Creative leadership is the only way for businesses to thrive in the face of rapid change. So there is no question that Rob Bakshi, President & CEO of Apivio Systems Inc., is leading the charge for this global VoIP solutions provider and disrupting the industry in the process.
A seasoned entrepreneur with a proven track record of developing successful businesses, Mr. Bakshi was the Co-founder of Silent Witness Enterprises, a technology company that was listed on the TSX and NASDAQ. Mr. Bakshi, a graduate from Simon Fraser University with a major in Business and minor in Computer Science, led the company’s growth strategy until it was acquired by Honeywell for more than $90 million in 2003.
Building Block by Block
In 2009, Mr. Bakshi began working with a South Korean company that was eventually renamed as Apivio Systems Inc. He led the transformation of the business into a Canadian technology company, putting together an independent board of directors, financing, and corporate governance in his capacity as the Executive Chairman.
After his appointment to CEO in 2012, he rebranded the company in North America and listed it on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker APV.V. His vision is that one day, every enterprise desk phone will be a smart phone, thereby shifting Apivio’s value proposition from hardware to software and enhancing the enterprise phone experience with value-added apps.
Since that time, he has led Apivio’s innovation strategy, and the company has evolved from a product-based company to building technology platforms that integrate cloud-based solutions with VoIP, Android, and Wi-Fi technologies.
Today, Apivio works with some of the largest global brands such as NEC, LG U+, SK Broadband, Korea Telecom and CJ HelloVision. Currently, the company has 80 employees working out of its offices in South Korea and British Columbia and more than $60 million as annual revenue.
Services Apivio Offers
Apivio is a leading engineering company of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Communications Devices, bringing together core competencies in the area of VoIP, Android, and Wi-Fi. They design, develop and manufacture Innovative Devices and Software that enable portability and Smart Android Applications over VoIP phones.
A key issue with enterprise desk phones is their inability to be updated over time. To facilitate real-time upgrades with new features, they designed and developed a new class of Android based Enterprise Desktop Phone, the Monet UT880. It can be upgraded and run custom or off-the-shelf productivity or market specific custom designed apps on the Android operating system. Apivio began selling these revolutionary new phones through NEC in 2015.
Building on their understanding of the enterprise market, Apivio also engineered a Wi-Fi phone, the Liberty L1 that has applications in both the enterprise and the residential markets. Once the phone authenticates within the enterprise Wi-Fi network, workers can carry their phones from their desk and walk around the office making or be receiving calls.
Residential users can take their home phone on vacation or business and use the phone in any Wi-Fi area, avoiding long distance or roaming charges. After market testing, they are now launching the next generation device, the Liberty L2.
With global customers and partners like NEC, South Korea Broadband, Korea Telecom, LG U+ and others, Apivio has sold over 6.0 million VoIP phones since their founding in 2003.
Awards and Recognitions
Apivio placed 23rd in the Branham300’s list of “Top 25 Canadian ICT Hardware and Infrastructure Companies,” giving the Company an 83rd overall ranking in the Branham300’s benchmark list of the “Top 250 Canadian ICT Companies” for 2016. The company takes great pride in being recognized as one of the TSX Venture Exchange’s Top 50 technology companies in 2016. Enterprise Networking Magazine has recognized Apivio as one of the Top 10 Enterprise VoIP solution Providers in 2016– largely based on the successful launch of the Monet UT880 phone.
Crossing the Hurdles
When Mr. Bakshi first joined the company, he brought in a new vision. His focus on collaboration and diversity has helped to transform the business from a South Korean company into a global innovator. To overcome roadblocks, he developed corporate values that Apivio has relied on at key stages of growth to help guide their expansion strategy and solutions development. They are:
Innovation: To be the thought leader in the research, design, development, and commercialization of smart enterprise VoIP solutions.
Collaboration: To be the trusted advisor, and partner to some of the world’s leading telephone service providers, telecom distributors, and resellers.
Performance: To deliver the highest quality and proven technology that exceeds market requirements.
Diversity: To embrace diversity as the strength to ensure a culture of excellence, open communications, and creativity.
Another major challenge for the company that they turned into an opportunity was the partnership with NEC Corporation of America, and the challenge was to prove the performance, and market demand for the Monet UT880 smart desktop phone with NEC Corporation of America in order to expand the solution to NEC’s global network. Mr. Bakshi feels proud to say in June 2016, and they signed an agreement with NEC Corporation of Japan to further develop products while expanding distribution to all the NEC markets.
Finding its Niche through Unique Approach
Once they overcame the initial challenges, Apivio managed to get a foothold in the industry. The company follows two different strategies, one being market-driven and the other marketing-driven.
Firstly, Apivio’s market-driven product strategy is based on the success of their South Korean subsidiary, which has been working with the largest carriers in that country since 2003. Apivio’s Korean carriers partners had, and continue to, bring their market needs to Apivio, and in turn, they help by developing products to satisfy their demand.
Apivio works with their carrier partners to develop products from concept to production. They also enable their team to learn the technical challenges that are unique to each carrier around integrating IP phones with their networks. But it doesn’t end there. They have also assisted their partners over the course of time to keep millions of phones updated as they upgrade their hardware, software, security, and services. Apivio’s time-tested relationship with their carrier partners has built a mutual trust and has set the foundation for their global expansion.
Secondly, in North America, Apivio follows a marketing-driven strategy whereby they develop visionary and disruptive technology like their Android desk phone platform, Wi-Fi phone, and intelligent-cloud platform. One day, all enterprise phones will be smart phones offering productivity tools that turn into an intelligent communication machine, offering video, messaging, intercom, security camera monitoring, and data analytics in addition to managing applications involving the Internet of Things (IoT).
Furthermore, to assist their resellers, Apivio will offer an Intelligent Cloud (CLive) that will help them reduce their time and cost to deploy, upgrade, and debug these intelligent devices. In North America, Apivio’s strategy is to develop game-changing solutions and market them to resellers who are also innovative in their markets. With proven market-driven strategy in Korea and marketing-driven strategy in North America, Apivio is well positioned as a non ‘me too’ player in this very competitive industry.
The Customer Base
In Mr. Bakshi’s opinion, a perfect relationship with a client is when:
- A client can depend on the company, and provide them with the products they need, on time with exceptional quality and service so that they can win market share. Their long-term relationships with many of their South Korean carrier partners are a testament to this fact.
- Their clients depend on them to offer innovation that will differentiate their product offering helping them grow their markets. For instance, their relationship with NEC offers them not only a first of its kind Android-based desk phone but also a complete ecosystem that includes an app store and various productivity apps. This new platform of hardware, software, and a marketplace never existed until now.
Continuous Evolution, the Key
Apivio realizes that it is a small player in this very large global market and bringing about a paradigm shift takes muscles of a larger company like NEC. With their global dealer network of 3,300 and strong brand recognition, they are the kind of partner Apivio needed to execute its vision. To make a product global, they needed to move beyond innovation, to include things like distribution, technical support, logistics, returns, etc. As such, with their innovation, Apivio turned to the marketing muscles of a company like NEC to help create new industry standards like every desk phone should be a smart phone.
Apivio, while focusing primarily on technology development, has limited brand recognition outside their customer base. They rely on their channel partners’ brand while their partners rely on Apivio to provide them with products and solutions that help them compete in the market. This creates a ‘win-win’ scenario. While NEC is Apivio’s first customer that fits this model, it won’t be the last. To bring about change, the market has to be attacked from various angles. Apivio is well aware of this fact and looks forward to fruitful partnerships with others in the near future.
It’s an exciting year for Apivio. They are moving towards making a mark in the global VoIP industry. They will be the company known best for disrupting the VoIP telephones in the enterprise and residential markets. Apivio is working on many fronts to expand their product offerings in South Korea as well as North America.
In South Korea, they are developing interesting technology that will help them grow their markets beyond small business. Apivio currently dominates this market niche, but they need to think bigger and expand into other areas. In North America, they are working to certify their products on various platforms so that they can sell their solutions to more customers.
Apivio operates in an industry that has many proprietary protocols and making their products diverse is one of their key growth drivers in North America. In the immediate future, Apivio is in the process of launching their Wi-Fi product, Liberty L2 along with their cloud service. This combination of hardware and software will be first of its kind in the world.