If you are a startup or small business owner, you know the struggle of managing the nitty-gritty details of how your company spends.
You are always busy looking into driving more business, looking at ways to scale your company and all the other top-line approaches for the success of your company.
But, often times the success of a company is also reliant on how efficient the company spends. But how are you suppose to gain visibility on that when you are caught up with other tasks?
We got in Jonathan Oh, CEO of Supply Cart – a procurement technology company that helps businesses manage and gain better visibility of their business expenditure by using machine learning and A.I. – to share with us his insights working with SMEs (Small & Medium-sized Enterprise) and how he disrupted the industry with his digital solutions.
How did SupplyCart started?
After graduating, I was worked in an MNC (Multi-National Company) as a medical sales representative. I was mainly serving private hospitals by selling medical supplies.
It was during that time when I realized the whole procurement scene as to how businesses procure (even the ones that are established), are still very much manual and traditional.
MNCs are moving into digital systems progressively, but SME companies are lagging behind in adopting digitalization and automation of their procurement. With that, I saw a gap in the market and started SupplyCart with my partner.
Learn from Jonathan’s presentation on customer journey tracking in D/M Summit.
Not many startups go into business with a B2B model. Why did you choose to venture into procurement services?
Although procurement technologies have existed for quite a while, when looking for digital solutions, we found that most solutions out there are very outdated, most without a focus on the user experience.
Because of that, we wanted to evolve the procurement space and created something that would work efficiently, while still being affordable for the mid-market SMEs.
To be honest, we are not just stopping at procurements. We have in the works of digitizing business process tools that can elevate how businesses operate efficiently. What we are advocating for is really the benefits of digitalising businesses among these SMEs.
What is the main factor that stops SMEs from venturing into digitalization of their business?
Often, SMEs are hesitant to digitalize their business due to the price factor of IT solutions out there. SMEs often have a mindset that digital solutions would require a large investment, which is a big pinch for smaller-scale companies.
So what we are trying to do with SupplyCart is to convince them that it does not have to be the case. Our affordable services are able to improve their companies efficiency through better management of spending, which in the long run, would contribute to a bigger profit for the company.
Slowly through education, SMEs are starting to see the value in digitalising their business as a means to move their company forward.
If these businesses completely reject IT solutions and continue blindly through the conventional and manual method of doing their business, they will lose out in the future.
What is the biggest pain point you have seen for corporate companies, especially when it comes to procurement?
When we meet our clients, we always identify what areas we can help them with.
You will be surprised that a lot of clients do not actually have visibility in their business spending. They often have high-level perspectives, but the details of the spending, such as what are the prices, the consumption, etc; they often do not have data or insights that are clear to them.
Another pain point these companies face is that in the process of decentralizing, with different departments and different teams making purchases, the company’s managers do not have full visibility and control as to how the procurement is done. This is not something to be taken lightly, as it could mean the business is leaving money on the table.
This also creates a lot of ambiguity and stress when a company decides to switch vendors or suppliers that they purchase from. Because once they move over, all the information and purchase history with the previous supplier is cut off and the company has to build the purchasing pattern from scratch.
Lastly, slightly moving away from just the SMEs we are working with, another pain point is that most suppliers are not adopting this digitalization as well. This gap is another challenge that we are working on, just so businesses are able to work with their preferred vendors seamlessly on a digital platform.
Do you think digitalizing procurement for smaller companies or startups is important?
Many small companies may think they do not need to digitalize their business as they are often very involved in every part of their business. So they wait and allow people to ‘do it first’ before to go into it.
However, the irony is that when you have a startup, you would need to juggle many multiple roles.
With that, if they can automate their procurement processes, they can spend their time and energy in other more important segments of their business.
That’s where small or large – business owners should take advantage of technology to aid them.
Ultimately, as a business owner, you will need to plan for your business in the long run. Your company will scale and grow, and it is very important to set up a strong foundation from a business spend perspective.
Because if you only decide to build digitalize systems when your company gets to a larger scale, it will definitely be more time consuming and costly to do so.
How do data and analytics help your customers?
The reason why our clients are coming to us is to gain visibility of their business. The data that we have collected allows our clients to have better insights to make data-driven decisions.
Previously, procurement processes were a lot to do with relationships with vendors, gut feelings, etc.
But we are using data now to do benchmarking for clients, providing market insights, showing them price variation in the market, etc; so they can make a very informed decision.
For instance, let me explain a little about how ADAM (Supplycart’s e-procurement platform) help companies solve the problems.
Adam is our SAS e-procurement platform. The acronyms of the platform basically gives you an idea as to what it does:
D = Digitalise
A = Automate
We are able to provide this seamless single platform for clients to have an e-catalog of everything that they buy for their business. The pricing is transparent, you know who are your suppliers.
With this platform, they are able to decentralize and manage various departments and processes all in one place.
How is data changing the industry now and how do you think it would develop?
Definitely having data, Machine Learning and AI integrated into businesses is going to be the future. Any business that is not looking into automating or changing these processes is going to have a tough hill to climb in the future.
I also foresee data will become very universal, where all businesses can come together to share and exchange insights. This is not just about the relationship built between business owners, but the data would be able to create a community that can innovate and move the industry towards the digital technology space in a collective process.
In A Nutshell: Digitalizing Your Business
With his vast experience working with companies of different backgrounds, Jonathan lots of insights as to how data, machine learning, and AI can contribute to a company’s efficiency and growth. Tune in to his workshop session on D/M Summit to learn more valuable insights for your own business or company.