Feature: How Ve Global is transforming customer experience in Asia
This June, Business Chief speaks to customer-centric software business Ve Global’s Jamie Pierre about the company’s operations and expansion plans in Asia.
Jamie Pierre is the COO of Ve Global APAC. In his seven-year tenure, he has worked across multiple departments including commercial and operations. With a particular focus on cost efficiencies and revenue growth projects, Pierre has used his extensive knowledge of the business to drive Ve’s transformation across Asia Pacific. As the company looks to consolidate and strengthen its position in the region, we caught up with him to uncover more about his role and Ve’s plans for expansion.
As a technology company supplying businesses in the ecommerce industry with programmatic advertising and email remarketing, amongst many other services, Ve’s focus in Asia is a key part of its future plans. As we head deeper into 2018, what can we expect to see from the revamped Ve brand and how will that impact Pierre’s role?
“As of last year we had a rebrand and we’ve been working on our software and tools, including looking further ahead in the customer journey. For example, one area we offer is in advertising solutions, which is increasingly upcoming in Asia, and that involves educating clients on where they can improve,” says Pierre. “My role specifically is quite diverse but incorporates examining how we can link the Asian region into our headquarters. It’s also about how we can simplify the things we do to make it easier for clients to onboard and have their campaigns maintained, while making sure we’re efficient,” he continues.
2017 was a tough year for Ve. Despite having been valued at over $1bn in 2016, Ve Interactive, as it was previously known, almost went bust. By September last year, however, the ship was steadied – thanks, in part, to gathering around $15mn in investment. “Making sure we’re efficient in Asia is a key focus for us. Last year we went through some ‘speed bumps’ shall we say, which had an impact on what we did in Asia. One of my key roles there was to investigate how we can be more cost efficient, looking at the headcount of the team and consolidating some of our activities,” Pierre explains.
Rather than viewing these challenges as problematic, Pierre says it actually presented him with a platform to strengthen the business. “We needed to bring some departments and responsibilities together, which was really helpful because now we’re able to build on that and get close to a fully connected organisation. For us to be successful we need to link our regions,” he continues. “We’re now at a point where our tech support services, our creative teams, marketing, all the engine rooms that drive the business, are well connected. It’s an exciting time to be involved with Ve.”
Expansion in Asia
With last year’s difficulties now behind it, where specifically will Ve be concentrating its efforts in Asia? “Our regional hub is based in Hong Kong, so that will remain our core area but Southeast Asia is key, including Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Pierre reveals. Following a period of analysis into the market, especially the increasing customer engagement that a mobile-first strategy can provide, Indonesia is of particular interest. And with good reason. “It’s the largest growing ecommerce market outside of China, with a high population of customers that use mobile devices as standard,” Pierre explains. “There’s a generation of shoppers in Asia who have bypassed the era of desktops and laptops. The experience they expect is one where they use mobile apps on a day-to-day basis.”
This approach to emerging Asian markets is also grounded in solid insight. Pierre tells us that ecommerce in Indonesia, for example, currently enjoys double digit growth year-on-year, and this is expected to increase. “Markets such as Indonesia are quite open,” says Pierre. “One of the brands we work with is Tokopedia (one of Indonesia’s biggest online marketplaces) and they get around 120mn visits to their website each month. That’s huge. They’re also keen on new ideas and running new campaigns and that’s exciting.”
Ve’s future strategy doesn’t rest with Indonesia alone, however. “Another area is India,” Pierre says. “We’ve got a small base there but part of the expansion plans are to grow that team. There’s a lot of strong feeling that we can do something there with our digital assistant or email engagement that we use with clients such as Dominos India, Pizza Hut, American Express and some other great brands that are plugging our tech in and seeing really good results.”
Personalisation and GDPR
Taking this one step further is the correlation between what Ve offers and what businesses in Asia want to achieve. Personalisation is going to be fundamental to any growth in mobile and that, in turn, also brings up the question of GDPR legislation, the European Union’s new regulation on data protection. “In Asia it has to be mobile first,” says Pierre. “However, making the experience simple to navigate and secure is vital. Customers have to be confident that when they’re shopping on their device there’s no potential for their information to go elsewhere. It’s important for us because we are a data processor for some of our organisations and we have to make sure we are responsible.”
So what does Pierre believe this means for brands who want to deliver a truly personalised experience? “Provided the information they capture is not overly sensitive, stored for longer than necessary or used unnecessarily, I believe it can be positive. This ties into what we’re doing at Ve because our solutions are all about personalisation. As a business we always analyse data and we recently looked back at Q1 2018 to see how the industry was doing in travel. We examined around 60mn sessions in the APAC region and found that Japan had the highest rate of bookings drop off: around 95-96%. Nine in 10 bookings were being lost so this is an area we are trying to educate brands on. Businesses must provide a more personalised experience and engage those customers. That’s why we do what we do, and the results speak for themselves.”
With over 10,000 clients worldwide and a wealth of data learning supporting their expansion plans, the future looks bright for Ve. As Pierre himself says: “There’s still lots more to come from us in Asia.”
Seo JungJin: Who is EY’s World Entrepreneur of 2021?
Seo JungJin, founder of biopharma firm Celltrion, which most recently developed an antibody treatment for COVID-19, has been named the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, becoming the first South Korean in the award’s 21-year history.
Regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates visionary and innovative leaders from across 60 countries who are transforming the world and fostering growth.
JungJin, who is now honoroary chairman of Celltrion Group, was up against a worthy cast of entrepreneurial competitors, taking the crown from among 45 award winners across 38 countries and territories.
Speaking during the virtual event, JungJin described his own interpretation of entrepreneurship as something that brings together “a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good”.
Why was JungJin crowned King Entrepreneur?
A South Korean native and now 63 years of age, JungJin founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003. In the nearly two decades since its founding, Celltrion has lived up to its goal of advancing health and welfare for all by developing ground-breaking drugs to treat autoimmune disease, various forms of cancer and, most recently, COVID-19.
The company, which JungJin started with just US$45,000 and five of his colleagues, has since growth to more than 2,1000 employees with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69bn.
According to the panel, JungJin’s story is a shining example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur to change the world with the pandel moved by both his incredible story and his purpose-driven leadership, innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.
Described by the chair of the EY judging panel Rosaleen Blair as “representing everything an unstoppable should be” from taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin’s story is one of incredible tenacity and perseverance that the judging panel felt most represented the entrepreneurial spirit.
“He’s taken breathtaking risks, both personal and professional, to found Celltrion and grow it into one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies,” says Stasia Mitchell, EY Global Entrepreneurship Leader. “His passion for creating affordable, life-saving health care and flair for tackling global problems has led to many treatments that have helped millions of people worldwide and was especially evident this past year through the creation of a COVID-19 antibody treatment.”
How did JungJin get there?
JungJin's entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. After studying industrial engineering, he rose through the ranks of Daewoo Motor Co. before losing his job amid the carmaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
Following this, JungJin started collaborating with colleagues to explore business opportunities in different industries, though none delivered lasting success. The turning point came after he attended a talk hosted by renowned scholars, which inspired him to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector.
And so he founded Celltrion with just US$45,000 of his savings. The launch of Remsima, credited with being the world's first antibody biosimilar, quickly moved Celltrion up the ranks of the country's fairly underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that today are being used worldwide.
With ambitions to be the world’s first in different areas, Celltrion has pioneered numerous uncharted areas to great success over the past two decades, most recently responding to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 and working to ensure a timely supply of the safe and effective treatment.
“When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives,” explains JungJin. “The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.”