How two young entrepreneurs are automating business processes in the country's largest companies.
According to the latest forecasts of Gartner, global RPA market will amount to $1.89 billion in 2021, which is 19.5% more than in 2020. Despite the economic pressure caused by the COVID19 pandemic, analysts believe that the RPA market will grow at a double-digit rate until 2024.
Kazakhstan has recently started making progress towards the implementation of RPA in the corporations. Berik Tursynbek, a 29-year-old member of the "Forbes 30 under 30" rating, and Mukhamedzhan Duzenov, a 33-year-old entrepreneur from the Seiko Labs IT company (renamed as Python RPA), are at the forefront of the newly emerging industry. Having accumulated considerable expertise in the development and implementation of software bots, the partners began to offer technologies in Kazakhstan that allow businesses to perform labor-intensive and routine tasks with the much efficiency.
From Bolashak to the Big Four
Mukhamedzhan was fond of mathematics and physics all his childhood, participated in Math competitions and saw his future in the relevant field. He graduated from the Almaty University of Energy and Communications, and then decided to continue his education under the Bolashak program in the bachelor's degree of the Multimedia University of Malaysia as an IT manager. In 2011, after completing an internship in Germany, he returned to Kazakhstan. "The level of competition there is completely different. At the initial stages, it is much more difficult to break through than here, " the interlocutor admits.
However, Mukhamedzhan was faced with the fact that the domestic IT market was quite narrow and only a small number of specialists received a decent salary. "At that time, very small offices were engaged in IT, three or four people each, and I wanted something more. I first went to Kazakhtelecom, where I was offered to become a network operator for 90 k tenge per month. They said: well, you're an IT specialist, you'll retrain as a network expert, " the entrepreneur recalls. But this option did not appeal to him, and he decided to try to build a career in the "big four" – EY.
In 2013, Berik Tursynbek, a fourth-year student of Almaty IT University, also came to EY to gain experience in an international company. The interview with him was conducted by senior consultant Mukhamedzhan Duzenov. That's how they met – Mukhamedzhan helped a young employee get used to the company. Nevertheless, two years later, Berik decided to enter the audit field in the Halyk Bank Group. Then he continued his studies in "Bolashak" at Carnegie Melon University in the USA to get a master's degree in ebusiness.
In 2016, Berik returned to Kazakhstan. He and Mukhamedzhan worked in different companies, but they maintained friendly relations. Somehow in 2018 we met to talk. "The conversation resulted in many hours. And we came to the idea that we want to do something of our own," Berik recalls.
According to the Western example
"There was an understanding that it was necessary to move in the direction of IT, digitalization, but at first nothing concrete came to mind," says Mukhamedzhan. Two months later, the guys took an order to develop a mobile application for controllers who take readings of electricity meters for energy companies in VostochnoKazakhstan region. A former colleague at EY gave them the job. "We earned a little money. And most importantly, we realized that we can trust each other professionally, participate together in development projects," says Mukhamedzhan.
At the beginning of 2019, they officially registered the company Seiko Labs. "There was such a general idea that you can try a direction that is not yet developed in the market of Kazakhstan, but which has a good development potential. This direction was the business processes automation by using RPA. We studied how it is developing in Western countries, read McKinsey reports, " the partners recall.
Starting to analyze the foreign markets of RPA, they, of course, took a look at Russia. Usually, Mukhamedzhan notes, the local trends reach us after a year or two. "After considering how a Russian companies implementing RPA into its business processes –" he says – " we understood how it could be done in Kazakhstan." At the same time, he was mainly responsible for sales and interaction with potential customers, and Berik was responsible for the technical part.
At the start, without any special investments , the partners began to develop bots for business processes automation based on the American UiPath platform, which is a top RPA product, accordingly, a very expensive solution that only large and rich companies can afford. Such software bots allows you to increase the productivity of processes by 60% or more, one robot can replace from three to five employees.
"Our robots are, in fact, virtual employees. They visually perform the work one - on-one, like a person, only 5-7 times faster and without interruptions for sleep or lunch. The robot takes the cursor, opens the application, clicks on the icons, writes emails, authorizes transactions, compares, relatively speaking, the data in the online application with the data in the digital contract between the counterparties, " explains Mukhamedzhan.
Three-four months after the launch, the first customers turned to Seiko Labs – the international pharmaceutical company "Gideon Richter". It is relatively small, but the management had a desire to" test " the new technology. They identified a case where it can be used, and Seiko Labs found a solution. The robot was introduced into the field of forming management reports on sales and balances. "That is, they have, relatively speaking, a certain number of distributors-more than 10. And from each of them, a report is sent in its own format on how many products of the company have been sold and what are the stock balances for specific types of nomenclatures of medicines, " Berik says.
As a result, the Seiko Labs robot collected this data, brought it into a single format, and then formed management reports. If earlier an outsourcing company was engaged in this, now a single robot does everything. At the same time, Berik claims, their solution allowed to increase the accuracy of calculations by 5%.
For the rest of 2019, the partners went to large companies and tried to sell their robotics technology based on the American UiPath. In particular, they came to the People's Bank, where among the people involved in management, there was… of course, their former colleague from EY. She initiated a meeting so that the guys could demonstrate their technology. "They liked it, and they said: let's do a pilot. We created it before the messenger of the year. As a result, we were even paid for the pilot, because we managed to achieve a positive effect, " Mukhamedzhan smiles. In simple terms, they built a robot for the bank that automatically authorizes 25% of outgoing currency payments, and if there is a possible error, indicates exactly where it can be.
In November last year, the partners showed their technology to employees of BI Innovations, a division of the BI Group construction holding. They were interested and a month later offered to sign a contract. Seiko Labs has managed to automate one of the most time – consuming processes-processing incoming payment orders. "Our cooperation did not end there. One of our robots works with the e-government portal at the request of the legal department, and also checks VAT reports for a three-year period, which must be submitted quarterly for each company included in the holding. If this is not done in a timely manner, you can get a large fine, " Berik says.
Last year, Seiko Labs closed with revenue of $50 thousand. After that, the partners realized that it was better to build robots based on their own platform. "It is difficult to sell UiPath because the license price is very high. In Kazakhstan, one or two banks and a couple of mining companies can afford it, relatively speaking, " Mukhamedzhan explains.
This year, they launched their own Python RPA platform, which is at least 4 times cheaper than the American one without losing most of the functionality. This allowed us to immediately increase revenue by 3 times, and we plan to increase it by 5 times. In February, Atasu Logistics became the first buyer of a fully domestic Seiko Labs robot. "We came and said directly: there is an American platform and there is ours. They replied: it doesn't matter whose product, the main thing is that everything works as you showed us," laughs Mukhamedzhan.
The new Seiko Labs robot performs three functions for the logistics company. The first one solves the problem of marking empty cars, putting down subcodes and calculating tariffs. The second one is responsible for accounting issues: on the basis of incoming electronic invoices, it creates documents for the receipt of goods and materials. In addition, it will recognize scans of shipping invoices.
Among the clients of Seiko Labs are Halyk Bank, BI Group, Atasu Logistics, Zhilstroysberbank, KazCloud LLP ("daughter" of the National Welfare Fund "Samrukazyna"), the Astykzhan trade center in Nursultan. The team plans to fully master the Kazakhstan market, since the work has just begun. "We have more and more experience with banks, respectively, we will expand this segment of business. It is quite a useful tool for them, " Berik shares his plans. After that, there will be a question about foreign markets.
According to Mukhamedzhan, negotiations are underway with a private investor who is ready to invest about $100 thousand in the project.
Author: Batyrkhan Toigabayev, Forbes