It was back in 2001 when Chan Kee Siak, CEO and founder of Exabytes (www.exabytes.com) had the vision to become the best website and eCommerce hosting solutions for the South East Asia region.
Since then, Exabytes has grown into a web hosting powerhouse in the ASEAN region with over 300 staffs and more than 250,000 users.
We had the pleasure of visiting their Penang HQ for a tour led by their current COO, Andy Saw, along with Eric and Wei Xin, Senior Internet Marketing Executives; and managed to talk about Exabytes’ growth and where they plan to go.
More importantly, we wanted to know how they managed to take Exabytes from a small company with only a handful of people to being the leading web hosting company based in Malaysia.
Humble Beginnings of Exabytes
Exabytes began its maiden voyage as a web hosting provider in 2001. Prior to that, founder and CEO Chan Kee Siak was just a student at Tunku Abdul Rahman College in Malaysia who was making extra money by selling computer hardware and helping design websites for customers.
He soon discovered the lucrative market of web hosting and decided to launch hostkaki.com, a web hosting reseller site, all by himself.
Unsatisfied with just being a web hosting reseller, Chan then went on to establish Exabytes Malaysia, with the vision of providing the best web solution to their customers.
Even the name Exabytes itself was conceived from Chan’s competitive and visionary tendencies. When he came across another company named “Gigabytes”, he realized he needed to create a company that’s bigger and better, hence the name “Exabytes”.
However, success did not come easily to Exabytes. Chan had to drop out of college to focus on his online web hosting business and through hard work and perseverance, the company went on to become self-funded and managed to break even in its first year of business.
Sure enough, this marked the turn when Exabytes went from being a viable and profitable venture to a corporation that commands a huge market share in Malaysia and serving over 250,000 users in 121 countries.
Starting to Grow
Exabytes’ success began to snowball in 2005, as they expanded their range of services to include Cloud Hosting, Domain Name Registration / Renewal, Business Email Hosting, Reseller Hosting, VPS Hosting, Dedicated Servers, Premium Business Email hosting with Exchange ActiveSync, Website Builder, SSL Web Certificate, and more.
It was a step towards diversifying their products, which Chan deemed a necessity for Exabytes due to the change in society and technological advances which caused a shift in consumer demand.
Throughout the expansion, they still remain steadfast in their core vision which is to be the best web solution for SMEs who wish to expand their business.
Andy reiterates the company’s focus during our chat at Exabytes HQ:
“Our core business focuses on small [to medium] businesses but we also look at smaller groups [sponsors, resellers].”
This clearly paid out in dividends as it leads to Exabytes enjoying great success in Malaysia and its regional areas.
The Hurdles in Asia
For Exabytes, the first 6 to 7 years was particularly challenging as they faced a number of hurdles building up the company. One of their biggest hurdles, in particular, was having enough manpower.
The web hosting industry was still very new when Exabytes was established and not many Malaysians had the relevant skill and technical expertise.
“Trying to look for (people) is very hard,” Andy tells us. “For our work, for us, we’re looking at everything, the best people that can do (that) particular (skill).
Then there was also the financial aspect of the business, an area that Chan was not particularly adept at. “It is a common situation faced by technopreneurs. I simply outsourced my company accounts for the first 6 – 7 years.” Chan notes in an interview with The Edge,
As a result, I didn’t have a good idea of the exact financial position of the company. The consequence was that I lost out on opportunities and reduced the company’s potential.
Success in Malaysia and Beyond
After overcoming the hurdles that come with being a new company, Exabytes began to find their footing and substantial success within the region. The accolades that Exabytes has accumulated over the years is a testament to the quality of their services.
From Golden Bull Awards to Sin Chew Business Excellence Awards, it’s clear that the company’s hard work and dedication have paid off. But the most telling of their success is the number of users that make up the customer base for Exabytes.
“Active users? Around 250,000” notes Andy, “(they consists of) about 30 – 40% non-Malaysian (and) 60 – 70% Malaysian.”
For any company, overlooking and powering 250,000 users (from individuals, small and medium-sized businesses, to government and public listed companies) is no small feat. It also shows how Exabytes is looking beyond the Malaysian market when it comes to expanding their reach.
* Click to enlarge image.
With great success, comes greater potential and Exabytes wastes no time in expanding the company’s portfolio beyond being a web hosting company in Malaysia.
As of today, they have included a number of offerings such as web security, web design, digital marketing and the recently acquired EasyParcel, an eCommerce platform, to become an all-in-one web solution for SMEs.
Our EasyStore [EasyParcel] venture was built because many customers were asking us how to sell their goods online.
Chan mentions in a Vulcan Post Interview. “As they began selling products online, they also approached us about their need for a better solution to get their products delivered. That’s when we came up with EasyParcel.”
It’s clear by now that Exabytes wasn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill web hosting company. Instead, they plan big and branched out into different services to become a comprehensive web solution in South East Asia.
Outreaching to the Community
One of the initiatives at Exabytes was to give back to the community that helped build the company.
The company takes great pride in providing a space for young techies and burgeoning entrepreneurs alike to learn about Exabytes by conducting seminars and talks to students at their Penang HQ.
“We’ve recently refurbished (and) rebranded (our office). With the new space, when university students visit us, we hold talks/seminars (for them).” Andy mentions while we toured their brand new office.
Aside from seminars, Exabytes has also been active in organizing events for businesses and entrepreneurs who are keen to know more about eCommerce and the industry.
Exabytes eCommerce Conference (EEC) is an annual eCommerce event that provides a platform for those who want expert insight and discover key trends in many aspects of digital commerce. The conference is currently in its third year and continues to be a key event for digital retailers and businesses.
We’ve started small with only 100 to 200 people. In the first year, we’ve really struggled (laughs) but it’s part of our effort in supporting our users and the community.
Andy tells us: “(The attendees) they wish to know the latest market trends, the tools they can use to grow their business, (and) to learn from other startups and companies – which is why we invite players from different fields – including successful online store owners, market place owners like 11 Street and Shopee, payment gateway service provider such as MOL Pay and iPay88.”
Looking at the Horizon for Exabytes
Being in the business for 17 years, Chan and company knew that they can’t just rest on their laurels. Despite being the #1 web host in Malaysia, they wanted Exabytes to have a bigger presence in the South East Asian market.
In recent years, they’ve begun an aggressive expansion campaign within the industry. Merging and adding other hosting companies such as Singapore-based USONYX and Cybersite as part of the Exabytes umbrella.
We have to go through all the little things… They have to disclose a lot of things (in case customer complains). We have to go in and do our due diligence.
Despite the messy process, it’s a necessary move for Exabytes to establish a bigger presence in Singapore and beyond. Andy also mentions their current expansion into the largely untapped Indonesian market during our chats:
We’re building up (in Indonesia). We’ve started last year (2017) in January.. We’re trying to penetrate the market by offering a number of things, such as free or cheap domains.
Building up Exabytes’ Brand
To the general public, Exabytes’ aggressive expansion might seem unwarranted but Andy notes that it’s all part of the bigger plan to refocus and rebrand the company and its services.
We’ve already started with Exabytes (being the main web hosting solution) but we’re slowly transitioning the (other) brands towards their own focus. For example, we’re trying to position USONYX as a VPS solution since they are strong on that. Signetique right now, they are doing enterprise (web hosting) solutions and we’re trying to revamp them to focus on (that).
Having all these different companies working together with Exabytes allows them to zero-in and improve the features and services that customers want. It’s a move that seems to be working in favor for them as currently, Exabytes enjoys a substantial revenue from their operations in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
A Top-Down Approach
With the mergers and expansions, Exabytes staff force has now ballooned up in size. “Currently there’s about 150 plus (at Exabytes). Let’s say you combine EasyParcel and EasyStore, then it goes to 300.” Andy tells us.
Handling that much people can be overwhelming but Chan believes in using a top-down approach to pass down the company’s values. In an interview with Vulcan Post, Chan elaborates on the need for clear communication:
“To pass down our values, we incorporate them into every single thing we do. It’s in everything we do every day, including our product packaging, marketing, and branding. All of them will carry the same message—which is to help our customers build their business online.”
We’re grateful to Andy Saw and crews for letting us drop by Exabytes HQ in Penang to talk a bit about the company and to experience their corporate lifestyle.
It’s clear that not only the people at Exabytes were friendly and open, they are also passionate about providing the best web hosting services to their customers.
Here are the key things we’ve learned from Team Exabytes:
- A good company consists of quality people from top to bottom and smart leadership.
- When an opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to take it.
- Look beyond your success and plan where you want to take your business.
- Build a relationship with the community and establish yourself as a key figure in the industry.
- There will always be hurdles and you will overcome them through hard work and determination.