This Malaysian Start-up Helps You Scale with its Distributed Workforce

Supahands provides manpower across multiple countries

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 31 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If you were to think of a hotbed for start-ups, you probably would not think of a call center. But that’s just where Malaysian start-up Supahands was formed. Co-founder and CEO Mark Koh was then trying to grow a traditional business process outsourcing (BPO) center and figured there must be a more effective way to scale a company.

“From that, the idea to crowdsource manpower across multiple countries was formed in Supahands,” he says.

According to Koh, this factor is what differentiates Supahands from most other crowdsourcing or outsourcing providers or platforms. “Having a remote team of SupaAgents has provided us with an elastic workforce, which allows us to help our clients scale their operations with ease and speed,” he says. As an example, SupaAgents can more easily meet the multilingual requirements needed by most countries in Southeast Asia.

These SupaAgents perform a variety of specialized tasks, including everything from content moderation and data management all the way to lead generation. Their client list, which includes Uber, KFit, 500 Startups, and Delivery Hero, span the worlds of e-commerce, digital media, and job portals.

In a single task category alone, Supahands can accomplish a wide range of work. “The type of projects that we cover under content moderation include content uploading for e-commerce platforms by helping them upload product listings or QC projects like abuse moderation/flagging or content verification that validate provided content to ensure consistency on our client’s website,” Koh says.


Privacy concerns and proper training

Since SupaAgents are privy to some of the inner workings of the client company, Koh says that the most common concern is security, as it is with any outsourcing or crowdsourcing business. “The idea of sharing your processes or information to others is always daunting and is definitely a concern that we understand and empathize with,” he says.

As a measure of control, Supahands requires their SupaAgents to sign a non-disclosure agreement to make sure no company information is shared. They are also exploring ways to use technology to improve security even more.

The staffing side comes with its own unique set of challenges. Koh explained that since Supahands was built around a distributed team, the way that the company vets and trains employees is crucial. Communication--both within the company and externally with clients--is done through a screen.

“With that, in order to ensure that all our SupaAgents have a good command of English, are tech-savvy…are thinkers AND doers, we’ve made sure that the assessments that we need them to complete are challenging enough that we’re confident that they possess the base set of skills that is required for them to complete projects,” Koh says.

On the training side, Koh says they provide SupaAgents with concise, easily digestible learning materials. The company also aims to build a culture that encourages questions and advocates for a “learning-by-doing” approach by having them actively learn on the job.

Despite these challenges, Supahands is succeeding with clients. It has been working with a regional recruitment portal to manage candidates on the platform for over a year, as they needed project management assistance to ensure scale and consistency.

“The project not only saves the business 43% per month in terms of comparable spend but also allows them to manage the surge in traffic during peak periods ensuring limited to nil downtime and backlog. Supahands is 37.5% more efficient than if they had to complete the work themselves for the mere fact we are focused and have used technology to break the large project down into bite size bits,” Koh says.

Over the coming year, Supahands will continue to build on its base of SupaAgents in Malaysia and the Philippines. The company will also explore recruiting from Indonesia and Thailand to be able to service businesses that require those language capabilities. They are developing the platform itself with product and task automation of projects and processes. “All in all, we’re working hard to allow us to serve more technology clients across Asia Pacific,” he says.