Excelling and expanding with a CTO in your pocket

Last updated: 30 November 2022

Published on: 31 March 2022

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Under the guidance of IMDA’s appointed digital consultants, SMEs like bathroom and kitchen products retailer Asia Excel can take the next step of their digital journey with confidence.

By Jill Arul

For forward-looking businesses like bathroom and kitchen products retailer, Asia Excel, digitalisation started long before the pandemic with the advent of e-commerce platforms. However, even with a successful online presence and almost two decades of experience in the industry, Asia Excel continues to face difficulties when it comes to integrating digital solutions across various platforms to drive growth.

To make going digital simple and sustainable, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) introduced the Chief Technology Officer-as-a-Service (CTO-as-a-Service) to provide SMEs the confidence and convenience to go digital. Through CTO-as-a-Service, SMEs can choose from a variety of market-proven, cost-effective solutions supported by reliable vendors as well as access to a pool of experienced digital consultants.

In this feature, find out how Mr Ray Rajagopal, founder of Asia Excel, intends to harness the opportunities provided by IMDA to further his company’s digitalisation efforts and go international.

Taking the first digital step

Instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, Mr Rajagopal founded Asia Excel just over a year after completing his National Service in the early 2000s. At the time, digitalisation was not yet a significant part of running a business. Naturally, Mr Rajagopal would not need to consider it until over a decade later.

In 2015, when an e-commerce platform contacted Mr Rajagopal, he was hesitant to embark on an e-commerce journey. He was comfortable with his store and did not expect to gain much from an online presence.

“At first, I did not think that anyone would buy bathroom and kitchen products online.”

Proving him wrong in the most wonderful way, sales began to increase and the company saw great success online that was later spurred on even more by the pandemic and rise of online shopping. In fact, Asia Excel has been the biggest home appliances online store on two popular e-commerce  platforms for four years running. Today, online sales account for 80 per cent of the company’s total sales.

The way forward

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Before going digital, Mr Ray Rajagopal and his team would have to manually process numerous orders and track a large number of stock keeping units across six warehouses.

However, while going online allowed the business to boom, it also brought new challenges for the team as they began to face manpower constraints. Interestingly, because of such constraints, they were still uncertain when it came to implementing new digital solutions beyond e-commerce—not realising that digital solutions could help solve their problems.

Specifically, the company was struggling to manually process orders from multiple online and offline sales channels as well as track over 1,300 unique stock keeping units across six warehouses.

“We soon realised that manpower and time constraints were not obstacles to digitalisation, but rather reasons for us to go digital,” said Mr Rajagopal. “Such digital solutions could have the potential to help us streamline our processes and save time and man-hours.”

With this mindset shift, Mr Rajagopal conducted a digital readiness self-check through CTO-as-a-Service and gained a better understanding of his company’s current digital capabilities. He was also able to explore solutions to address his company’s biggest pain-points.

Importantly, through CTO-as-a-Service, Mr Rajagopal received assistance from a digital consultant. She directed him towards two omni-channel digital solutions that could prove useful for improving both efficiency and customer service.

“I have to admit I was initially somewhat doubtful. I did not think the consultant would fully understand our business. But once again, I was pleasantly surprised— the consultant spent ample time and effort going through our business pain points and mapping out a digital solution and training roadmap to address our business needs and support our plans to venture to overseas markets.”

Additionally, as the company adopts more digital solutions and their online presence grows, the digital consultant also offered Mr Rajagopal advice on cybersecurity and data protection—laying the foundation for future digital growth. 

Currently, Mr Rajagopal and his team are in the midst of receiving project management support from the digital consultant for end-to-end solution implementation—ensuring a smooth transition from manual operations to integrated inventory management across all sales channels. 

Becoming a digital success

Mr Rajagopal estimates that with the help of the solutions recommended through CTO-as-a-Service, Asia Excel could potentially cut down processing time drastically.

During peak periods, the company could receive 500 orders which would take three days to process—moving forward, it might take just 30 minutes. Staff that were previously busy manually processing orders could also be redeployed to customer care functions to better support Asia Excel’s growing customer demands.

Since conquering the virtual world of e-commerce and addressing major challenges with digital solutions, the Asia Excel team is set on expanding overseas. Currently, Mr Rajagopal and his team are developing virtual showrooms with IMDA’s help to share their products with the world.

“Before CTO-as-a-Service, we did try to expand overseas but the barriers to entry were high. Now, our focus is to digitalise all our processes locally first, stabilise and duplicate that success overseas—with the aim of not having to even open a physical overseas office.”

By easing the process of going digital, IMDA’s CTO-as-a-Service dispelled Mr Rajagopal’s initial fears and hesitation. With the help of CTO-as-a-Service, Mr Rajagopal and his team are now confident that they can harness digital solutions to address major challenges and lay the foundation for growth.


Looking to take the next step in your digital journey? Find out how CTO-as-a-Service can help you!  

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