Any successful, fast-growing startup founder in Asia can attest to this: To stay on top in today’s climate, it is important to constantly evolve and expand the business, be it in technology or business models offered to customers.
This is a convergence of multiple forces that have shaped how businesses can excel in Asia:
- The region is developing rapidly but at a different pace in each market
- We are competing with a host of other companies from the West
- For every successful business venture in a new space, tens of local competitors will emerge
The pandemic has also accelerated the need for businesses to go digital. As a result of this, customer needs are different in each market and also always evolving.
The benefits are multifold. Apart from obvious things like diversifying risk and revenue streams to your business, your customers will also benefit from constant innovation and value add, and your employees have new projects to work on and can constantly learn and grow.
As a company, we started in the advertising industry, but shortly after, expanded into influencer marketing and publisher ad monetization. In the past year, we expanded into the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space with products for cloud manufacturing, e-commerce enablement, and logistics management. We started with one product, but have expanded that to seven.
All this happened within a period of five years whilst scaling our operations from one market then to 13 markets today.
Throughout this time, there were various learnings for us, let me share three of them.
From the get-go
Recently, I came across a slide from our very first all-hands meeting back in mid-2016, which showed our expansion plans. Even though we started the company in the advertising industry because of our experience in that space, what we really wanted to do was to empower the digital economy in Asia. That’s also why we expanded the company into AnyMind Group back in 2018, as we knew it was the right time for us to expand into new ventures.
What this meant was that we had the right tech and business team in place, positioned and optimized the leadership team’s responsibilities for an expanded business, a strong base of customers that we can add new value to, and the right overall market conditions to start expanding our tech and business models.
At the same time, it’s very important to set clear responsibilities within your leadership team during such expansions. Part of the leadership team can focus on new ventures, whilst the other part maintains and grows existing ventures, and both sides need to constantly communicate to provide alignment and transparency.
Ensure employees are closely aligned with the progress
Since we started the business, we have had monthly virtual meetings where all staff dial in, and we did it for five years without missing a single one. This is crucial especially in a fast-growing startup with operations across many markets, so that everyone knows what’s happening, are closely aligned with the rationale behind the moves, and can then convey it with customers.
Before the pandemic, we would also hold in-person all-hands meetings multiple times a year, where we share our short-term and long-term roadmap. The key benefit for this is that employees can have face-to-face interactions with their colleagues from other countries, since most of the collaboration is done virtually. This has since been converted into online all-hands meetings, but all employees are still being kept updated about what we plan to do as a company.
Customers are the core of your expansion plans
It might be obvious, but it is still something that cannot be repeated enough - customers need to be at the core of your expansion plans. If we take a look at super apps, they look to expand their services around their customers by providing parallel offerings like ride-hailing, food delivery, online shopping and more. For B2B startups, it is not too far-fetched as well.
For us, our core customer segments are businesses or “brands”, online publishers and influencers. When we first started the company, our products (in the marketing space) were catered for businesses. This then expanded into providing tools for online publishers (the “supply” side of digital marketing) and tools for influencers (the “supply” side of influencer marketing).
Today, we can provide a one-stop solution for brands, creators and publishers - something like a super app for business - where we can cater to the various needs of running a business, including manufacturing, e-commerce, marketing and logistics. Brands are the obvious beneficiary from this move, but online publishers and influencers can also tap on the tools to add revenue streams. For example, a niche publisher covering wellness can launch their own line of exercise products, or a beauty influencer can launch their own line of beauty products.
Ultimately, these moves were made around our core customer segments, instead of branching out into an unrelated field.
By Kosuke Sogo, CEO and co-founder, AnyMind Group