NATIONAL DAY RALLY REACTIONS, Software linkup paves way for push into China
NTUC Income confident of rich rewards ahead after deal with Shanghai company, which is also looking to expand in region
By Goh Chin Lian
Straits Times, Singapore, Aug. 23, 2002 — OPPORTUNITY knocked one summer’s day in Shanghai and opened the door for a Singapore insurance company and a Chinese software firm to help each other break into new markets.
Mr Tan Kin Lian, who heads NTUC Income, was attending an international insurance conference in June when he spotted a “powerful” software on display that could improve vastly the running of his business.
Mr Woody Mo, chief executive officer of eBaoTech that created the software, saw a chance to secure his first overseas customer.
In 72 hours, they came to a tentative agreement. They are in talks this week to seal the deal.
Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Mr Mo, who is in Singapore, said: “It is the fastest deal I’ve ever made. I am very eager to work with NTUC Income and very open to price negotiation.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to come into Singapore and the whole region.”
He plans to set up a Singapore office in six months to support his customers here, as well as use it as a launch pad to do business in the region, including South Asia and Australia.
The deal with NTUC Income was mentioned last Sunday by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his National Day Rally speech, to illustrate how Singaporeans should see a rising China as an opportunity, not a threat.
Mr Mo said he set up his company with four other partners two years ago, with funds from United States and Hongkong venture capitalists.
Its 80 employees include Java-language programmers and insurance business analysts, some of whom have studied in the US before returning to China.
Mr Mo, too, had spent 10 years in the US.
The 44-year-old native of Guilin city in Guangxi province got his PhD in physics there and worked at computer giant IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in New York.
According to Mr Tan, eBaoTech ‘s software is impressive because it uses the latest technology and is integrated completely with the Internet.
The system allows administrative work to be done anywhere in the world, he said.
Also, the price is lower, costing Mr Tan three to five times less than the $5 million to $10 million he would have to spend on a similar system in the market.
However, the deal goes beyond just getting a system to improve the day-to-day running of his business, said Mr Tan.
His company, poised to enter the China insurance market, is now looking for partners there.
“We can use the software to do business in China. We can think of other ways to do business there, either with Mr Mo’s company, or he can introduce partners to us.”
He added: “The opportunity is tremendous if we learn how to find a win-win arrangement.”