G Element Builds Buildings in 3D
Contributing writer Caroline Yeung met with G Element‘s business director Shinwe Yeow at a recent Interactive Digital Media Jump-start and Mentor (i.JAM) event, who agreed to share how the Singapore-based 3D digital software company’s experience in successfully expanding into the regional market since 2004.
How do you describe G Element and how did you decide to go into this space?
G Element is a Singapore-based company that develops 3D digital building software technologies and solutions for the buildings market.
We’ve been in business for 9 years. Back then, we saw the value in applying interactive 3D graphics technologies for various industries, particularly in the areas of training, simulation and visualization. Thus, in 2001, we founded G Element to explore business opportunities in this space.
What is G Element’s current main business?
G Element provides 3D digital building products and solutions for the buildings market. Our clients are building owners and managers – from hospitals, airports, commercial buildings, schools, to shopping malls, theme parks and others – we can handle any building type. Some of our esteemed clients include SingHealth, Jones Lang LaSalle, Thai Airways and Singapore government agencies such as Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).
Can you describe your products?
We have a 3D in-building platform, GermaniumWeb, that enables solution providers to create 3D in-building web applications for building owners and managers. GermaniumWeb helps our clients innovate their building operations for visitor guidance, building maintenance, marketing/showcasing and security, and indoor asset tracking.
Our other flagship product is Conveno – a 3D visitor hospitality software-as-a-service that enables building owners and managers to provide media-rich hospitality experience for building visitors. Visitors can explore, navigate and experience building amenities in 3D through our suite of online, on-site and mobile Conveno services. Some of our Singapore deployments include the Fusionopolis building, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the recently, concluded Robocup 2010 event at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Has the company’s business model changed since the beginning? What are some of the major changes in your business model?
Yes, certainly! Businesses have to review their business model and practices based on the changing market conditions, technological trends, resource considerations and the competitive ecosystem. At G Element, we have also evolved our business and product model over the past few years.
Let me briefly share three changes that we had made:
The first is a change in our business focus. Initially, we explored using 3D graphics technologies for various industries – from industrial simulation, training, to product visualization. It was a process to discover and learn which markets make business sense to focus on. By late 2003, we decided to change our focus from general industry solutions to targeting the buildings market specifically. This new direction has enabled us to concentrate our resources to build a stronger presence in the buildings market.
The second is a change in our operational model. We started G Element by managing and implementing 3D projects for clients. The project-based model was a good way to start our business, but not for growing the business – it was not a suitable fit for us in the long term due to its long sales and fulfilment cycle. Thus, we gradually and carefully planned our transition from a project-based model to a product-platform model, which has formed the cornerstone of our business growth today.
The third is a change in our technology model. Our first-generation products were desktop-based. It is important to consider global technological trends for product roadmaps consistently. Thus, in 2006, we began to plan our product transition towards a web-based model. The web-based model achieved a low-cost distribution for our clients and enabled us to upgrade our products cost-effectively. Today, we have expanded our product suites to include a mobile-based model.
These consciously-planned changes reflect the need for any business to review and refine its business model and practices consistently to ensure relevance in the marketplace.
What challenges have you had on the home front; and in the regional market? How many years has the company gone regional?
In general, it takes time for an innovative technology to gain widespread, enterprise adoption. While Singapore is a good starting place for innovative technologies, it is still relatively a small market in consideration of the adoption cycle. Thus, to grow our business, we have to tap into the regional and global markets.
For G Element, we have ventured regionally since 2004. To-date, we have worked with partners in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and recently, Australia. For these countries, the challenge comes from dealing with the diverse cultures and subtle business practices. On the technical front, the challenge is to support deployments in different languages, which is a necessary, additional cost for doing business in Asia.
Caroline’s public relations background enables her to reach out to both seasoned and young entrepreneurs. Apart from helping industry organizations, and individual companies both in California and Singapore from 1994, Caroline also reaches out to the young, entrepreneurial community to guide them on marketing and public relations issues through her consultancy work. She is interested in mentorship, VC community, awards, and new ideas.