BIO: Sachi Wickramage is the Co-founder, COO & CPO of i4T Global, a disruptive Field Service Management ecosystem.
STORY: Sachi and his partner created an app that they thought would solve a problem for suppliers. Turns out, the suppliers didn’t need the app at all.
LEARNING: Sometimes, you have to take a step back to take a step forward. Understand the moment of intent for each of your customer segments.
“Understand the moment of intent for each of the segments of your customer base.”
With a track record of co-founding multiple mobile-first startups, Sachi has taken his apps to over 1 million active users across various platforms worldwide.
Worst investment ever
When Sachi and his co-founder were building their Field Management Service app, they looked at the problem and figured the consumer in the ecosystem was the one facing the problem. But, they targeted the supplier. The goal was to provide the supplier with a better tech platform to provide better consumer visibility. One thing the partners did not identify at that time was that the suppliers were okay with the way they were operating their business because they knew they were a scarce resource.
Now the partners were in a fix. They couldn’t promote the app to the consumer because they needed a critical mass of suppliers on the app. When they tried to promote the app to the suppliers, their question was if there were already many customers who would give them more jobs.
The two partners had to step back, look at their model, and figure out who was the target audience with the problem at scale.
- When building solutions, first figure out who is the target customer with the problem at scale.
- Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward.
Wait for the moment of intent. Once the moment of intent arises, people are ready for your solution. But if you incorrectly identify the moment of intent, your solution becomes a disturbance because people don’t have a need at that time.
No.1 goal for the next 12 months
Sachi’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to expand beyond Australia to Europe and the US while staying true to his purpose.
“Define who you are and who you inspire.”
Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community we know that winning investing you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives to join me go to my worst investment ever.com and sign up for my free weekly become a better investor newsletter where I share how to reduce risk and create grow and protect your wealth. Fellow risk takers this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests Saatchi Greek grammar, K v Chroma K. Saatchi? Are you ready to join the mission?
Sachi Wickramage 00:45
Absolutely, Andrew, let's do it.
Andrew Stotz 00:47
I want you to pronounce your name properly, because I feel like I didn't say it. Tell me tell me how you.
Sachi Wickramage 00:53
Yes. The correct pronunciation would be such a Bikram. Okay,
Andrew Stotz 00:59
Vikram, okay. Okay. And where's that originally from?
Sachi Wickramage 01:05
It's from Sri Lanka. Actually, I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. And that's where the beginning of the name is.
Andrew Stotz 01:12
Okay. And the reason why I asked you is because we do have similar type of names here in Thailand. And so it's just I know that also Sri Lanka and Thailand have had a long history of relationship particularly in Buddhism. So kind of an interesting little connection. But you're not in you're not in. In Sri Lanka. Now you are in Sydney, Australia. And let me introduce you to the audience. Sachi is the co founder, CEO and CTO of i 40. Global, a disruptive field management, eco system, field service management ecosystem. With a track record of CO founding multiple mobile first startup, Saatchi has taken his apps to over 1 million active users across various platforms worldwide. And for those people who remember, on Episode 374, and Episode 654, we had Logan Nathan, who's also involved with you at i 40. Global. So maybe you can take a minute, and tell us about the unique value that you are bringing to this wonderful world.
Sachi Wickramage 02:22
Thank you, Andrew. So if I were to put it in one line, I would say I'm an engineer by profession, entrepreneur by vocation. But most importantly, I'm a designer at heart. And this is my 18th year in the industry, specifically being IT industry where as I started my career back in Sri Lanka in the banking sector. Well, after a couple of years, I moved to software development industry by joining one of the largest software development companies that have spent over a decade of my career, progressing the career ladder from being an engineer to project management to operations and ending up heading the company itself, and starting a company within the company itself. And this is where I had the opportunity and the luxury to work with a mazing bunch of team, young entrepreneurs, young engineers, passionate developers we have we were able to develop software products for global companies ranging from BMW Group to at&t in us to hundreds of companies and as part of building and delivering more than 100 highly scalable, large projects with this team. And one area that I got real value out of this journey is to focus on the mobile revolution. Because the mobile revolution happened within our era, the first iPhone was launched, not that far away. And I was part of this wave riding behind the veil, be at the time prior to this we had technologies like a J to me, kind of technologies, which was introduced by Nokia at that time, then we had the BlackBerry and operating system related to those. Then we slowly sought how things change from introduction of iPhone to Apple iOS to Android kind of ecosystems. And I take pride in writing this mobile application wave and being developed, even hundreds of being able to develop and CO founding large number of mobile apps to be 100 more to be precise, and that I had the opportunity to even win several awards for the organization as well as to myself, including the United Nations Space was summit awards, back in 2015. And with all that as the foundation, I had the opportunity to join forces with Logan in conceptualizing and starting the I have the global, who, the day. And he invited me to join with this journey from the beginning. And here we are seven years after, we have built an amazing company, and a wonderful customer base, and most importantly, even bigger family of team with us.
Andrew Stotz 05:17
It's interesting, because I remember my conversation with him. And I was saying that I am totally disappointed. And most of the people I know, are disappointed with their ability to let's say, build an app, build, you know, tech solutions, they have outsourced it at times. And that didn't work. They've tried to insource it and do it internally. And they had trouble with that. And I'm just curious, you know, what is your? What are your observations of this industry and why people get it wrong and what they could do to get it right. And I just want to get your understanding about that. Before we get into the big question about your worst investment.
Sachi Wickramage 06:05
Your fan tracking, I think that's one of the most important questions. And this is where some people get it wrong. Because when you're an entrepreneur, specifically focusing on the technology sector, and if you want the technology platform to propel your business forward, you need to get your foundation, right. And outsourcing seems like a reasonable business decision, or the commercial division, but it doesn't work always you can get lucky, most of the time, you do not get lucky. So I think the unfortunate because of the background, both Logan and myself have and I myself goes into meticulous levels of driving organizations into processes. To making sure it's not individual dependent, rather, it's processed. And I have this formula, we call about it. Besides p p t, it's people process technology, and how we build it will be driven by processes to produce the best technology. And if we inculcate these core values, as a foundation as part of the culture of the organization, then I think building a good launchpad for you to grow your business.
Andrew Stotz 07:23
And is it possible, I mean, obviously, people who are listening who want to develop apps, and they want to bring more tech into their business, and let's say they've been burned, they've been burned through the outsourcing as an example. But listening to what you just said, it may also be a case that actually they don't really have clear processes. So what they're bringing to the outsourcer, or what they're bringing to any mobile app developer, is actually something that's not clear enough for them to really create something that does what the company or the CEO of the company wants.
Sachi Wickramage 08:04
Medical medical. And this slide is thing that we need to understand here. Because when it comes to outsourcing, in fact, I myself was heading an outsource Development Center, where as I have seen the other side of the fence as well. So most of these companies, they specialize in project based developments, meaning they get moved from one technology project to another. And that can be from one industry to another as well as from one technology stack to a completely different technology stack. So we need to keep moving from different technology stacks to different domains. Most of the time, you do not build special expertise. Now, when it comes to building a startup or building a company, it's about most of the time building a product. So it's different compared to project development versus product development. And project development to product development requires completely different set of disciplines. And in the absence of being able to understand this and distinguish the differences, and specifically advice and drive a team on a product development roadmap. It can lead to most of the time failure. So disappointing results.
Andrew Stotz 09:18
Hmm, that's interesting. Are you talking about, you know, how the outsourcer is looking at it from a project perspective. And they may be working on many different types of technologies and all that. Whereas really, what you probably are trying to do is develop a product. And that brings me to another point that you know, we all learn from the lean startup is you know, when you are doing product development, the best way to do it with software appears to be to bring out a minimum viable product to the market to your potential customers to a test group and then developed develop it together with the client is that make sense of how to do it? I mean, I'm again I'm thinking about listeners here and trying to figure out how do I Do this.
Sachi Wickramage 10:01
Absolutely. And I think your highlighted the most important part, I mean, it's about today's customers are not just customers, you know, that I recently published an article about our journey with IBD global where I quoted to these customers are not just customers, they are co creators, they are developing content and ideas and encountering challenges right along with you. So it's in today's context is very important for you to have customer with you, not the customer on the other side of the fence and be with the customer, and breed in the same pattern of the customer understand heart rate of the customer, then only if you can simulate you as a customer, you are able to build a product that the customer would love. Whereas in that case, you would fall in love with the product. And you are an example of the customer.
Andrew Stotz 10:52
The great, great, great point and I think about myself to just like even my own community, that how do I make sure that I'm co creating rather than just bringing stuff to my audience. So I love it. Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment thing he will be tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to the intelligence, your story.
Sachi Wickramage 11:17
Lovely. So I had two thoughts when you ask this question about worth investment. So I'm going to pick on both Andrew so I'm going to take two specifically one about expense decision and other regarding a technological application. So if I want to talk about the business decision first now, I need to explain a little bit more context about AI for the global and what we do. So as you explained, we are disrupting Field Service Management equal system. And we have namely equity maintenance for the business and apply for tradies. And these three are targeted, but please specific personas within the field service management industry. So I think maintenance is targeted for all three service agents. What we mean by authorized service agents are large organization like real estate groups, like trata, or facilities management, or like retail hotel groups, who manages properties on behalf of their owners, then our equity business product is designed to fields with suppliers and Field Service supplies are mostly trades organized, please attract companies who have the ability to and the skill set to fix some of these asset property asset revolving problems. The third product vertical is our iPhone tradies, which is our index product. We have defined specifically for the property occupants. In the people who lives in this particular property, it can be a tenant or a landlord. So how am ecosystem works is different to take us an example Andrew, imagine you are living in a high rise building, and something's wrong with your hot water system, you need to get this fixed, and you are the person with the problem, you're the property occupant, and the person who can fix the problem is the field service supplier, this particular plumber, but if you are renting this property, for example sake, you cannot just call any plumber, you need to go through your property management company, your real estate, because they do have their preferred suppliers. So your Authorized Service agent is your designated property manager in that case, so you are the one with the problem. Your Plumber is the one who can solve the problem. But the one who manages the relationship between you and plumber is a property manager. So I thought ecosystem caters to all three parties interconnecting and creating a beautiful synergy data ecosystem. It may find me pain, I
Andrew Stotz 13:57
kind of I kind of laughed. I was just kind of laughing about it. Because in Thailand, we live in, you know, I live in a small apartment and the owner of the apartment lives right across the street. And they have a guy that lives in the apartment that fixes all the plumbing. So that's like the most simplest thing. But what you're dealing with is a much more complex system where those, you know, the parts have broken down, as you said, and it's a much bigger project. So yeah, continue on.
Sachi Wickramage 14:36
Certainly, but before I need to take you back in time as to how we started over the global and what is the initial business model. So as you can clearly mentioned to me when he was pitching this idea when he wanted me on board as his co founder. He was telling me about this, he used about tradies because in Australia we used the term trade days, which is actually a little bit unheard of outside of Australia. So neutralize this world trade events, field service suppliers, these are the technicians, these are plumbers, electricians, your cleaners, the carpenters likewise. So look, Vision both it clearly. But they aren't the least organized. And they are not tech savvy. So due to this feels discipline creates problems in the eye of the consumer. So I find to take an example, you might be requesting for an electrician to come and fix your hot water system. And he might say, I'd be there at the end in the morning. And you keep waiting. And he would turn up around 230 India wasting several hours of your day where you're helpless because he in your age is identified by local as a big problem. And he believed that there is an opportunity for us to fix this problem to create value to these consumers. So, if I were to focus on the mistake made it, we looked at the problem, and we identified the problem we encountered by the consumer, but we tried to fix the person who's not encountering the problem, we tried to fix the supplier, we try to give a product to the supplier sell a product to the supplier. So he uses a better technology platform providing better visibility to the consumer. Whereas consumer gets the benefit. But one thing we did not identify at that time was the supplies, they are okay with the way they operate their business, because they are okay even if they are late to the customer, because customer would still call them because they know they are a scarce resource. Right. So we are trying to fix the problem of the customer. By introducing platform to both customer as well as it is like Uber kind of a performance seat coming on the map and investing the supply St. Andrew. For them, this pain was not sizable enough. Because at that stage of the company, we focus only on the consumer, or the customer. And this. So this is the tenant to plumber equation. So what we learned out of this, even though we tried to fix this problem, which is a genuine problem, it becomes a chicken and egg. Now we cannot just promote the app to the consumer or the tenant or the landlord saying download this app, search for your favorite route the most qualified piece resupply on the app, because you need to have the critical mass of supplies on them. Otherwise, you download an app and you figure out there's no one in your area. So that would hit a dead end. But for us to have that critical mass of suppliers, when we try to promote this product to the suppliers, their question is, am I going to get more jobs with this? Do you already have a large number of customers who would give me more jobs. So this created this, which should confess kind of any argument. And that did not have the strongest value proposition for suppliers to the onboarding this platform because for them, it's a change. And they are not the most technology literate people. And they do not believe in this change as well because for them, life goes on fine. Now, as a lesson learned, what we did was we went back to the drawing board, and we were asking the question from ourselves again, to figure out the problem really do exists. But how do we fix this? And that is where we looked at the Authorized Service agents that had the intermediary. Because if you are a tenant if you are a consumer, and if there's someone who can fix your problem. And these two parties have a question of who should start first, should the supplies be on the platform first or supplies are questioning? Am I going to get more jobs if I'm being on the platform? The real answer is we need to figure out the one with the scale. The one with the problem at scale is not just a tenant who has a large number of tenants raising the same problem. And that is the real estate organization that is your property manager. And that's your strat and that's your father's management organization. So when you look at this third vertical of authorized service agents, these are the people who have the problem, but they have a problem at a greater scale. So since their problem is such a define, and to a certain extent, dictate that the supply thing, if you want to get jobs from our company, you have to be on this platform. And that caters to the initial problem that we had, because of the suppliers. Now, it's mandated to them, if you're not on this platform, you cannot get more jobs. So that makes it compulsory for them to be on the platform. But the platform itself is highly beneficiary to them. But at the beginning, they did not have a need to be on that platform because they were fine with it. Now all of a sudden, there is now influence coming from higher authority, which is the field service, rather Authorized Service agents. And this influence could cater to tenants, being able to access supplies, or the mobile app, and supplies being able to get more jobs while the Authorized Service agents. And that's where we introduced the third vertical of IoT maintenance to the ecosystem. Chris creating the current Trifecta product suite that we have why for the maintenance i for the business, and I could read is focusing on Authorized Service agents, business supplies, and property occupants. But this I would like to highlight the business lessons learned. And I would like to elaborate a bit more about it.
Andrew Stotz 21:35
Just before maybe I'll just give my thought on this. I mean, I think whenever you're creating a marketplace, you face this challenge, right? Ultimately, you got to get both sides of the transaction on. And but this was an interesting one, where you say focus on the one with the problem at scale. And ultimately, by focusing on the wrong person initially, let's say the tradies as an example. It's hard to make traction. And you may think that your idea doesn't actually may not work. But then you realize, oh, wait a minute, I need to focus on another person or another function within this supply chain. So I think that's that's a very good lesson. Are there other lessons that you'd like to share from that?
Sachi Wickramage 22:25
Definitely, Andrew, now, this is from this, what I mentioned about the two lessons that I like to highlight that so this is from business point of view. But the one that is most interesting is the next one, there is technology specific problem. So this, I need to take you back to 2020, where we faced the sudden pandemic of COVID. Back in it was March of 2020, to be precise. So our business was growing very well as expected. And all of a sudden, we all face this COVID-19, which was not anticipated by any of us. And we did not know what to do with this. So the first thing that was visible to us was our revenue went down by 80%. And that was an absolute hit in the guts. Because we as a startup trying to grow faster 80% hit on your top line. It's devastating. So we had to rediscover what we do. We had to ask our selves, how are we to continue to add value while everyone around the world is going through this uncertainty. Because not only you are uncertain, even if looking back out back at our ecosystem, the suppliers to authorised service agents to tenants to occupants, everyone is going to this uncertainty. But one thing that is sure, if these problems do not end, people still have broken hot water system. People still have broken air conditioning units, they still have problems with the electrical systems. And these fields will supply the tradies they need to operate. They need to put bread on the table. They have to work. And large organizations like real estate's to start out to fancy its management organization. They had to conduct the operations as but so what we did was rather than trying to passively promote our product, and asking more people to download our app, sign up and start using even going beyond the real estate ecosystem going to the mums and dads know. The NBN says we're not even part of real estate asking them to download the app and sign up yet we wanted to go a little bit backwards in technology. But what we felt was at times of uncertainty like COVID-19 People are very conscious of everything that if you start promoting another application on either digital mediums to any other media And if they come across, let's think about a elderly couple at home, they had something wrong with their electrical wiring at home, they can't wait till the pandemic finishes for this to be fixed, they have to get it fixed. But if you promote, asking them to download an app, sign up, put your details, then do this followed by this and multiple steps, they're not going to do that. Because they are in a state of panic. Because technology is uncertainty for them. And they are not familiar with technology. So we won't go back in technology hierarchy and bring a solution that is closer to them. So rather than asking people to download a new app, sign up and create an account, we went back to the roots. The question we asked what is the least complicated, most comfortable piece of technology people use at scale? And our answer was SMS, short message services, plumbing, irrespective of use a smartphone, or a feature phone, you still use SMS. But we wanted to introduce our solution, not as highly advanced algorithm from what it is to the next version, rather, we want to take it back the technology ladder. So we introduce a new initiative by the name Emergency Response Center. And this Emergency Response Center is an SMS hotline. So what we did was, we look at the technology barrier, we opened our solution to anyone it has, it doesn't need to be someone with a smartphone, it can be anyone with a mobile phone, which can send an SMS. So we created this Emergency Response Center. And our promotion campaign highlighted not only two things, send an SMS to this particular hotline, it's rememberable shortcode. And the message should contain only two. Thanks for your problem, is your problem to do with plumbing, electrical, or cleaning or something else? And what is your postal code. So for example, I can say my postal code is 2000. I'm in Sydney and have problem with plumbing. And that's the only message I had to send on the SMS. And when they send Miss comes to the Emergency Response Center, there is a dedicated team who configures it actually it's a dashboard, it clearly shows in this particular suburb, this particular service is in need. And we have a database of suppliers in our platform. So it automated cross matches these suppliers. And we broadcast this message to the suppliers pool. Because these supplies even though we end up adding, they're so desperate to get more jobs, because they had to live, they had food put food on the table. And because suppliers are given Emergency Services Authority, so they even during a lockdown, they are still authorized to work. So these people are so desperate for work. And the end users are so desperate to fix their problems. Using this SMS based Emergency Response Center, it automatically matches supplies, and it is a broadcasting of these new leads. They are people who use our IoT business platform, as well as people who do not use IoT business platform. It's this message. So we opened up this ecosystem to people who are on our database, as well as anyone who has an expression of interest, even though they are not an existing customer of ours. Wow. And this became an absolute hit. And, and that was one of the best lessons that we have learned. It's as a technology company with some time talking about what is the latest algorithm we can bring in how much of an AI algorithm we can introduce how intuitive how much of VR AR and machine learning technologies we can introduce and this an example of us going backwards and making an immense success. And this resulted in us coming through COVID With quadrupling our revenue by being reduced revenue by that percent with the pandemic. That
Andrew Stotz 29:24
I mean, my main takeaway from that is sometimes you have to go take a step back to take a step forward.
Sachi Wickramage 29:32
Absolutely, absolutely. This perfect example where we took a step back in technology, but it helped us to scale on both fronts Andrew, it helped us to get a greater customer base. And it helped us to gain a larger number of supplier base and both party for happy.
Andrew Stotz 29:50
Yep. Fantastic. Let me ask you what's a what's a resource of either your own your own companies your own or any other reason? source that you'd like to recommend to our listeners.
Sachi Wickramage 30:08
When is the resource rather than saying resource, I would like to encourage a way of thinking. It's the essence of this lesson that we have learned so far, it's about now, there are different ways to center your business. You know, it can be customer centricity or it can be a product centricity, or it can be competitor centricity. Right now, as a product company, we went through this journey, and they tried to build a product to cater to an audience, and we learned these lessons. But the one of the most important things is, you need to wait for the moment of intent. Once the moment of intent arises, people are ready to make those changes, people are ready to sign up to an application, they are ready to download an app and there it is an SMS. But if you try to force this, by incorrectly identifying the moment of intent, it becomes a disturbance. And they do not want to do that because they do not have a need at that time. So we need to be very specific, and understand. Ridiculous, the moment of intent for each of the segments of your customer base.
Andrew Stotz 31:28
Great, great idea. And I would say it's kind of like this thing of strike while the iron is hot strike when the intent is there. And that also is a challenge to the listeners, you need to be aware also of what's going on with your customers with your potential customers with the whole situation. Otherwise, you may not you may miss that opportunity. All right, last question, what is your number one goal for the next 12 months?
Sachi Wickramage 31:59
Number one, we'll go to the next 12 months, Andrew is now looking at our current journey of why predictable we are expanding beyond Australia to Europe and Celeste to us, it's actually to stay true to our purpose. Because when you try to scale, problems are not linear problems are exponential. And the problems you cannot even foresee what kind of challenges you would face. So these are times that's going to test you that's gonna check your integrity. So you need to stay true to your purpose and define and be specific and be disciplined to your non negotiables. Now when I what I mean by non negotiables In fact, I would like to explain this as well. Um, my life is run by four core values. It's about quality, accountability, discipline, and. And waiting, I lost you there. Yeah, I look for values.
Andrew Stotz 33:12
Go ahead and tell us the four values again.
Sachi Wickramage 33:17
Yeah, so my life is driven by four core values is about quality, accountability, personal growth and discipline. And these four core values are non negotiables. To me, and similarly, our businesses have core values. And at times of challenge, we must stay true to our core values, because that's what defines who you are, especially as an organization try to scale and make a greater impact to the world if you stay true to your cause. And you can be an example to the rest of the entrepreneurs and the next generation. Great,
Andrew Stotz 33:53
well, listeners there you have an another story of loss to keep you winning. Remember, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. If you've not yet joined that mission, just go to my worst investment ever.com and join my free weekly become a better investor newsletter to reduce risks in your life. As we conclude, Saatchi, I want to thank you again for joining our mission and on behalf of a Stotz Academy I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience? Stay true to
Sachi Wickramage 34:33
define who you are and who you inspire.
Andrew Stotz 34:37
Fantastic, and that's a wrap on another great story to help us great grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate that today. We added one more person to our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.
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