After convincing K to join me in starting up a new company, I knew that we must think of a viable product as soon as possible, or else K might lose that enthusiasm and impulse to venture out.
But it wasn’t that easy to think of a new viable product. Normally, people drew ideas from their present working experiences or problems which they wanted to solve. For the past few years, I had been developing on complex training and simulation systems for the military sector. But my new product definitely would not be targeting the military sector because it was near impossible for a startup to get military contracts.
And during an era that had no smartphones and facebook, writing mobile or facebook apps was also not an option. The consumer market for software was virtually non-existent in Singapore at the period. Most consumers did not have the concept of paying money for a piece of software.
So the only viable target sectors would be the business and industrial customers. But what type of product could we create that was not already in the market?
We discussed about the product idea over several sessions. The first idea that K proposed was a software to predict 4D and Toto (Singapore Lottery) results based on past histories. His idea was to create such a software and sold it at those pasar malam night market. I wasn’t too keen on that idea because firstly I didn’t think many people would spend money on such software, and secondly I didn’t want to create a software that encourage gambling.
Then one day, K came to my lab and told me he just heard about a very interesting idea. He had a friend’s friend (let’s just called him XX) who implemented this thing called “Info Ramadan” two years ago. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting. The fast begins at dawn and ends at sunset. As the time for sunsets was different every day, the timing for the Ramadan fast to pause was also different everyday.
Thus, XX thought of this idea called “Info Ramadan” which was a service provided to muslims during the month of Ramadan. He started selling this service for S$10 to each muslims before the month of Ramadan. Those who bought his service will leave their mobile numbers with XX. Then during the month of Ramadan, XX will send SMS to all the subscribers everyday to inform them the timing which they could have their dinner. XX then engaged a programmer to create a simple software that could blast out SMSes via a GSM modem.
After hearing K describing XX’s idea, I recalled the abandoned project which the Malaysian university’s lecturer proposed in 2003. I told K that there were actually many ways of utilizing SMS. It was a very efficient and effective way of information dissemination. If we could utilize SMS in the business and industrial sectors, we could have uncovered a rather untapped market. Businesses could use SMS to inform their customers of their upcoming promotions, while schools and clinics could use SMS to remind their students or patients of their CCAs or appointments.
We were very excited and as we discussed further, more ideas started to flow in. We realized that such a tool would be very useful to basically every market sectors, such as retailers, boutiques, restaurants, spa, bridal shops, schools, clinics, non-profit organizations, etc.
So we decided to create a SMS tool for business. K would go and source for the required tools for product development, such as a GSM modem and Microsoft Visual Studio Professional edition. And I shall start to draft the Requirements Specifications for the SMS tool.
There were a lot of things to do but we were very excited and optimistic about the prospect.