringgit (54,000 ~ 67,000 won), moving office costs around 1000 Ringgit (270,000 won), and air-conditioner repair is about 100 Ringgit. But renovation is much more expensive and will cost up to (W540,000 ~ 800,000). The cleaning is about 24,000 won, and we have an increase in requests every week. Music, yoga instructors, and so on. We will continue to expand our services as long as technology permits, without limiting the services we can offer. In addition, we are working on ways to coexist with service providers. We have introduced billing services in which service providers have been using handwritten receipts and receiving cash. It provides a comprehensive solution for member companies such as scheduling management and uniforms for the employees.  

This issue is offset through our wide variety of services which range from one-off services like moving, air cond repairs and renovations, to weekly services such as cleaning, music classes, yoga lessons and so on. We will continue to expand our services as long as technology permits, without limiting the services we can offer. In addition, we are working on ways to coexist with service providers. We also introduced digital billing services to help our services providers to digitalized their receipts and payment for services. In addition, we also help them to schedule their jobs through our app.

Question: Why did you set up your company in Malaysia, not Singapore or China?   

Answer: First and foremost because I am a Malaysian and understand the Malaysian market well. Although the holding company was established in Singapore to attract investment, Singapore is not suitable for our business model because it has a small population. While China has a large population and has very intense competition. In Southeast Asia, the economy is growing, and there are many places where we can expand to such as Indonesia and Thailand, which is helpful for a startup like us. It is also where the digital economy is growing.  

Question: Was there no government regulation when you set up the company?

Answer: Malaysia provided very little regulations when Kaodim was first established, rather it focused on how to help us as a new start-up in the industry. It assisted us rather than hindered us in matters of employment of foreign employees. In Malaysia, for example, software engineers are rare. However, if you are granted MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) status, you can easily employ software engineers from countries such as the US, Kazakhstan, and Russia. 

Original article written by Kim Gyung Jin can be found here https://bit.ly/2Rta7vP.

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