Wednesday, 20 May 2020

COVID-19: HOW OXFORD MBA GRADUATE, KARL LOO, INNOVATED, MOBILIZED, AND PIVOTED HIS BUSINESS WITHIN 36 HOURS

Karl Loo
As the Covid-19 pandemic has a growing impact on global economies, businesses across the world face the challenge of innovating to survive. In the space of just 36 hours, Karl Loo (Oxford SAIDMBA 2013) turned his business around by launching special initiative Disinfection2U.com, which eventually became a leading virus containment company in Southeast Asia.

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Karl is the Co-founder and CEO of ServisHero, a leading technology startup based in Southeast Asia dubbed the ‘Uber of home services’ where people use an app to hire and access local services and labour. As the Covid-19 crisis grew, Karl knew this would reduce business within their current operations and sensed opportunity growing in another area.

“Movement control hit us hard and we saw a huge decline in consumer appetite for services within their home, and a 90% drop in revenue for this category” says Karl. “I’d been following the unfolding situation in China and saw that while many businesses dipped, there was a soar in disinfection. We were not at that level yet in Southeast Asia, but it felt like that demand was going to be inevitable and that perhaps virus containment was a sustainable opportunity for us.”

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With this rationale, Karl proposed a dramatic change of direction to partners that saw them shift their entire operations within 36 hours to respond to the pandemic with the launch of Disinfection2U.com in conjunction with their operations partners, Primech Engineering Services. Using broad-spectrum viricide misting and fogging technology, the initiative and its partners provides professional disinfection solutions for a variety of living and working spaces that are paramount to safety. With offices and operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia already, Disinfection2U.com has seen colossal growth since launching little over six weeks ago.

“It’s just snowballed” says Karl, “With our decision to mobilise swiftly; we’ve locked in our reputation a major disinfection company, and are the leading provider in Southeast Asia, working with our partners to establish huge critical relationships. We’ve disinfected millions of square feet and are already providing services for Fortune 500 companies, international hotel chains, national hospital groups and more, something we would never normally expect after less than two months.”

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Karl credits his time on the Oxford MBA as being invaluable to his ability to transform and pivot his business. “I’m having daily flashbacks to my strategy and innovation classes” he laughs, “those S curves used to be so hypothetical, and now all of a sudden I’m looking at a new market and new product development and wondering where else this can go. We are entering a new world and we must be innovators to create solutions to these new problems; our SI learning and application has never been so important.”

“Additionally,” he says, “everything we are doing now is linked to Covid-19. It’s not just about profit for us as a company, we are being driven by purpose, and that’s an ethos I took away from my time at Oxford SAÏD.”

Karl hopes that sharing his story will help inspire others during this difficult time. He said, “It is a trying time for many people. Our lives will change, and many jobs are on the line, but I would strongly encourage people to try to maintain a positive view to find new opportunities. My initial response to the pandemic was pretty much doom and gloom. At first, all I was thinking was ‘oh my gosh, how are we going to get out of this?’ Then thankfully, a colleague of mine inspired me to get into a more positive frame of mind. She challenged me to think that this could be an opportunity; how could we now leverage our platform as a source for good? At that point, my adrenaline kicked in and, as an entrepreneur, I looked to harness the chaos around us to come up with a solution. Disinfection2U.com was registered as a domain name within the next two hours.”

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As for the future, Karl aspires to continue innovating with Disinfection2U.com and within the tech space in the region.

“Disinfection2U.com and virus containment is 100% a long-term project for us as opposed to just a reaction to immediate demand” says Karl. “We’re seeing great research and advancements in anti-viral technology that we want to bring to the Asia-Pacific markets; already we’ve developed an advanced disinfectant nano-coating that could protect surfaces from viruses for up to twelve months, which could be a complete game changer.”

“This pandemic has permanently changed people’s reaction and demand for hygiene and sanitation, and they will not put themselves at risk in the future” he concludes. “We’ll continue innovating and improving, in order to bring the best services and products to the people who need them.” (Oxford Business Alumni Network)

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