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Publisher: The Edge

On Thursday morning, Feb 9, Datuk Narayanan Kanan, senior vice-president of industry development at Multimedia Development Corp (MDC), looked on proudly as two MSC-status companies tied the knot, so to speak. The memorandum-of-understanding signing ceremony officially symbolised the intent of KZen Solutions Bhd and Cetheus MSC Sdn Bhd to work together on product development.

The former is a maker of human resource management software while the latter is a provider of business intelligence solutions. They will not develop new products from scratch but will integrate existing products to fill the space where human resource and business intelligence converge. Simon Kong, the CEO of Cetheus, shared that the first fruits of integration will be out in about three months. He explained that Cetheus' corporate performance management system will be integrated with KZen's employee appraisal system, in effect allowing companies to break corporate strategy down into individual key performance indicators that can be tracked at the employee level.

KZen's CEO Ng Boon Sing explained that this product integration strategy will allow the two companies to focus on their core competencies while acquiring capabilities that would require too much time and resources to build on their own. "Why reinvent the wheel?" he asked. Both chief executives observed that similar models existed where technology companies like Oracle would acquire and then merge companies to quickly complement their product offerings without having to build from scratch. "It's the same thing with us, except that we are partnering and not acquiring," said Ng. However, he cautioned that like in real life, the two partners have to like each other. "That's the most important thing. We both like each other and can work together. Before we got married, we tried living together first."

The two men first met five years ago via a mutual client. One year ago, they began actively working together and secured an account jointly. However, they declined to name the new account.

Both companies have a fairly impressive list of clients. KZen's accounts include Public Bank, AirAsia and Alliance Bank while Cetheus counts Nestlé, Bank Negara Malaysia and Telekom Malaysia as its customers.

As for the names of the companies, there is a story behind each one. "It is well known that 'kaizen' means continuous improvement in Japanese," said Ng. "But we also wanted the name to be able to fit four characters for the benefit of listing and came up with KZen - 'K' meaning knowledge and 'Zen' which means way of life."

Narayanan was surprised that Ng was able to secure the popular name. "You aren't cyber-squatting, are you?" he joked.

Chan Chung Fai, Cetheus' business operations manager, said the company's namesake is a constellation of stars in the Northern Hemisphere. "The Greeks referred to that constellation as Cetheus or Hercules. We wanted the connotation of strength and courage associated with Hercules but picked Cetheus as it was a less common name."

When asked if MDC intended to actively promote similar partnerships among the 1,000 over MSC-status companies, Narayanan said it was up to the companies themselves. "We give the industry what they want, and if they want us to help them form similar partnerships, we will do so." He revealed that MDC is introducing the concept of clustering among MSC companies, but declined to elaborate on what this meant.

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