During the previous week, we got the chance to chat with Co-Founder and COO of Joonaak Delivery, Leakhena Long, about her experience having her business chosen as one of the first recipients for the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF) investment, as well as a follow-up on what Joonaak has been up to so far in their business journey and what Cambodians can expect from them in time to come.
In this very last instalment of the exciting SADIF Interview Series, we will be hearing from Morakot’s Co-Founder and CEO, Khuon Sophort. He not only shares about Morakot’s business journey thus far, but he also talks more about what we can expect from Morakot post-SADIF.
For those of you who still do not know what Morakot does, they are a simple and reliable core banking system platform for microfinance institutions and banks. Under their vast line of services, Morakot offers customer management, deposits, loans, teller functions, accounting, reporting tools, multi-branch functions, multi-currency functions and system administration. They carry out all these relevant services simply through a browser and not through any additional hardware or installations.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
Earlier this year, Morakot was given the rare opportunity to be part of the Startupbootcamp FinTech Accelerator Programme. How was that experience?
Sophort (S): It was a great experience. We met mentors, investors and many partners in the Financial Industry. We shared knowledge, experiences and got inspired.
What was your key takeaway from the Accelerator Programme?
S: (The key takeaways definitely have to be getting) access to funding, (acquiring) mentorship in business development and (getting) access to a new market.
As a business, I am sure you have definitely faced countless challenges along the way. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced?
S: Yes, we did face some challenges. Firstly, gaining trust from locals. As a locally developed software created by a Cambodian software engineer, it was difficult gaining the trust of the local people. This is because Cambodians think that Cambodia-based software companies are less advanced as compared to other software companies from developed countries. However, we proved them wrong.
Hiring more talent was another problem. Since we grew pretty fast, taking on 26 projects within 2 years; getting the right talent on time is very challenging. The programmers we hire need to understand microfinance and banking business, (as well as) finance and accounting. Normally, the newly hired (programmers) will spend at least 3 months in training before they can actually receive the (big) assignments; (which takes up a lot of time).
Lastly, dealing with difficult customers. Our customers have a different level of capacity in (understanding) project implementation. Some of them do not (understand that we sometimes do not have) enough resources or (manpower), or are low in capacity. (With these demands), the burden of implementation falls on Morakot.
As a team, how have you overcome the challenges at hand?
S: During our first year in business, the founders met weekly to discuss and find ways out for any problems or issues that arose. We sometimes seek advice from our mentors as well.
Since most of our work is project-based, the deadline is important for us (as it) ensures that we deliver on-time. We are also open and listen to our clients and our team. This helps us get 360 degree feedback. (Furthermore), in order to gain trust from our customers, we try to improve our relationships with them by letting them try our product first before they actually commit to using our software.
Dealing with the challenge of hiring the right talents, we have partnered with the top universities to get the top talents (available in the local scene).
As for dealing with difficult customers, we (constantly) try our best to accommodate to their requests and help them overcome the challenges they are facing.
During the past year, what else has Morakot achieved thus far?
S: We now have 26 clients, which includes MFIs and Banks. Morakot also won the top award from Cambodia Young Entrepreneur Award 2017 in Technology and recently, Morakot was chosen (to be pact of the) SMART Axiata Digital Innovation Fund Investment Program.
Speaking of the Smart Axiata’s Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF), how did it feel being chosen as the first few investees?
S: We felt very excited to get SADIF as our investor. It sounds great being backed by a well-known company like Smart Axiata.
Following this investment, what are Morakot’s future plans?
S: This fund will help us expand our operations to Myanmar and Philippines and we are going to use these funds to hire more talent and improve our product too.
As a startup yourself who has achieved quite a bit so far, what advice do you have for other aspiring startups out there right now?
S: I would say staying focus is key for a new startup. Do not try to (offer) multiple products from the very beginning. Launching a successful product is costly, so focus on building one product that people will buy into by validating it in the market and keep enhancing it to make it fit.
Also, starting with the right business model is also an important part of succeeding in the business. Focusing on solving customer problems and improving their experiences will ultimately bring you a sustainable business.
Following this, we at Geeks in Cambodia wish Morakot all the best for their future plans and we are looking forward to seeing them kickstart their expansion plans and eventually become regional powerhouses! For more information on Morakot, do visit their website here or head on over to their Facebook page here.
This also marks the end of our SADIF first batch of investees interview series and we hope you thoroughly enjoyed hearing from the talents themselves! If you missed the previous installations of the series, you can read Aniwaa’s story here and Joonaak’s story here as well.