There is no better way to build a successful organization without engaged employees. Engaged employees are the backbone of every successful organization. They are the ones who feel recognized for their time, their efforts and are motivated enough to give their best. Rewards and recognition play a crucial role in motivating and engaging employees. Today as technology is changing every aspect of the workplace, how can organizations better employ technology to reward and incentivize their employees?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sudhanshu Tewari, CEO of digital rewards marketplace Rewardz sheds light on the journey behind setting up Rewardz and the changing face of rewards and recognition in Southeast Asia.
You have a banking background. So what was the tipping point to start a rewards platform like Rewardz?
We started in 2012. Before that I was in JP Morgan, mostly involved in technology and building training platforms for the front office. Nicole my wife, comes from an HR background. She was struggling with some of the things which we do now-event management, organizing wellness events and she was doing a lot of it manually apart from her day to day job. She would come back and wish, “I wish there was a vendor that could help with this.” So that’s what the tipping point became for us. Also, I had reached a stage in the bank where one isn’t building things but doing a lot more spreadsheets. And since I love building things, so we both took the plunge.
In layman’s terms, how do you explain Rewardz? How does the product work?
We are primarily in the space of engagement and how we use technologies to drive engagement. Our primary market is employees and employee engagement. We incentivize even with the staff that might not be your direct sale staff or reseller. So we are also doing engagements or incentivization for customers and sales but still, primarily a big market is employee engagement. For that, we use incentive platforms as well as a lot of gamification.
These are two tools we use to drive engagement. We have one product that is wellness focused, we call it Flabulous where we use all the latest wellness technology to track your steps, activities, sleep incentivize people to be healthy, reward them for it, and organize fun challenges all throughout the year. The other product is called Cerra which is to connect, engage, reward, recognize and appreciate. So this a total reward recognition platform where wellness is still a part of it but you can reward your employees for anything.
Who can reward through the platform? Is it just the company that rewards the employees? Are these money based rewards?
Both supervisors, as well as peers, can reward employees. For instance, if an employee completed a LinkedIn learning module, he too can be rewarded. So we can configure the platform in any sort of rewarding mechanism which the company wants. The UI can be changed completely according to each company’s requirements.
The platform is configured such that the company buys points with us and then peers, supervisors, and employees get points which are almost equivalent to cash. So with these points, they can redeem their daily grocery vouchers or taxi vouchers.
What has been the traction like for you in terms of number of clients and countries where Rewardz is used?
Our HQ is in Singapore. We next launched in Dubai which is a decent market for us now and we have an office in Malaysia now, so these three are business entities. Our tech office is in India, so Bengaluru is our back office. From these offices, we can roll out our product in 12 countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines etc. even though we don't have a local office. In all, we have 120 clients. Most of our clients are from medium to large organizations, with more than 200 employees.
What initial challenges did you face when you launched Rewardz and approached these organizations? How open were they to the concept?
It was easier to sell to MNCs who understand and see their overseas markets and can follow it. Again, I think compared to Malaysia, Singapore was the easier market. HR has huge budgets and mandates here and people want to do things in wellness; the government here is also focused on wellness. When we started selling Flabulous two years back, there was a huge focus from the Health promotion board to drive wellness agenda across corporates. In Dubai, two years later, the same thing is happening. Wellness is a very huge agenda of the Dubai government as well but it’s like two years behind Singapore.
How important are rewards and recognition in a region like Southeast Asia? In India, people work very hard so rewards and recognition have become very imperative these days-is it the same thing here?
I think we have moved away from the culture of rewarding people at the end of the year. Just doing your once a year performance appraisal or annual bonus isn’t that rewarding. Everybody is looking for a tool that engages people on day to day basis. Peer to peer recognition is one of the most viral features as every person has this inherent need to thank somebody and that drives that culture very well. The recognition culture builds the team spirit very well. We use it in our own company of 40 people. If you want to make somebody work till very late and you want to reward them, say thank you.
This culture is definitely there across markets in Southeast Asia. While Singapore is ahead of everybody else and more in line with US, Canada, Australia which are more advanced markets in the space, as you move out of Singapore to Malaysia and Indonesia, people are still not used to this culture. The HR there doesn’t look beyond medical benefits and insurances. But I think it’s catching up. Malaysia is shaping up really well. In last one year, we have seen the market expanding, recognizing and using more of these new age technologies.
What other challenges are the employers facing in terms of wellbeing and employee engagement in Singapore or the surrounding countries?
On the technology side, the HR is flooded with too many systems which don't talk to each other. We talk all about data analytics and how wellness can tell you a lot, recognition can give you a lot of data where you register. But if the systems don't interact, that data is very fragmented.
That’s one challenge which I see even though we provide very good services to different HR providers. There is a lack of integration in the tech world, which makes life quite difficult and doesn’t help drive the best value of the product.
What are your views about the employee adoption of HR technology? Have organizations been able to crack it?
I can only vouch for my area which is rewards and recognition and wellness-people have taken to it. Sometimes the company themselves didn't realize that people are already so much into mobile technology. Now because of 90-95% mobile penetration, we do not face a problem in technology adoption. Especially in the last 2-3 years in Southeast Asia, with the Android phones making such deep inroads. Undoubtedly, mobile first technology works here.
Who are your main competitors here?
In the wellness space, there is Virgin Pulse, which is a very wellness-focused player. Then there is AIA Vitality, who have their own product called Vitality which they sell to corporates. In the other rewards and recognition solution space, we compete with OC Tanner and BI Worldwide. Xoxoday from India has also been very aggressive in the Singapore market
What are your plans for the future? Any plans of entering India?
There are a few areas which we haven't conquered. One of our intentions is to go from being a Southeast Asia player to a global digital incentive player and provide a global platform in geographies like Latin America and Europe where our clients are keen on expanding. Our second focus will be on dealing with some of the challenges we face in wellness space like mental wellness. Also, we would like to add to the products that help tackle the stress at the workplace.
As far as India is concerned, it has a lot of players honestly. It’s a big market and for us to go there we’ll have to be really focused and we’ll need funding to support that market. Southeast Asia is itself a big play for us and we have our good network here from B2B sales sides, so I think we can easily grow and become a good player in Southeast Asia. In India, we already have a good rewards network wherein we have partnered and worked with local players like Quicksilver gift card India. However, our ambition is to be a big Southeast Asia player.