The potential future benefit of the Covid-19 pandemic could outweigh its present risk, especially for small and medium enterprises tapping into the digital space, says Dr Darren Gouk, founder and CEO of My AOne Learning Sdn Bhd (AOne).
AOne, an education technology (edtech) company that provides back-end cloud services to learning centres and runs an online marketplace that links lesson providers to students, has experienced a fall in its revenues since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) this March. But things are still looking up for it because of the sudden interest in online classes.
“Many of our customers did not want to [continue to] subscribe to our back-end system (that mainly helps them to manage fee collection and employee payroll). The future of their businesses remains uncertain and they do not dare spend money until their businesses are stabilised,” he says.
The company’s online marketplace has also not been doing well as people are not allowed to move freely to provide or attend classes, he adds.
However, as the Chinese adage goes: for every crisis, there is an opportunity. And over the long term, the potential business that arises because of this Covid-19 pandemic could be huge.
For instance, Gouk has received a lot of requests about online learning software from learning centres from March, once the MCO was announced. Many of them are conducting classes online during this period to generate cash flow to survive.
Most of these centres use Zoom, a video conferencing software, for their online classes but recent security issues have sent them scurrying to look for alternatives.
“Some learning centres are not against using Zoom, but the students (and their parents) do not feel safe. So, this has become an issue,” says Gouk.
AOne teamed up with a company in Singapore to launch its online learning software to its existing customers for free. The software comes with better security features and no time limit, says Gouk.
“If you use the free version of Zoom, one session is limited to 40 minutes. After that, both parties have to start a new session, which is a hassle for users. Our software solves this problem,” he says.
AOne’s online learning software was introduced to clients only two weeks ago but the response has been encouraging. “In 14 days, there were about 600 classes conducted using our software. Some 180 teachers signed up to use it,” says Gouk.
Clearly, awareness of the importance of going digital has increased significantly in the education sector from the time the MCO was announced. Gouk thinks the pandemic may have been the best thing to happen for e-commerce in the country. “Covid-19 is a short-term risk. The opportunity it offers moving forward, in terms of digitalisation, is huge in proportion.
“We (AOne) have enough cash flow to weather through this short-term crisis. Meanwhile, we are trying to help our customers, who are in the same boat, to survive. This is why we are providing them the online learning software for free,” he says.
Gouk is also creating stronger brand awareness among AOne’s customers and the market. For instance, he created a chat group that includes 160 learning centres from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for industry players to learn from and support each other.
“We are trying to help our clients so they will remember us. We want them to continue to engage us, or even recommend us to other players in the market during this MCO and after,” says Gouk.