A home-grown company founded 3.5 years ago, Aerodyne Group (Aerodyne) has now expanded to 18 countries worldwide. It was ranked 7th globally in a survey conducted by Germany-based research company Drone Industry Insights.
In a recent interview with BFM’s ‘Enterprises Going Global’ show, Aerodyne founder & CEO Kamarul A. Muhamed traced his journey from being a ‘bucket’ business to a ‘pipeline’ business, referring to an analogy popularised by Robert Kiyosaki. An accountant by profession, Kamarul had been running a media company that used drones to create visuals prior to founding Aerodyne.
Aerodyne started out using drones to film visuals for high-end documentaries, but Kamarul decided to migrate the business ‘from beautiful pictures to beautiful data’. It was a conscious decision on his part to transform Aerodyne into an engineering company.
Aerodyne currently employs about 220 people; 120 of whom are in Malaysia.
Kamarul’s wife, an architect by profession, has an important role in Aerodyne. As the company expanded, Kamarul needed someone he could trust. His wife took over the accounts, gradually moving over towards operations management.
Aerodyne is a total managed solutions provider. “We sit down with the clients, we look at their pain points, and we work with the client over the long term – anywhere from 3-5 years.”
Its revenues come from two areas. “Firstly, Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS), where we capture the data for them, and we manage the whole operation. This makes sense, rather than them buying the drones, which would end up being costlier, because then they need to manage the drones, do the maintenance, train the pilots. So, they outsource the data acquisition to us. They also get the benefit of our continuous technology improvement,” Kamarul explained.
The second area is the provision of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). “This is where the analytics is done to give our clients insights into the data. Predictive analysis, for instance, can tell them what to do and how to manage their assets. This enables the clients to save up to 20%, which could end up being millions.
“A large part of our business is in infrastructure inspection and management. It’s costly for our clients to do this themselves. We automate the whole process, and we use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide vector analytics of the data, as well as predictive analysis. Our mantra is to always do this faster, better, and cheaper for our clients,” Kamarul added.
External validation of Aerodyne’s technology and software has helped with its brand recognition and market growth. Further, most of Aerodyne’s competitors occupy one layer or another in the drone technology stack, according to Kamarul.
“Aerodyne is different in that we occupy the entire stack. When the client comes to us, we provide them total solutions. I know it will not last, but right now I daresay we don’t have much in the way of competition. This is our early-mover advantage.”
It was not all smooth sailing for Aerodyne. Kamarul emphasised that the trust built up between Aerodyne and its clients was most important in resolving these teething problems.
Aerodyne also faced several human resource challenges when it first started out. “It was hard to get people with the right kind of skillsets and expertise, especially since this was a totally new industry.” Aerodyne had to train its people practically from scratch. It also had to concentrate on getting people with the right mindsets and attitude.
Kamarul is now concentrating on Aerodyne’s international expansion. “We’ve gone through 3 past transformations; from visual to data to complete solutions, which is our unique selling point. Now that our solutions are proven, we tested the waters in Australia a little over a year ago. We were blown away by the response. Our charter now is to start going abroad, and we are very aggressive in doing this. Today, we are in every continent in the world, other than Antarctica. It’s fun; it’s challenging; it’s hectic.”
The visibility from working with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in its GAIN programme has been tremendous.
“MDEC’s people have been a great help. In some of our newer countries and markets, the latest one being Chile, they have assisted us in our expansion quite significantly.” Other countries where MDEC’s assistance was helpful to Aerodyne included Japan and Nigeria.
According to MDEC vice president Gopi Ganesalingam (Gopi is right in photo, Kamarul in centre, and MDEC’s Safuan Zairi), the MDEC Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN) programme was incepted to catalyse the expansion of local technology SMEs that have the potential to become global players through market access, leadership and capability development, brand visibility and scale-up capital.
GAIN has continuously and successfully accelerated the following:
- Growth in GAIN companies’ Group and Export revenues
- Expansion of GAIN companies’ global market presence
- Creation of more global Malaysia tech champions