16 September 2019
Given the industry volatility and cost concern, Davy Ma advises IT firms to be prudent in expansion moves. Photo: Media Explorer
Given the industry volatility and cost concern, Davy Ma advises IT firms to be prudent in expansion moves. Photo: Media Explorer

How an IT veteran survived and thrived in a fast-changing game

Given that five years is almost an eternity in the tech universe, any company that manages to evolve, survive and thrive for two decades at a stretch certainly deserves plenty of credit.

Media Explorer Ltd., a Hong Kong-based firm involved in digital marketing, web design, e- commerce and mobile apps development services, is one such entity.

How did the company find its success?

Well, let’s listen to what Davy Ma, its founder, has to say.

Ma was not a tech geek during his college days. Instead, he was a movie addict and studied filming and television.

It was computer editing that put him in contact with the digital world at the beginning.

When internet was still very much a new thing in Hong Kong in the early 90s, Ma started to freelance as a multimedia developer for companies, helping out in interactive multimedia presentation and website development.

Sensing the huge potential of the market, he decided to go full time and started Media Explorer.

“Web pages were rather static in those days, basically words and photos, a little bit of animation at most,” says Ma, pointing out the big difference with today’s websites that often carry e-commerce, e-billing, account enquiry and many other functions.

With the first-mover advantage and a strong design team, Ma was able to land big clients including CLP Power, CSL and MTR Corp.

Then the company moved into more technical projects like e-mail marketing system and web content management system to ride new trends and fresh demand. As early as 2004, Media Explorer completed its first major e-commerce project — for cosmetic chain Sasa.

Tech is a fast-changing industry and that can be dangerous, particularly when some destructive new technology emerges. Ma’s survival tip is to always stay in the game.

When there is a big shift in the tech landscape, he tries to gauge it early and adapt accordingly.

Over the past decade, Ma’s firm has been focusing on big e-commerce projects worth around half a million Hong Kong dollars or upwards. The projects typically involve setting up customized, full-function e-shopping sites for relatively large firms who are willing to invest significant sums.

This year, Ma feels the time has arrived for cultivating the SME sector through the offer of a mass-market, standardized software service for running a cyber store.

The move comes as cost-effective cloud technology has become mature for serving this group, where small e-vendors are mushrooming along with the boom in social media.

If the idea works, Media Explorer will be able to open up a more steady income stream to complement the typically more volatile project-based business.

Ma also pays a lot of attention to cashflow, knowing too well how quickly a benign economic environment can turn hostile.

“Even if there is not much business for a year, the cashflow cushion built up over the years would still be enough to see us through the tough time,” the entrepreneur notes.

Management and financial techniques aside, character is perhaps the biggest factor behind Ma’s success.

“You have to be very persistent” and willing to do whatever it takes to get things done, especially during bad times, he says.

Having seen all the economic upturns and downturns, Ma’s conclusion is that there is no such thing as an absolutely bad or good business environment.

When business is slow, revenue pressures are a big headache.

However, “during the good days, there would be mounting pressure from clients about meeting stiff deadlines, and from staff as they may push for bigger salary hikes,” says Ma.

Boom times could bring higher turnover but there would also be difficulties in finding enough talent, he adds.

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EJ Insight writer