,Susanto Lee: Half of doing business is about getting the right information. So we need technology for this.
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BEFORE digitalisation became the hot topic it is today, Kara Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd already knew they needed the help of technology to get their operations in order and to get further ahead of the competition.
But implementing a good digital system is a big undertaking that spans many years – there’s always something that can be further improved, notes company director, Susanto Lee.
Lee and his team have been incorporating the use of systems like SAP and e-human resources since 2007 as a means of increasing efficiency and reducing cost.
“Back then, photostating documents alone cost us RM6,000 to RM10,000 a month, ” he recalls.
With the help of electronic systems, the company has significantly reduced its use of paper.
But it is not just about saving on administration costs. As the company grows bigger, Lee points out that they will need a comprehensive system to manage their huge network of distributors and customers and gather accurate and timely data to make sound business decisions.
The coconut products supplier started out as a small outfit in 1999 with two to three workers distributing Kara coconut cream in Malaysia and China. Today, it employs some 250 people and manages a network of more than 10,000 distributors and retailers.
It has also diversified its product base and currently distributes other food, cosmetics and skincare brands.
“Half of doing business is about getting the right information. So we need technology for this, ” says Lee.
Lee believes the company’s progress with technology has helped it grow 30% annually over the last 20 years. In fact, it enjoyed a 50% growth last year, amidst a challenging market.
He hopes growth will remain on this trajectory and is aiming for turnover to hit RM1bil by 2026.
After many years of fine-tuning its operations and digitising its back-end office, Kara is now looking at efforts to digitalise its distributor network and establish a more efficient end-to-end system.
According to Kara deputy general manager of domestic sales and marketing Ooi Say Keong, getting visibility of its distributors’ sales was a challenge.
“What we don’t have is the flow-in data from the distributors. Everything we get from the distributors is outdated. We are weak in decision making because of this.
“So the challenge was there was no visibility of data. Distributors have their own systems and data sets. And all these are not consolidated. So we needed something to connect Kara and the distributors. We need a tool to gather all the data in real time, which is fundamental for us to improve, ” he says.
Lee akins the process of finding a technology partner to a marriage; it can be time consuming and must be done right for the solution to last a long time.