We talked to Eyal Victor Mamou on how KOISRA provides set of services and solutions to support multinational companies, SMEs, startups, foreign governmental agencies, funds and NGOs activities in South Korea and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eyal Victor Mamou: Thank you for asking. The whole family is fine, but this is a challenging time for everyone. We are required to avoid gatherings, wear a protective face mask, and have even had to avoid meetings with relatives, including on holidays. Luckily, these days all my family members will receive the second Pfizer vaccine and thus I hope we can get back to a more normal life with fewer restrictions and less fear from infection.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KOISRA
Eyal Victor Mamou: I started my professional career as a business lawyer specializing in corporate law, commercial law, and intellectual property law. While working as a lawyer I was exposed to interesting transactions, complex business models, and, of course, the difficulties of customers in doing business with different countries. One of the countries with the most difficulties was South Korea. South Korea was known then as well as today as a country in economic growth but with very high barriers to entry. As I learned then, a lot of business opportunities exist but the realization is very difficult. It was the trigger that caused my professional change.
To realize the business potential in Korea, in 2009 I moved to Seoul South Korea, where I founded KOISRA which is a business consulting and development company that assists foreign companies in entering the South Korean market, market research, and finding partners. In 2014, together with other partners, we co-founded KOISRA Seed Partners which was the first Israeli-Korean startups fund and accelerator. In 2018 we launched the KOISRA UP brand through which we provide outsourcing services, payroll accounting, recruitment, and employment as well as registration of companies and businesses in the Korean market. We have offices in Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Taipei.
How does your company innovate?
Eyal Victor Mamou: The company’s services and solutions are constantly updated in accordance with the needs of foreign companies. For example, one of the solutions we recently developed and offer to our foreign clients – many of them young startups – is the ability to hire local Korean employees in Korea without the need to register a local company and not to be subject to the strict Korean labor laws. We named it Hybrid Payroll and it’s a new alternative to the well-known PEO/EOR employment models.
Because of COVID-19, there is difficulty in flying and entering South Korea. Due to this, we have changed our service model to suit the current period. For example, instead of scheduling physical appointments for clients, we perform the appointments and bring up the foreign client in a conference call. It is important for our customers that someone on their behalf meet physically with the Korean partner to verify him/her personally. Another example, we allow the registration of a Korean company and the opening of a bank account without the need for physical arrival in Korea of the shareholders or directors. It is a special service that allows foreign companies to start operating in Korea immediately even though entry into Korea is very limited this time.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Eyal Victor Mamou: South Korea managed the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus very well compared to other countries. Unlike Europe and other countries, there were never lockdowns in Korea, so the business has continued almost as usual. Korea’s reputation seems to have been mentioned extensively in foreign media in various countries, as surprisingly, the number of customers we received in 2020 was double that in 2019. Those customers may have realized that South Korea is an attractive market that cannot be ignored and has received preference over other countries.
To meet the demand for entry into the Korean market, we have created a number of local partnerships and a network of suppliers who actually help us develop quick solutions for our clients in a variety of areas. For example, in the e-commerce sector, we have recently been appointed as one of the service providers for global sellers in the Coupang marketplace (the Korean “Amazon”). This position allows us to provide better support for foreign sellers that wish to sell in the Korean e-commerce market without the need to set up a local office in Korea.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
As I mentioned earlier, we were surprised to find that even though we are in a period of a pandemic, there is a great demand for our services in the Korean market. In fact, the demand is growing but it is becoming more difficult to provide the services and solutions because the market has not yet returned to full and normal functioning. Due to the situation, we had to be more picky about which clients we provide service to, in order to continue to provide high-quality service to existing clients. What I have learned is that it is impossible to predict market behavior so it is important to build a network of business partners who can help when needed.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Eyal Victor Mamou: We are a big fan of Google Workspace and we use it heavily for email communication, schedule meetings, and conference calls. Following the exceptional demand and volume of contacts in the past year, we have implemented a CRM system that works within Gmail – Gmelius, thus allowing employees to monitor and respond to every contact and also me to check the level of service and response.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
There are many companies that offer business services in Korea, however, only a few of them actually operate directly in South Korea through a company and local employees. In fact, we provide services to our competitors who need a professional service provider in the local market for their clients. At the same time, we are happy that there is a competition from which we can improve the service and even design it for the new needs. Our staff is constantly updated on the changing business regulation and thus we adapt ourselves to the dynamic reality.
Your final thoughts?
Eyal Victor Mamou: I am optimistic about the situation. According to recent studies in different countries, the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna work well, so in about a few months things will back to normal cycle. In fact, everyone is waiting for it and once that happens there will be a huge boost to the global economy and in particular South Korea.