SP Setia partnered with startups as it revamped its smart community app

  • Setia Go included services from six startup partners Kiddocare & SOLS Energy
  • Latest example of developers embracing corporate innovation through partnerships

(From left): Choong Kai Wai, president and CEO of SP Setia; Ignatius Ho, director, JaGaSolution; Alex Chi, CTO, SP Setia and Derrick Loi, GM of International Business, Ant Group.

SP Setia Bhd revamped Setia Go, a smart community app aiming not only to enhance the existing homebuyer experience and property management, but also offer smart community services within its existing townships. along with fostering innovations and empowering local startups.

The app that was introduced in Mar 2020 uses a mobile platform as a service (mPaaS) from Ant Digital Technologies. mPaaS is a type of service that enables users to plan, book, and pay for multiple types of mobility services through a combined platform.

Taking a different approach this time, instead of building it alone, SP Setia engaged with six startups, all playing in specific areas within the home buyer’s journey.

Choong Kai Wai, president and CEO of Setia said, “Setia Go illustrates our commitment and collaboration with the National Technology Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), in our need to champion emerging technologies and services across our platform.”

Furthermore, one of Setia’s key partners is JaGaSolution, a property management software solutions provider. Ignatius Ho, its director said, “Our core belief of amalgamating excellent customer service and innovative technology is aligned with Setia’s, and we are thrilled at the prospect of innovating the homebuyers’ experience with Setia Go.”

Speaking at a corporate innovation panel held during the launch, Bikesh Lakhmichand, CEO of 1337 Ventures said, “You’re using real partnerships because you’re allowing them into your platform with your brand and liability, that shows how serious corporate innovation is, because innovation is essential in not just trying to grow, but it’s for your survival too.”

Setia collaborated with StartupX, an innovation consultancy that helps corporations and governments work better with startups. Being in the sandbox allowed startups to test their services for Setia’s customers. 

Setia introduced its first cohort of six startups from its StartupX collaboration – Kiddocare (on-demand childcare platform), SOLS Energy (home solar programme), Oyen Insurance (pet insurance), Handibee (home warranty programme), BlueDuck (zero-rental management), and GrabMaid (on-demand maid service).


Challenges of building Setia’s smart community 

The launch also featured a second panel involving four founders sharing their experiences working in Setia’s Smart Community development. The panelists were Mohamed Shakir, CEO and founder of Handibee, Earnest Wong, CEO and founder of BlueDuck, Chai W.D, co-founder of GrabMaid, and Stephen Lim, co-founder of HyperQB.

For Earnest, one challenge was about spreading a clear message and changing mindsets to replacing the traditional cash rental deposit policy with BlueDuck’s Zero Deposit Program for tenants and landlords. The former can rent homes or offices without paying a high cash deposit upfront, as they only need to pay for damages or unpaid rent when moving out, while landlords can benefit from faster occupancy.

“If a tenant were to run away and damage the property, we’ll take the hit and pay on their behalf,” he said.

As for Stephen working with developers like Setia meant he had to roll back his timeline.

“The market wasn’t ready back in 2018, 2019 from a customer’s perspective and there were too many apps that customers needed to download so we looked at how do we start really small and then go out to reap a scalable customer experience in mind,” Stephen said.

Shakir’s key challenge was educating the market on HandiBee’s value, which is a home warranty contract covering, repairing or replacement costs of appliances and systems which break down. 

“We educate homeowners and developers along with how we can add value with developers and how we can bring quality technicians, as we ensure the house stays in good condition forever.” 

Additionally, he also wants Handibee to have similar warranty plans that car brands offer customers.

With AI on everyone’s mind, especially the impact it will have on their business, Chai said, “AI cannot replace humans completely; for example I don’t think that the AI/robot can 100% clean up the yellow stains in toilet bowls, so there’s still a need for someone to manage and conduct the house cleaning services.”

State of corporate innovation in Malaysia

The corporate innovation panel, besides Bikesh, had Angel Low, general manager of Al Nusantara (a joint venture between Hive SEA and Selangor Information Technology & Digital Economy Corporation (SIDEC), Joe Hock Thor, Managing Director of Blaze Property as panelists.

While all of them shared the sentiment that the startup and corporate innovation ecosystem is not great at the moment, they think that it’s getting better. 

A sign that Angel noted was the KL20 Summit that occurred back in April.

“It’s a good event where you can see all the different government agencies trying to bring together all the different parties coming together to really build a startup and technology ecosystem, along with foreign VCs we’ve seen during the launch which brought a brief limelight into Malaysia,” she said.

Hive operates a co-creation model that serves as a risk mechanism for corporations to explore startups and portfolios that could add value to the ecosystem

“If the startup doesn’t exist in the market, we can build it for you (corporates) on the condition that you will be one of the first clients for that venture-built company, for example, our cooperation is currently with the Selangor State Government to train AI talent,” she said.

From his own experience in  working with corporates Joe shared that the corporate innovation ecosystem is almost like a lottery and waiting game. 

Explaining this he said this is because working with corporates takes time. And, the larger the corporation, the longer it will take. It may not be for a lack of willingness to work with startups but rather their scale and structure necessitates the need for more quicker, tangible results.

“It’s often helpful to think how you can clearly and quickly deliver, starting with small quick wins is helpful – you don’t need to change the world on the first try,” he advised.

“What’s key is always to make sure you are providing sufficient value not just be somebody who’s providing value for the customer, but you’re also providing value for corporate innovation,” he added.

In terms of property development, Bikesh said there was a 2015 chart by management consultants McKinsey that listed the priorities of those who look at digital transformation. One of the entities at the very bottom were construction (property) developers. 

However, he also noted that there has been a paradigm shift as property developers are now more willing to collaborate with startups.

While this is good news for startups, there is another challenge in corporate innovation – convincing the board.

“Most corporations say, ‘I need to disrupt’ but the problem is that when the idea becomes too big, it’s hard for them to get it off the ground let alone show results, and it just ends up being abandoned,” he said.

Therefore, the easiest thing for corporations to do is work with startups on short, quick-time projects they want to see first before they move on to bigger bets.

“For example, don’t go building a new app but leverage a startup that has the solution and extend it to their (corporate) customers,” he suggested.

Now that SP Setia has embarked on its corporate innovation journey partnering with startups, a successful outcome will no doubt encourage more of its property developer peers to explore the same path. That can only be good for the startup ecosystem.

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