Even before COVID changed the world, workplace flow and workplace communications were seen as being important. Still major firms relied upon on tools such as Kakao, Line and WhatsApp to organize teams and meet deadlines. This was possible because people were meeting face-to-face every day.
When COVID sent us all home, companies had to either develop their own tools or find a robust solution that was easy to use, secure and could cope with all their demands.
Headquartered in Seoul, Toss Labs In. Developed Jandi a workplace tool suited to the COVID and post-COVID eras.
Alex Jensen talks Jandi with Yang Jinho Head of Business at Toss Labs about the 8-year story of the startup and their flagship solution, Jandi.
Like his solution, Jinho was born in Korea, but grew up across Asia and the Pacific. In 2021, Jandi has more than two million users across 300k teams across APAC. As Jinho says, “pre-COVID, people never imagined having to manage workflow away from the office. But now, it’s vital that communications are omnipresent and instant.”
Although the pandemic pushed Jandi’s growth into overdrive, the post-pandemic world has not slackened the demand. Many firms are not asking their employees to return full-time to the workplace. Many others are using this time as a reset. To evolve their workplaces to become more efficient and more attractive to younger talent.
Companies also know that the MZ generation will not stay at workplaces that are not agile or smart. MZers think every day about employer branding. They demand a reputable corporate culture, simplified work process, with accessibility to information and to decision makers.
As the pace of digitalization continues to increase, companies like Toss Labs and their solutions will continue to be vital.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Eastpoint Partners. Offering an unparalleled Asia-wide network connecting you with corporates, investors and governments.
D-2 Korean Presidential Election: Merger, Major Pledges & Record Early Voting
Alex Jenson 0:08
You’re listening to koreabizcast with the KBLA. I’m your host, Alex Jensen, and it’s Thursday, April 28. First, let me just thank for making today’s episode possible Eastpoint Partners, which offers an unparalleled Asia wide network of relationships with corporates, governments, and investors. Now today, we’re going to focus on a big aspect of the digital transformation that sped up massively over the last couple of years. And specifically, let me ask you this question. In your workplace, what tool are you using to communicate with your staff, with your colleagues, perhaps even with clients and partners and that sort of thing. KakaoTalk is a very common platform here in Korea, but a lot of people have been moving away from that for various reasons. Now, Jinho Yang is the head of business at Toss Lab, and has a solution for us today. Thank you so much for taking the time and for joining koreabizcast.
Jinho Yang 1:05
Pleasure talking to you today. Yes, as you mentioned, I’m leading the business team at Toss Lab and we provide the software cloud based software called Jandi.
Alex Jenson 1:15
First tell us a bit about Toss Lab itself. Is that a center a kind of hub of innovation with other products as well and where are you based?
Jinho Yang 1:25
We are so Toss Lab, we have headquarters in South Korea. We have business operations across Asia Pacific, mainly Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia. We started around, we are a startup founded in 2014. So this is our eighth year. Jandi is our flagship product, which is a workplace collaboration tool. Maybe if your audience is based in the US or Europe, you guys are probably probably more familiar with Slack. So which is the most comparable product to us.
Alex Jenson 2:02
And you personally have an education background, both here in Korea and abroad, such as in the US. Has that really helped you both identify the problems that you’ve sought to solve through this business opportunity as well as running the management of things?
Jinho Yang 2:18
Yes, just to give you a bit of my personal background, I was born and raised in Korea, I moved to the States for high school and college education. And then I actually started working in Hong Kong. And then in the finance industry. So I think there were a mix of I knew the language, I knew the culture. But I never worked in Korea before. So I was familiar with everything but work so did the working culture, but um, I, I wasn’t really familiar with how they actually collaborate and communicate in Korea with those hierarchy with the richest, rigid like organization structure stuff. So when I came back to Korea, everything had to be in such a written formal reports with, pages of reports. So I wasn’t sure like, if I’m really actually working, or spending most of my time creating reports. So I definitely thought there’s a business opportunity to really innovate this workflow. Somehow, we can make it similar to you know, US or even even Hong Kong, make it more productive.
Alex Jenson 3:45
And then this part of the Toss Lab story you briefly introduced before. Let’s get a little deeper into the Jandi solution. Jandi spelled J A N D I, if anyone’s curious. The problem that you were seeking to solve was one that a lot of different firms smaller and larger face which is the the workflow in a digital era and an era where where distanced meetings are taking place, virtually suddenly, a whole load of new platforms were emerging during the pandemic. People were zooming more than ever before, Microsoft teaming, Google meeting, carrying out all the written communications where an email doesn’t seem to quite cut it for whatever reason. So can you give us your own viewpoint of that workflow evolution that we’ve seen?
Jinho Yang 4:37
Yes. So I first want to mention about even before COVID. I think how we started Jandi was because of this incumbent players enterprise software players lacking in UI/UX or the integration with other softwares. Basically, not just in not limited to Korea, but Japan, and Taiwan across the regions that we’re in, we found out that company companies were using tools. And it has been such an so such outdated. So people started using consumer messaging applications or consumer applications they brought into the workplace and started chatting or started collaborating. Of course, there’s there’s a problem with using personal applications at workplace because of security data, data getting lost, and you just keep searching for for for it, and then you never find it. So that was one thing. There was that was definitely neat demand for better workplace tool. And then the pandemic definitely accelerated this demand. Because despite the demand before COVID, I think most people warn we’re not taking actions for it. And the pandemic situation definitely accelerate digital transformation, not just in the IT scene, but the traditional companies. As you know, more than 60%, probably 70% or manufacturing bases in Korea. So manufacturers or food and beverage companies or or media companies, they were seriously thinking about the DT during this pandemic. Maybe without pandemic, it’d probably never have taken or might have taken at least half a year or a full year. But based on my personal experiences, I’ve seen cases like the transformation in two weeks, or even like two to three weeks. So which definitely changed the scene. And after experience, as you mentioned, after people experiencing, very light, softer but easy to use and accessible like such as Zoom, Notion, people definitely felt that they’re like even even after COVID that this productivity tools have increased their more workplace productivity, and thus, further accelerate the demand.
Alex Jenson 7:24
Ag ain, a little bit closer into why we might want to look beyond cackle, for example, for some of our workplace operations in a moment. But before we get to also some of the challenges you’re facing, let’s have a look at the success stories. A major broadcaster in Korea, an emerging donut brand. Can you tell us how they’ve managed to employ Jandi and how it’s helped to transform their businesses?
Jinho Yang 7:50
Okay, so JTBC is one of the major media companies out of Korea. They were basically using the consumer messaging out KakaoTalk for workplace before. And they suddenly they had to, they had to leave the premises, they had to leave the office and work outside the company. The company made the announcement, you know, within within two weeks, everyone will be working remote from home. So the IT department called me up and said, I need this. I need this too right now. And I want you to come today and explain the product to our team. And we had the session and it usually takes about at least two to three months. The IT decided on the spot like we okay, well, we’ll roll out the system to the to the firm. So that’s how we were accepted to the firm. And after if after COVID. Like after working from home. I think everyone really adjusted to the system really quick. And the donut brand, Knotted Donut. It’s one of the fastest growing donut brands in Korea as well. Because it was growing so fast that the CEO of the company had problems managing different branches expanding like I think they were expanding. Almost like they were opening almost two to three branches every quarter, or maybe even more. So they weren’t at some point, they just couldn’t manage the stores or they just couldn’t see the daily revenues consolidated or inventory on a daily basis. So they needed some sort of enterprise software to really manage the stores and staff and their product. So they decided to implement the productivity tool.
Alex Jenson 9:50
Congratulations on those by the way, but but let’s just ask ourselves the question. For those who just feel so familiar with Kakao for instance, or something like Kakao or WhatsApp, perhaps combining that with email? Why does that present itself as a problem if you’re used to it,
Jinho Yang 10:08
I actually I’ve seen still a lot of my friends are on KakaoTalk for workplace communication and collaboration. And the problems of using the companies, I think people are now pretty impatient to the email speed of the email. So like, you just can’t wait for that response to come tomorrow, for your workplace communication, especially in the industry. That’s, you know, fast, fast paced, expecting your response real time. So peep, that’s how people move to KakaoTalk or WhatsApp. The problem is, there is no like, you just have to keep searching for information, let’s say you shared a document on WhatsApp or KakaoTalk, a lot of times, you just can’t find it or the data is actually it’s gone. There’s, it’s no longer be able to track it. And sometimes when you’re inviting new members to the to that chat room, the group chat room, the new members won’t be able to really see the history of the messages. So you have to just explain it again, or share the file again. So I think there’s the inefficiencies coming in from from using those tools.
Alex Jenson 11:33
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, by the way, but also, I’m conscious that once we get familiar with certain ways of doing things, it’s hard to break those habits. Is that one of your biggest challenges? And what else are you having to overcome to get people to embrace the journey solution?
Jinho Yang 11:49
I think because of how Jandi was made from the first place, we really wanted to make our UI/UX, the user easy usability for even for, you know, traditional businesses, even for managers, and even the C level people. So anyone who are we we tell this to our customers at anyone who can use KakaoTalk, or Naver can easily adapt to Jandi. So I think first one is usability. But still the challenges come in, because a lot of companies still prefer on-premise tools, versus cloud based SaaS tools. So that’s one thing and also our enterprise customers have a lot of customizer customizing requests, which could be done on on premise as a project. But on the cloud base, it’s kind of difficult to really meet every demand that customer raise, though, I think those are more realistic enterprise challenges that we’re facing right now.
Alex Jenson 13:01
I have seen a few people start to introduce Slack. And as a result, I’ve had a few interactions with it myself. I wouldn’t say I’m at a level of familiarity where I particularly love it. But why use Jandi rather than Slack in Korea, for instance? Are there some particular benefits? Or is it something that would be globally beneficial once people understand what Jandi offers versus something like Slack?
Jinho Yang 13:28
So the main difference would be the target profile. So who we are aiming is really the traditional businesses to like mention, you know, manufacturing, we understand the workflow, the tools they’re already using, in the traditional businesses more even even more, whereas Slack is really focused on IT, or IT tech startups, where they are the developers are more familiar with how Slack works, how integration works, whereas we are Jandi is really focused on the workflows of those traditional businesses. I think that’s the main difference. That’s why we have our majority of our target or majority of our customers are actually coming from those industries. They think it’s easier to adapt because the usability is very similar to Kakao or their their existing applications on their mobile phone.
Alex Jenson 14:29
Now, despite everything over the last couple of years, more and more elements of normality are returning to life here in Korea. And while we’re not quite there yet, say post pandemic, still quite a few cases per day being added, for example, in terms of COVID 19 infections. We do have the scenario where people are returning to the workplace, how is the workflow situation today, compared with the height of the pandemic and compared with where we were at Before COVID-19.
Jinho Yang 15:02
I think in regards to what I do, it was really important for people to experience these productivity tools. Because before COVID, they never even imagined or didn’t even thought about taking the action or trying these tools. After after COVID because they have experienced it, it kind of is getting viral, even within organizations and companies. Pandemic is I don’t think it’s a priority issue for companies nowadays. I think the when I talked to the large enterprise customers like conglomerate like Samsung LG, Hyundai companies, they are seriously concerned about MZ generation leaving those companies, especially those people between career three year to maybe 10 year, so the junior to mid level people are leaving. And that really got them to think about the importance of employer branding, which can be attributed to corporate culture, simplified work process, and accessibility of information, etc. So I think tools like Jandi can really contribute even contribute to to those concerns of the big corporations. And I think this this trend will continue to kick in as more companies will think about that.
Alex Jenson 16:45
I guess a final question would be very much future oriented either near future or a long glance into something that feels a bit more veiled for now. But we are talking a lot more about the metaverse applications, for instance, we are witnessing kind of this merging of our work and home lives in terms of the applications we use. And I mean, that’s one thing that Kakao actually has done very well. It’s been able to apply itself to all sorts of different needs, both professional and personal. Do you see a scenario in which that digitalization takes us into a place of communication? That is almost unrecognizable from where we are at currently?
Jinho Yang 17:29
Yeah, so you are talking about the apps becoming a super super app, we call it in here. I think Kakao has done a superb job in creating that ecosystem, you know, where you can send money, you can send gifts electronically, you can you can buy stuff and send it to your friend. I think the same thing can happen even on workplace. You can call a corporate taxi you can send mail, you can receive and send mails, and every action or you can even send gifts to your co workers. And then etc. So I think there are various ways we can really leverage our communication platform for users, our aJandi users to interact within, within the organization, but across organizations, and maybe be able to really network as long as your agenda user. So those are really our future roadmap, I would say.
Alex Jenson 18:46
I guess just pushing a little further in terms of what that might look like. We sometimes talk about, for example, the gamification of these things. But when I imagine the metaverse scenarios, for example, people, you know, do sometimes like that visual representation of what they’re doing. Can you see for instance, us using our smartphones or other screens to to visualize the way in which we might be sharing documents or other information in a different way. And something that looks a little bit more gamified even or a bit more virtual?
Jinho Yang 19:18
Yes, I have personally experienced going on, you know, metaverse, like, you know, Gather Town or Obis platforms, and working there. I think it’s in the very nascent stage, though. And a lot of companies are still just coming back to the office, especially in Korea so far. So it’s getting there but I think it’s it’s going to take a bit more time to really fully visualize online and really collaborate online.
Alex Jenson 19:53
Yeah, understood. And I actually sense that some people might push further back and try become even more traditional, at least for a while,
Jinho Yang 20:02
We actually have seen a vendor proposal to us saying that if if we, if a user were this first glass sometime of glass, then they don’t even need to carry their their laptops. You know, they can just go fully virtually, and open their computer virtually, and then they can access to Jandi. So I first time I heard that last year, I thought that’s kind of too much. And it’s from from our standpoint, but I see okay, maybe in five years from now, 10 years from now, you really can’t don’t need anything else but a mobile device where a pair of glass.
Alex Jenson 20:45
Brave new world and all that. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us your business and for helping us speculate a little bit further as well. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Jinho Yang.
Jinho Yang 20:55
Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be invited and hope hope my talk was useful to some of the users some of the audience thank you for inviting
Alex Jenson 21:05
Yeah, well, very happy to help share the world about Jandi spelt again J A N D I created by Toss Lab. Jinho Yang is the head of business. Let me also thank Eastpoint Partners for making today’s episode possible. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.