First published on jaykimshow.com on 20 Nov 2018.
Jay: This week’s show guest is Pascal Henry, co-founder and CEO of HReasily. HReasily is a Singapore-based HR tech startup that provides HR solutions such as payroll processing, leave management, claims applications and more on a software-as-a-service platform that operates across several countries in Asia. Pascal, welcome in the show.
Pascal: Hi. Thanks for having me on the show.
Jay: Why don’t you just give a little bit of a background introduction to our audience — who are you, where you’re from, and how you ended up becoming a startup entrepreneur.
Pascal: I’m Pascal Henry. I’m the co-founder and CEO of HReasily. I was actually born and raised in Sabah and spent most of my early life in Sabah and eventually found myself in London in my early 20s, started a recruitment company after various jobs and internships across the Asian and European region, and eventually made the move back to Asia and ended up in Singapore where, eventually, I start up HReasily with my fellow co-founders.
Jay: Sorry. You’re from Sabah. Is it an island?
Pascal: Yes. It’s on the island of Borneo. So I come from a town called Kota Kinabalu.
Jay: That’s right. Okay. Yeah, I’ve never been there, but it’s a nice place.
Pascal: Yes, you definitely could go there. It’s beautiful.
Jay: Absolutely. What’s the closest place to fly in from?
Pascal: You can fly directly from Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu, actually. It takes around less than two hours, I think. Just two hours and 15 minutes maybe.
Jay: Got it. So you were always in recruitment/human resources, I suppose.
Jay: So was there something in particular that made you realize, like a pain point or something about the industry that you saw, was there a moment where you kind of had the lightbulb moment where you were like “Hey, I think that I could do this better if I do a startup myself”?
Pascal: What actually happened was when I was running my startup in Singapore, I had to do a lot of manual process myself. I felt the pain and especially the drain in terms of what it took out of me to do that when I should have been out building my business. So I actually did go out and look for solutions that would help me for that. And then I realized there was a gap in the market. I thought about it a lot, discussed it with who would eventually become my co-founders. Of course, as all good ideas, over a beer we decided let’s do it. The rest is history.
Jay: And your cofounders are also are, I guess, recruiting backgrounds — HR/recruiting?
Pascal: Actually, no. Our CTO, Theo, he comes from a tech background. He’s always been a programmer. He’s done a lot of work in Singapore, some in Indonesia, and he’s built a lot of things related to HR as well. One of our other co-founders, Sharon, she’s actually a chartered accountant, which is good because, in our field, we need a lot of that knowledge as well. The other two co-founders, one is a corporate lawyer. So a lot of the payroll also has to do with a lot of legality. So that also come to play, and another one of the founders, Desmond, also, he’s very good in ops as well. So it all came together. And I’m a bit of the BD side. So we all kind of clicked together. It was good, a good recipe.
Jay: That’s a good team you have there. You’re just missing a doctor. You’ve got the lawyer, the accountant.
Pascal: You never know.
Jay: Pascal, you have a pretty easy, discernable name — HReasily. I imagine it’s exactly what it sounds like. But why don’t you just give us an overview of what your company does. What are the different verticals, services it provides, and what is your mission statement, if you will?
Pascal: Our mission statement is actually to innovate and automate HR throughout the region. In terms of what we do and what we are… We’re actually one of the fastest-growing cloud-based HR SaaS companies in the region. Basically, all our modules and our features aim to transform the many HR processes and automate them and make it accessible anytime, anywhere, unlike the legacy systems that a lot of people still use in the region.
In terms of that, our modules basically cover the payroll, staff, leave, the contract templates, the time and attendance. And we’re building more and more. So we started out with just payroll in the beginning and leave. Now we have seven products and modules, and we’re releasing scheduling next year. So we’re getting better and better and faster and faster at it as well.
Jay: Right. Maybe you could give us a little bit of a background, for those who aren’t familiar. I myself, personally, I’m not familiar. I’ve worked in large corporation in the past, and there’s always been an HR department. You don’t really know what goes on behind those doors, but you know that when you get called by them, it’s probably not a good thing. So maybe you could give us a quick overview of what’s the traditional landscape of HR, that department — what are the different functions that it handles and then what are the areas that your company now can provide on the software-as-a-service platform?
Pascal: I think, maybe just to make it into an easier-to-look-at example… Previously, a lot of the businesses, for example, especially if you’re a regional business, they used to use a local solution in each country that looked after a particular silo of an HR department. So you’d have one system to manage your payroll calculations, one to manage your leave, and one to manage the other ones as well. So what happens is that you’d have to log in, log out to many, many various systems, and these systems cost a bomb. They used to cost crazy amounts of money.
And what we’ve done is we actually built a software that is very affordable and that integrates with all the modules. So basically your time and attendance, your leave, your overtime — all that actually integrates to your payroll. So everything just works as a unified platform. So instead of your HR department going through your Excel files and your legacy softwares and when having to spend hours and days bringing it altogether, some of the companies that have a simple payroll and leave, just the click of a button, a couple of minutes, and you’re done with payroll, and they can concentrate on more important things as well.
Jay: That makes sense. So it’s basically a one-stop-shop solution that covers what traditionally was completely separate software packages that a company would probably have to purchase or license for various things, such as payroll, leave, and this sort of thing.
Pascal: Yeah. We like to say that we’re here to enable the HR department as well. A lot of people think all these automations will actually replace staff or people to do that. But actually, what we do is we enable that HR admin or business owner that has to do this on his own, we enable them to do it more efficiently, and they can do it on the go as well. So then they are able to do other things. So this is never about replacing the HR but enabling it to be more efficient.
Jay: Right. So making them better at their job, basically.
Pascal: Giving them the proper tools. I’m sure a lot of them are very good at their jobs.
Jay: And it’s purely a SaaS product, so it’s essentially… Can you run through the business model? Is it a licensing model where you basically pay an annual fee to license the software?
Pascal: So we run monthly or yearly subscriptions, depending on how they want to go about the billing. But we also give free products as well. For example, in each country that we’re in, we have a lighter version of payroll so that they can adhere to all the government rules and regulations. And then we have the premium version of our payroll. We have all the add-ons like the leave and time attendance.
So in terms of that, one of our current revenue modules is the subscription base. So we are also launching our staff benefits platform next year, which we’re very excited about. So then you’d be able to actually acquire a company or group insurance. You can apply for better rate loans and stuff like that. We’re starting with the traditional HR office, and then we’re going into staff benefits so that we can also cater not only to the business but to the employees, which are important to them as well.
Jay: Got it. Let’s drill down a little bit deeper, Pascal. What are the different silos or verticals that your company, HReasily, now provides under that one suite, if you will.
Pascal: In terms of product-wise, we have payroll. So payroll takes care of all your calculations, your mandatory contributions in all the countries. So we localize in each country. For example, in Singapore, it’s CPF and MPF in Hong Kong or EPF in Malaysia. So we do the calculations. We generate the files in the countries where there is integration. We integrate with the contribution fund portals, and we also generate the end-of-the-year tax as well for the employees. So that becomes not only your payroll but it also generates your tax files, which usually were done manually in the past.
So then the next module, which is a very important one, is the staff or employee module. The staff module is where you have a repository of all your staff information, their profile, their work history, and everything about them. In certain countries, also, this becomes very important where there must be actual records of your employment history, and the employee has to keep it as well. For example, in Singapore, this is required. So this is very important to the businesses as well. And then we have the leave module, which takes care of your leave and public holidays and your on-paid leaves, and it integrates directly to the payroll.
Then we have, of course, the claims module, and the claims module, of course, goes hand in hand with the payroll modules because when you have a claim, usually when you get your salary, they process the claims at the same time. Or even if they want to do it outside of the normal payroll cycle, they can do it as well as a stand-alone product.
Jay: That’s like your expenses and that sort of thing.
Pascal: Correct. So our mobile app, you can take the pictures and upload it, and then it goes directly to the approver, and then the approver will review it, and then they’ll approve it or reject it, and it goes back to the employee either way.
Jay: It’s like Expensify, that app.
Jay: Great. That’s awesome. Wow. And then?
Pascal: And then we have a time and attendance module. So the time and attendance module, which has a few feature in it… One of the interesting things is that we have this ability to consume data from legacy hardware like thumbprint machines or Gentry machines, because countries like Indonesia and Malaysia or other countries that have a lot of manufacturing, they have a lot of old systems or systems they bought five years ago, for example, and they actually clock in, clock out via a punch card or a tap in tap out. And this generates a file which is just kept in that system, and then they manually put it in an Excel file or calculate it, and then it goes to the person that runs payroll.
So what we do is we actually integrate that. So we consume that data and automatically push it to payroll, so they don’t have to do that anymore. On our app, we also have our own clock-in-clock-out system, which has facial recognition and GPS tagging. So anyone with that mobile app can use it to clock in, clock out as an employee. Or the company can actually use our kiosk version, and they can actually just put it in the office, and it comes in a very affordable way.
Jay: So it’s an actual piece of hardware.
Pascal: Well, it’s actually a software which makes any smartphone or tablet to become the conduit or the hardware for the clock in, clock out.
Pascal: It makes it cheap, so you don’t need to buy the thumbprint machines or have to maintain the big Gantry machines.
And we also have a contract module, which is contract templates as well, which we actually give free with our staff module. So basically, this contract template for any business owner, they can just use it, add or remove any clauses, add any details they want and generate a letter of offer in a contract digitally to their employees.
Jay: Wow. Incredible. So that was five or six different… I think it was six different things you mentioned just now. Right?
Pascal: Six. And we also have a module that actually does digitization of documents. So in terms of the digitization of documents, we actually encourage and we help the SMEs actually upload all the documents so that all the documents can be online and accessible.
Jay: Right. So it’s almost like a Dropbox type…
Jay: This is incredible, Pascal. You’ve actually figured out how to aggregate a lot of different solutions within one umbrella. I love it.
Pascal: Yeah, we’re getting a lot of things right, and we’re still working on it.
Jay: Yeah. It sounds like you guys are definitely on the right track. I’m just thinking about… Here’s a little bit of background. I joined a new launch hedge fund about four years. We outsource a lot of our stuff. We have a small back office, but being a startup, we have a very lean team — about eight of us in the office. And on the non-investment side, we basically have a COO, a head of operations, and an office manager. So the HR function actually kind of gets outsourced. I think the office manager helps out with stuff like simple contracts and the holiday schedule and that sort of thing. But the actual HR function, we do pay someone else for that. I’m just thinking that this could be a perfect example for both startups that need to have a one-stop-shop solution to cover their needs but also large organizations, to literally cut a lot of cost and consolidate it all. Right?
Pascal: Correct. An interesting point on that as well is that a lot of our customers and our partners are actually payroll outsourcing companies as well. You’d imagine that, traditionally, we would be in competition to them, but we actually enable them to do more because we automate their platform as well. So they use us to do their outsourcing as well so they can drive more business. Each staff then can do more companies because it becomes easier. Also, you would be able to… For example, if your outsource company would want to use HReasily for that, and then they could put whatever approvals or whatever level of involvement that they want to be in, and both can run the payroll, or you could do that yourself as well. For your company size, you definitely could do it, every month, in a couple of minutes.
Jay: Yeah, I can definitely see that. Certain of the modules have an actual employee interface, if needed, right? Like an app or something that the employee can download, like the Expensify thing.
Pascal: Correct. What we have is we have an employee app as well. So when a business registers for HReasily, they actually send permission levels or invites to the employees, and the employees actually get their own employee HR account. So they can actually login to their own account via the web or their mobile app, and they can check their pay slips any time they want. They can apply for leave from there, or they can do the clock-in-clock-out from there. So we involve the employer and the employees as well.
Jay: That’s very interesting. As far as the customer standpoint… Let’s say you’re not a third-party HR service provider. Let’s say you’re an actual startup or even a large organization that needs your solution. How long does it take to onboard, get full systems set up and basically get the flywheel spinning to the point where they could actually see the efficiency paying off?
Pascal: I think for the onboarding part, that’s pretty easy. We have bulk upload for companies that have more staff than you could manually enter. Or let’s say if you’re a small team, you could manually enter that as well. So once you upload the information which, if you have the information at hand, it can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. And then you set your rules and regulations in terms of “These are the rules governing my company’s HR,” and then you’re good to go. Then you just click “run payroll,” and it’s done.
Jay: Sounds pretty straightforward. Pascal, that’s pretty interesting. Thanks for the overview of the company. You’ve found a good niche because it’s not something… I’ll be completely honest with you. I was pleasantly surprised after you explained it to be because I wasn’t sure what to expect with an HR startup. But it’s much more dynamic and interesting than I initially thought. A part of it is my own ignorance because I don’t know that field very well, but you’re definitely providing a very valuable solution.
You mentioned that you’re business has expanded into a number of countries now, probably predominantly in Southeast Asia, I believe. What are your forward-looking goals for the company expansion plans that you see for the rest of the year and into 2019?
Pascal: Currently we’re in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia. And we’ve just pre-launched in Vietnam, which will have its fully-localized version in January.
The next direction we’re looking at is in China. The way we work is that each country that we go to, we have quite good support from our partners. So we work with the likes of UOB Bank, Visa, Citibank, Mazars, Nova Hong Kong, Apple… Our partners are very supportive and, for example, Mazars, actually, are one of our lead investors from our first round of funding. So Mazars is a global audit and advisory and payroll outsourcing firm. And they’re present in almost 100 countries with 300 offices globally. And we work with them when we go to each country as well, because when we go to any country, we localize and become a local solution. So, for example, even though we started in Singapore, when we go to Hong Kong, we are a local Hong Kong solution. We cater specifically to the localizations of Hong Kong, with a team on the ground in Hong Kong and serving the Hong Kong market from Hong Kong, for example. So we have a lot of support.
To go to China, we have a lot customers that have expanded into China and want us to serve them in China. And, of course, we’re a very Asian-focused company, and China being China, we can’t not go there.
Jay: Well, it’s the big fish. If you get it right, it could make your entire business.
Pascal: Yes, and we love a challenge.
Jay: Well, you certainly sound like you’re up for it. I have to agree with you, Pascal, on the localization part, which is something that a lot of people… You’re based here, so you know the nuances of doing business in Asia. A lot of Western companies come over, and they don’t understand that every different city has to be localized, otherwise it just doesn’t work. There is no cookie-cutter thing that you can roll out and be successful and successfully across the region. It just doesn’t work that way. There are too many nuances with different countries.
And would you say… When you say your “partners” — you mentioned a bunch of…like UOB and these large brands — these are the people that are actually using your solution?
Pascal: In terms of, for example, the UOB bank partnership, we started out with UOB bank in Singapore. And what we did is we came out with a joint product where HReasily’s payroll plus their payroll features in terms of bulk upload and the ability to run payroll from HReasily until it gets credited from a UOB account. So we came up with that solution, and we went to market.
For example, if you were to go into any UOB bank branch in Singapore and open a business banking account, they would introduce HReasily as a value-added partner so that, together with UOB, that would help you automate from end to end, from your HR to your finance.
Jay: I got it. That’s a pretty good partnership then. I guess with the different ones, depending on the type of partner they are, you figure out what type of bespoke partnership that you can work out with them. Right?
Pascal: Yes. And the thing is, today it’s very different from the previous business strategies. Today, building a very good ecosystem of good partners is very important because you come from different angles, but you all serve one customer, which is the SME or the business. For example, with UOB, Visa, Citibank, Mazars, we all serve the SMEs or the corporation. So by coming together, we collectively create a great end-to-end solution for them. There’s strength in numbers.
Jay: Would you say that SMEs are your largest customer base? If you take a look at large corporations, SMEs, startups, and then third-party HR solutions, would SMEs be, probably, your largest customer base on a percentage basis?
Pascal: It started out that way where the SMEs were our largest customer base. But as we grew, we started, actually, in late 2015, and when we started, we served the SME customers, and we didn’t have any large customers when we had just the payroll and then the leave modules. But as we grew, we got customers from MNCs, from big payroll outsourcing firms to public-listed companies to larger SMEs, smaller SMEs. So it became a mixed bag of customers because a lot of bigger companies, as well, they’re tired of the older solutions which actually tend to make you take everything. If you want one or two solutions from the ten that they offer, you’ve got to take ten sometimes. Or the older solutions cost a lot of money because they had to be installed on premise, and they needed a refresher every year when rules and regulations changed.
With the new SaaS solutions out there, they started to look at other ways and how they can take back control of their internal processes and solutions like ours. We’re one of them. So we would say that now we have a good healthy mix of all types of sizes. Our smallest customer is like a two-man team. Our largest is over 5,000. So you can see that’s a bit of a mix in terms of customer base.
Jay: Just to your point that you just said there, if I were a potential customer and I was talking to you guys, I could basically select à la carte which one of the different modules that I wanted for my own needs. Right?
Jay: Got it. Very cool. Pascal, thank you so much for sharing your journey and telling us about your company. I’m excited to hear how your China expansion goes and your future growth. I just have a couple questions left for you — two actually. The second-to-last one is I always like to ask entrepreneurs who come on my show for just one piece of advice that you could give to our audience listening in, from any part of your entrepreneurial journey — whether it’s in the past or currently what you’re going through. If you could give one piece of advice based on your experiences, what would that be?
Pascal: If I were to choose one, it would be knew your customer.
Jay: Okay, yeah. Any elaboration?
Pascal: It’s very simple. From the mistakes that I’ve made, the losses and wins that I’ve made over the years, I realize that when you build something, you always build towards an objective. That can become blurry as you go along. But at the end of the day, you have to know your customer because you need to know who you’re selling to. If you don’t have that target in focus, even if you execute, you might execute towards the wrong target. So I think that’s pretty important, I think — the basic of knowing your customers.
Jay: That’s true. And to a certain degree, all forms of business and commerce have some sort of selling aspect to it. Even working at a hedge fund, we have investors who are essentially our customers that we have to cater to. I think that’s good advice.
The last question is basically, where can people find you, follow you, and learn a little bit more about HReasily?
Pascal: Anyone that wants to find out more can go to our website, www.HReasily.com, or on Facebook, just search HReasily there or on Twitter. The easiest, I would say, is on the website. And we have a live chat over there, and then you can chat to any one of our consultants, and we’ll help you with whatever you need.
Jay: Fantastic. Well, thanks again, Pascal. I really appreciate the time. Again, we wish you the best of luck, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about your company in the future.
Pascal: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Jay: Alright. Take care.
Pascal: Cheers. Bye.