Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo of Wonderful tells how they’re offering bilingual personal assistant service to ex-pats in Korea.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: Thanks for asking. My family and I are doing well so far, thank God. It has been challenging since we have had to make a lot of different changes. I live and work in South Korea, which has managed the crisis well so far. The rest of my family is in Kenya, which is doing okay at the moment.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Wonderful.
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: I joined this Ask Ajumma Company in 2015 while in university. I wanted to work in a startup and gain experience while planning for my own startup, but I ended up joining the company full time as CTO then and went on to become CEO.
How does Wonderful innovate?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: We are a personal assistant service helping foreigners living in or needing assistance with issues related to Korea, which can include online shopping/groceries, shopping and shipping overseas, basic translation, online research etc. The fact that Korean does not largely speak English has helped us become an important part of the ex-pat ecosystem in Korea. Service businesses are not easy to run and monetize, but we have developed technologies that allow us to provide the best quality service at an affordable but profitable rate.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: Our finances were affected during the initial phase of the virus in Korea, as many travellers stopped visiting the country. We decided to try and diversify our client base to reach out to people who were outside Korea but needed assistance with various issues within the country. We tried to focus on foreigners who needed help with getting access to Korean goods and services, especially during the quarantine phase, which helped us.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: Gladly no, we have not had to make such choices. We ended up hiring, which taught us that the base clients we can target are much more than we have right now.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: We actually strengthened our relationship with our clients. We were empathetic if clients could not meet payments due to the difficulty of the situation. We use our own in-house CRM software that streamlines our processes and incorporates our time-based payments to make it seamless for our agents.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: Yes, we did apply for some grants, so far we got around 2000usd, though I cannot say that it was urgently needed. We did definitely put it into marketing.
Your final thoughts?
Philliip Ochola Mak’Anyengo: Flexibility and diversification are really important in difficult times. Sticking to what you do does not always help.