Thursday 28 Sep 2023
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This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 18, 2021 - October 24, 2021

Ho Di-Yan worked as a civil engineer in Southeast Asian countries for more than seven years and during his time in the construction industry, he handled the foreign workforce. Most of these workers had their time at work monitored via punch cards and at the end of the month, they would present Ho with an overtime (OT) slip for him to sign off on.

Ho was the one in charge of verifying the validity of the OT, which most of the time is hard to track, as the workforce is quite large at one construction location, let alone when it is compiled across different construction projects.

“It’s tough to monitor OT and all I could do was trust that these workers were being genuine with their request. OT makes up about 40% of a company’s claims per month,” Ho explains.

He then met, at a mamak stall, Shah Fariq Aizal Sha Ghazni, who also expressed a similar grievance at the oil palm estate he managed. During their conversation, they realised that there was no human resource (HR) technology solution for blue-collar workers, as most solutions were for white-collar workers.

“The difference between blue-collar and white-collar workers is that the former group does not need a performance tracker. What they do need is monitoring from an operational standpoint, like attendance reports and asset management,” Ho explains.

In March 2019, Ho and Shah Fariq co-founded HAUZ, a workforce management operations solution that focuses on the operational aspects within companies. Among the main focuses is to streamline the workers in the security, construction and cleaning industries.

Ho, who is now the CEO of HAUZ, says the solution consolidates all the monitoring aspects onto one platform, allowing workers across projects to be monitored effectively, especially employees who need to move around or change shifts at a location. 

He explains that, for the clock-in feature, a QR code is placed at the working station. The worker will then need to scan the QR code and take a live photo to be sent to the system. The system also captures the image’s geotagged location to authenticate that the worker is really clocking in for work at the correct site.

Assuming there is a discrepancy with the clock-in authentication or the worker does not clock in on time, the manager or supervisor will receive a prompt, and can then take the necessary action to investigate the matter.

“Things like buddy punching or workers making a pact with their supervisor to approve their OT, even though they didn’t fulfil their hours, are regular occurrences in this field,” Ho explains.

“One of our clients really surprised me when they told me that HAUZ managed to reduce up to 50% of their operational costs. That translates into roughly RM250,000 a month, which is significant.

“On top of that, supervisors will not need to travel to these locations to collect the punch cards and process the data themselves. The travelling cost and analysis time have been reduced.”

Ahead of the curve

When the company started in 2019, Ho and his colleagues made cold calls on potential clients, especially those with legacy systems, but the response was lukewarm at best. Basically, these companies did not believe HAUZ’s solution was necessary.

And then the pandemic hit. Almost overnight, the whole dynamic changed and, suddenly, what had seemed like an indulgence became a necessity. Companies were scrambling to have HAUZ’s solution installed.

“It used to take 30 days to two months to close a deal but, during the pandemic, it took less than a week. We saw a 140% increase in sales from 2019 to the end of 2020.”

During the pandemic, the conversation surrounding HAUZ was not confined only to tracking attendance, but also included asset management, vehicle utilisation and reporting. This expanded HAUZ’s potential market to include vending machine players as well as transportation and logistics companies. 

“For example, a vending machine supplier typically has a service form with them when they service a vending machine. Each machine will have a QR code on it. So, whoever attends to the machine will need to scan the code and report services and restocks done with the machine in-app, and it will be logged into the system,” Ho says.

“These reports are collected at the company’s headquarters and they don’t have to manually file paperwork anymore. This is an example of how HAUZ can be used for asset management.”

For vehicle utilisation at a logistics company, for example, Ho explains that the app will help track who was using the car, along with the vehicle’s mileage for easier tracking. Traditionally, drivers would need to log their details into a book, which they sometimes forget to do.

“If a driver clocks into a vehicle with our QR code and a traffic incident occurs, the company will be able to identify who the driver is with ease, without the complicated step of flipping through a log book,” says Ho.

“At the end of the day, the worker reports are the biggest pain points of these companies.”

As HAUZ tracks workers’ workflow, the app uses mainly big data analytics to provide its customers with downloadable ready-to-use reports. Ho says the company’s focus is to make sure all the data collected is converted into meaningful information that can be used by its customer, including a worker’s performance over a period of time.

The system can also work with companies’ payroll software, where all they need to do is export the data from HAUZ’s system and import it to the payroll system. As for security, Ho says HAUZ runs on Amazon Web Services and employs the cloud protection provided by the tech giant. HAUZ also carries out penetration tests from time to time to check whether its server is hackable.

Establishing a regional presence

With Covid-19 vaccination status required in certain industries, Ho says the team is working to incorporate a feature that will show a worker’s vaccination status and when their last Covid-19 screening test was done.

On top of that, he says, the company is looking to establish HAUZ as the “LinkedIn of blue-collar workers”, as most of them do not have a formal record of their skills and working experience. The plan is to build an ecosystem in which workers can take the data of their work experience to their next job.

Ho envisions a majority of blue-collar workers having the HAUZ app on them as well as their working track record from previous companies linked to their profile, along with acknowledgements from previous employers.

“My uncle used to work as a construction operator. He had 30 years of operating experience under his belt but was retrenched. When he went to a different company, he had to start from the bottom because there was no way to prove his skills with the machines he worked with.

“This also meant that his salary was low and he needed time to build it back up. We’re hoping to use HAUZ to solve these kinds of gaps and provide blue-collar workers with the added job security from the data that we collect and save about their work ethics and performance. It will also open up more job opportunities for them.”

HAUZ has a presence in Singapore and Malaysia, and plans to expand to Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand in mid-2022, as these markets have a large blue-collar workforce.

The company is in the process of raising US$1 million (RM4.17 million) through venture capital and angel investors, to find the right strategic partner for its regional expansion plans.

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