One of our Gen.T listers this year, Arsyah Rasyid, is the mind behind Kokatto, a company that provides automated notification software that is now helping top banks, insurance, and fintech companies in Indonesia reach their customers in an easier way. Indonesia Tatler sat down with him to find out about the inception of Kokatto and how he finds new opportunities through his “spider sense”.
First off, how did Kokatto began?
Before Kokatto, I was a consultant. I worked for three years and one of my last projects involved call centre optimisation, so I did some research, and then I saw how agents worked in a call centre, and I felt that big improvements could be made.
What were the problems you saw in call centres?
The working conditions for call centre agents are not good. As an agent, you sit on a tiny desk right next to another agent for eight to 10 hours a day. They sit there for hours, on a headset, just receiving calls. Call centre agents are said to have among the worst jobs there are, and the turnover rate is as high as two months. Handling customers and sometimes getting screamed at are definitely not easy.
There is also the economical issue of having agents as the costs of hiring them are getting more expensive. You also need a large space to house the agents, as you can’t just put them on the street and let them do their job, right?
So what kind of solution did you feel could help them then and now?
I discovered something called automated notification software that has been operating in Europe and the US. So, during my last months in the consulting group, I actually alternated my time between consulting work and my own work in the same office space [laughs]. Every break, I would go to my other office in the same building. I found a partner, and before we made it, we tested the product first. I asked around in the corporate market and seeing their response made me convinced about this product. That’s how Kokatto was founded.
What about funding?
We have been bootstrapping until now. Normally start-ups go the venture capital route, where they have to go through rounds A, B, and C. For me, the reason why I don’t want to go through that is personal preference. My entire family is a professional: my dad worked as a professional for 40 years, and my mum is still a corporate lawyer, so there are no entrepreneurial figures in my family. So, for me, to ask money from someone and burn the money feels very uncomfortable. Luckily, Kokatto is doing well right now, and I am proud to say that our portfolios now includes top banks, insurance companies as well as top fintech companies.
What are the some of the challenges you face in running your company?
I always say this to people: running a start-up is like running a triathlon [laughs]. The reason is because we need to do multiple things at the same time. Even now, I still go on LinkedIn to connect with potential individuals to hire them. Second, running a start-up without funding is like running a marathon while fasting. You want your company to grow, but you don’t have the capacity to burn money.
Another challenge, particularly for Kokatto, is how to convince corporate clients. When I meet some senior directors, they will ask about my age, and I can see that they doubt me because of how young I am. Last, but not least, and I’m sure all start-up founders will agree with me, is the reality of hiring. There is such a big human resource constraint in Indonesia, especially for staff with a technology background. It is hard for us to hire qualified engineers, so we have to work with the capacity we have right now.
Let’s go back to the challenges you mentioned when trying to convince senior directors. How do you overcome these?
The only way to convince someone older and wiser than us is to be humble first. Don’t boast about everything, even though you may know about a particular subject more than the other party does. Always respect them for being older and having much more experience than you have. Also, make yourself a person of integrity. Don’t have integrity only on certain occasions, but always keep that integrity everywhere you go. Once people know that you are a person of integrity, they will trust you more.
Aside from Kokatto, do you have any side projects or activities?
Being an entrepreneur, we always look out for opportunities. It is like we have “spider sense” and it tingles when there’s new opportunities [laughs]. When you meet people and understand their background, you can think or find new opportunities without realising it. Right now, I am investing in some projects that include start-ups in the medical sector and an upcoming F&B start-up.
How do you balance your work life and personal life?
It is quite balanced now in my case. I think that Kokatto is already quite strong as my team can run it without me being there. My goal this year is to have more exercise and lead a healthier life, and I think i’ve been doing really well [laughs]. Now, I can exercise four times a week and I’ve been eating much better than previous years because the supply of healthy restaurants is also getting bigger now.
Want more? Get ready for part 2 of our interview in which Arsyah recounts to us his first date with Maudy Ayunda.