In The News

Building a winning business by driving digital change

From data-driven insights to smart automation, these Emerging Enterprise finalists have found success.
Milieu Team
October 12, 2023

This content was produced by The Business Times Singapore.

Automation and AI are among the key technological trends that have powered the success of these Emerging Enterprise finalists.


  • Chow Nam Kit, chief executive officer (CEO), Didian Realtor [Malaysia]
  • Gerald Ang, founder and CEO, Milieu Insight [Singapore]
  • Joel Lee, co-founder and CEO, Protos Labs [Singapore]
  • Craig Goonting, chief operating officer, Troopers [Malaysia]
  • Mayank Gupta, managing director, SimplifyNext [Singapore]

Moderated by Renald Yeo, Journalist, The Business Times

What technological trends does your business address?

Chow Nam Kit: Didian Realtor leverages trends such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and API integrations to accelerate property developer sales and enhance customer satisfaction.

We engage with real estate projects early, incorporating data analytics and AI into the planning and conception phase. This provides developers with market intelligence and sales trends, enabling them to design properties that meet homeowners’ wants and needs.

Our platform efficiently matches suitable agents to projects, and the loan application process is expedited using bank API integrations.

Gerald Ang: Widespread and rising smartphone usage in the region has created more efficient ways to drive consumer engagement. At Milieu Insight, we have leveraged this trend to create products that democratise market research, empowering organisations to connect with consumers anywhere and gain timely insights for business decisions.

Joel Lee: Protos Labs addresses a critical challenge faced by insurers: how to insure against risks in a constantly evolving landscape. We integrate technologies such as AI, statistical modelling, threat intelligence, and cyber risk management into our underwriting methodology. This lets us adapt to the shifting cyber threat landscape in real-time.

Craig Goonting: Our company, Troopers, is a job platform that responds to evolving technological capabilities by enhancing the user experience in job searching.

Beyond just job listings, Troopers aims to harness e-wallets, digital banks, and blockchain, offering gig workers tools and benefits on par with or surpassing traditional employment, while maintaining flexibility.

Mayank Gupta: SimplifyNext specialises in intelligent automation, which involves leveraging technologies such as AI, robotic process automation, and low-code apps platforms. This enables us to automate complex business processes, improve operational efficiencies, reduce errors, and enhance decision-making.

What emerging trends in your industry will be important in the next three to five years?

Chow: Rapid digitalisation and the evolving reliance of developers on property agencies.

The acceleration of digitalisation has been remarkable. From live price charts and immersive 3D walkthroughs to streamlined e-booking, sales processes have undergone a digital transformation.

Meanwhile, developers are increasingly delegating sales to property agencies, recognising the efficacy of this over maintaining a limited in-house sales team.

Gupta: The convergence of automation and AI, including generative AI. We foresee AI becoming even more integrated within automation technologies, enabling businesses to achieve higher levels of autonomy and intelligence in their processes.

This will lead to the development of more advanced and semantic automation solutions that can handle complex tasks, optimise operations in real time, and drive greater value.

Ang: In market research, one trend is the increasing adoption and acceptance of agile and tech-enabled methodologies. This aligns with the industry’s goal of addressing continuous changes in consumer behaviour and market trends.

Lee: One crucial trend in our industry will be the increasing importance of holistic risk prevention and transference solutions.

Demand for comprehensive approaches to managing cyber risks will grow substantially. This will complement existing risk mitigation solutions, such as antivirus products.

Our vision is to evolve into a specialist insurance company focused on cyber risk. We aim to bridge the gap between insurance and protection software: providing organisations not only with financial compensation in the event of a cyber incident but also with the tools and expertise needed to actively manage and reduce their cyber risks.

How do you plan to navigate the biggest challenges in your industry?

Gupta: One significant challenge is the rapid pace of technological change. To navigate this effectively, we have adopted a multi-faceted approach.

We work closely with our technology partners to stay updated on the latest advancements. We have established our own lab, where our experts explore emerging technologies and develop innovative solutions.

We also encourage our team members to compete on a global level, participating in international conferences, hackathons and innovation challenges.

Another challenge is cybersecurity and data privacy, especially when dealing with sensitive data in automation processes. Data sovereignty is becoming crucial as we move automation for regulated industries to the cloud.

We are working closely with large cloud service providers as well as automation platforms, and at our own end, we recently did the voluntary Data Protection Trustmark certification.

Chow: One pressing challenge is the high loan rejection rate, affecting nearly 60 per cent of property bookings in Malaysia. This means that property developers must effectively market each unit nearly three times before securing a successful sale. This not only delays revenue but also exerts financial strain on developers.

In response to this, we are taking proactive steps to develop our own customised credit scoring model. This will let us filter prospective buyers and align their applications with the most suitable financial institutions.

Goonting: The biggest challenge in our industry is the reluctance of businesses to accommodate higher pay demands from part-time workers, who feel empowered to place a higher value on their time and work.

We are working on Troopers Academy programmes to upskill our talents. Our platform awards badges to our talents and lets them track their performance – while providing businesses with tangible assessments and insights into each individual. Through this, Troopers’ talents can justify their requests for better compensation.

How do you plan to capitalise on regional opportunities?

Lee: The Asia-Pacific (Apac) region presents significant opportunities in cyber insurance, and we have a strategic plan to capitalise on them. In 2021, Apac emerged as the global epicentre for cybercrime – and a vast majority of businesses in Apac are small and medium-sized enterprises, of which less than 1 per cent have cyber insurance coverage.

One noteworthy opportunity is that most cyber insurance solutions in the Asian market are predominantly underwritten from Western perspectives, using Western-focused costs and datasets. There is a need for cyber insurance products tailored to the unique nuances, cost structures, and risk profiles of Asia.

By tailoring our solutions to the specific challenges and characteristics of the region, we aim to address the pressing need for region-specific products while contributing to improved cybersecurity practices for businesses.

Gupta: South-east Asia is witnessing surging demand for intelligent automation solutions. We recognise this as a prime opportunity to expand our footprint in neighbouring countries while leveraging Singapore’s status as a regional hub for innovation and technology.

Earlier this year, we took steps to establish a presence in Malaysia and Thailand. We have about 15 people there now and plan to grow this to 80 in the next two years.

We’re building partnerships with local businesses, government agencies, and universities. For instance, in Malaysia, we are closely working with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and have earned the Malaysia Digital status. Over the next few years, we have plans to expand into more countries in the region.

The Middle East is another region with a growing appetite for digital transformation. We’ve initiated collaborations with some clients there and are exploring opportunities for further expansion.

Goonting: Across South-east Asia, gig work tends to take place through more traditional methods. Jobs are usually acquired through store advertisements, or friends and connections. By bringing a digital app-based solution to these markets, we can create a transparent, accountable and legitimate working environment for those who have faced unreliable and unpredictable employers.

From Malaysia, we have expanded to Singapore this year, and we are looking to expand into Thailand and Vietnam in the next 18 months.

Troopers Verified aims to provide security to part-time workers by backing their payments for jobs executed, with Troopers taking on the risk regardless of whether hiring managers follow through on their payments.

Ang: We currently operate in six South-east Asian markets, enabling us to offer comprehensive solutions to organisations with a regional presence. Our expansion efforts have positioned us to seize regional opportunities effectively, and has given us a good foundation to expand globally.

Chow: Our primary focus remains on Malaysia, where our market share still has ample room for growth. We intentionally broke away from the conventional startup approach of relentless expansion, with the belief that becoming the industry leader in our domestic market is paramount. Our strategy revolves around fortifying our local foothold before contemplating expansion.

As a finalist for this year’s Emerging Enterprise Award, what would you say has been the secret to your growth?

Chow: I would attribute Didian Realtor’s growth to a combination of factors. We’re on a mission to streamline every step of the property journey, enabling developers to sell faster, agents to sell with efficiency, and buyers to realise their dream homes with ease and satisfaction.

Second, the enthusiasm of our dedicated team. Third, fostering a strong, engaged community amongst our users – real estate agents and negotiators – so we can tailor our services and solutions to their needs and challenges.

Fourth, our ambition. We’re currently in the initial stages, but we aim to extend our impact to the vast secondary market in Malaysia, and ultimately expand across South-east Asia.

Ang: Our secret to growth lies in our commitment to crafting products that address industry challenges through innovative technology and user-focused design.

We take pride in finding new ways to drive our industry forward, providing research buyers with tools that empower them to make better business decisions.

Lee: Firstly, we believe in the power of unlearning and relearning. While experience can be beneficial in navigating the complex field of cybersecurity, it can also be a hindrance if clung to too tightly.

We’ve learned that listening to market feedback, being willing to challenge our assumptions, and understanding customer pain points are critical to success. Participating in competitions with well-defined challenge statements has also allowed us to consistently refine our approach.

Secondly, our relentless determination to overcome the odds. The challenges faced by startups can be overwhelming, including market challenges, organisational hurdles, funding constraints, and talent acquisition difficulties.

We believe that success demands a responsive approach to feedback. It’s about knowing when to pivot and adapt based on market signals, while also knowing when to stand firm and press forward despite negativity.

Goonting: Being agile and versatile. Every problem has signified an opportunity to rise above the rest and hence, I have always seen challenges as being part-and-parcel of growing our business.

The key is to be consistent and committed to providing solutions. Millions of problems arise when growing a business – you need to be prepared for them when they come by.

Gupta: First and foremost, our strategic decision to specialise in intelligent automation. This allowed us to channel all our energies and resources into becoming experts.

Another crucial factor has been our talent strategy. In contrast to many competitors who rely on offshore delivery models, we heeded clients’ feedback: they expressed dissatisfaction with this approach, and we listened. In response, we invested significantly in building a robust team in Singapore.

Generous support from our customers has been pivotal. Whether it’s the government sector, the healthcare or the local business conglomerates – we’ve seen a strong push to support home grown companies like us.

Lastly, it’s the growth mindset – we’ve seen opportunity in every challenge, we derive learnings from every setback, and move forward with conviction to create the largest automation services company in Asean.