Seizing the Opportunity in times of Crisis

Dr Darren Gouk; Founder of AOne during an interview.
Dr Darren Gouk; Founder of AOne during an interview

The future benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic could outweigh its present risk, especially for small and medium enterprises tapping into the digital space, says Dr Darren Gouk, founder and CEO of My AOne Learning Sdn Bhd (AOne). 

AOne, an education technology (Edu-Tech) company that provides a cloud-based management system to learning centres and runs an online marketplace that links lesson providers to students, has experienced a fall in its revenues since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) this March. However, things are still looking up for the company because of the sudden interest in online classes.

As the Chinese adage goes; for every crisis, there is an opportunity. And over the long term, the potential market that arises from this Covid-19 pandemic could be huge. 

Within the first few days after the announcement of MCO, Gouk hosted an online session that was joined by 160 learning centres across South-East Asia namely, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for industry players to learn from and support each other. “The idea behind the session was for all learning centre operators to share how they can continue to provide lessons to these students moving forward,” he says.

Online Sharing Session with 160 learning centre operators across South East Asia
Online Sharing Session with 160 learning centre operators across South East Asia

By carrying out such initiative, Gouk hopes to create stronger brand awareness in the region in addition to continue serving their current clients. “We are trying to help our clients so they will remember us. We want them to continue to engage us, or even recommend us to other players in the market during this MCO and after,” says Gouk. 

It was also from this sharing session that it became clear that all learning centres had to shift from providing offline classes to online classes. This was the only way for them to continue generating cash flow in order for their businesses to survive. Because of this, AOne has received an influx of requests for a platform for online learning.

Most of these centre use Zoom, a video conferencing software, for their online classes but the recent security issues faced have sent them scurrying to look for alternatives. Furthermore, for centres who are using the free version of Zoom, each session is only limited to 40 minutes. This becomes a hassle for users who need to keep joining a new session after the 40 minutes is up.

Taking these into considerations, AOne teamed up with another Edu-Tech partner from Singapore to launch its online learning platform. This platform, that offers an interactive whiteboard, comes with better security features and has no time limit. Given the current situation, this online platform is offered for free to all existing customers. “During this period of crisis, we are trying to help our customers who are in the same boat as us. We do our best in giving back as much as we can,” says Gouk.

AOneSchool’s Online Classroom

AOne’s online learning platform was introduced to clients only two weeks ago but the response has been encouraging. “In 14 days, there were about 600 classes conducted using our software. Some 180 teachers signed up to use it,” says Gouk.

Before this, digitalization in the educator sector was always seen as an “add-on” or an alternative. However, because of this crisis, the awareness of importance of going digital has increased significantly. Gouk believes that learning centres will continue to adopt digitalization measures such as carrying out e-Learning even after the MCO is lifted.

The education landscape in South-East Asia will definitely see a drastic change at the end of this pandemic. More and more learning centres will adopt e-Learning and other digitalization measures in their businesses. While Covid-19 poses as a short-term risk, the opportunity it offers moving forward will be huge in proportion.

The original article first appeared in The Edge Markets on 21st April 2020 .

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