For our team, bringing Xero to Asia is more than a growth strategy or ambition. What it really represents is a unique opportunity to bring about fundamental change to the way small businesses operate in one of the world’s most exciting regions. By re-wiring Asia’s small business economy over the years to come, we can bring tangible benefits to the lives of small business owners and their accounting and bookkeeping partners.
It’s this mission that makes me so excited to be writing this from the RISE Conference in Hong Kong, where more than 7,000 passionate people from every corner of the tech world come together to share ideas and knowledge. In many ways, Xero’s journey in Asia began at last year’s RISE with our CEO and founder Rod Drury coming here and speaking with hundreds of entrepreneurs and seeing first hand the opportunity we have ahead of us in Asia.
Experiencing Xero’s value as a customer first
I came to Xero through a slightly unusual path — before joining Xero I was a customer. I’d spent the past three years travelling throughout Asia, building a regional professional services business with more than 450 staff across offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. One of the biggest challenges we faced in running that business were the legacy finance systems that came with companies we had acquired (a mix of Xero’s competitors and spreadsheets).
We moved all those businesses to Xero and it was transformative to the way we could run the business. Shifting from a month-end accounting model to real-time Xero accounting allowed the management teams of the businesses to look forward, not just backward. Cash flow improved, management decisions improved, and huge efficiencies were realised in accounting processes. It was a game changer and I could immediately see the potential for Xero to replicate this success for millions of small businesses in Asia.
We knew it would be fundamental to our success in Asia that we have the right people. With a few transfers from New Zealand and Australia who know the business inside and out, together with some fantastic local hires who have a deep understanding of the economies and markets, we’ve achieved that. We wanted the Asia team to be an integrated part of the global company, not an outpost.
Already experiencing the Xero love
One of the very happy surprises has been seeing just how strong Xero brand awareness is already in Asia. Our team will be out and about in Singapore wearing Xero t-shirts and we will literally be stopped in the street by people who want to tell us that they’re Xero customers and that they love the product. Now, having said that, the next thing they say is usually “How soon will Xero have the bank feed integration with my bank?” We’re working on it guys – watch this space!
Our focus is on Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, the markets where the Xero product is really ready to go mainstream in a big way. Our focus on these markets flows from my strong belief that the market-specific network effects inherent to the Xero business mean that it is vastly better for us to become the major player in smaller markets than a small player in major markets. At the same time, we’re super excited about the opportunity for Xero in the huge growth markets across the region.
Clearly, I am really excited to have the opportunity to be part of the team establishing Xero in Asia. It will never be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but with the support of our accounting partners and small business customers I know that we can together make a lasting difference in transforming the small business economy of Asia.