In a world where the methods used in crime and theft have become increasingly sophisticated, the security industry is constantly under pressure to shape up or ship out.
Today, it's no longer enough to just plonk security cameras for surveillance, says Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group.
Technology such as video analytics that can flag irregularities as well as facial recognition systems are now being deployed to better protect people and assets.
While Ademco's main business deals with loss prevention and security, the company is now going beyond that.
"Our integrated security platform is now used for HR, payroll, safety and operational efficiency ... It's value-adding to what our clients initially thought they would require," says Mr Koh.
Incorporated in 1977, Ademco Security Group has come a long way since its early days, and counts many Fortune 500 companies as its clients.
"Day to day, we fight against security giants like Siemens and Honeywell and Singapore Technologies, but we have always been able to hold our own," says Mr Koh.
From helping the Singapore Civil Defence Force set up their Fire Alarm Monitoring station in the 1980s to deploying a Casino Security Management System for Resorts World Sentosa, the company's numerous achievements speak for themselves.
Mr Koh explains that one of the major factors that allows them to "fight with the big boys" is their engagement with customers.
"We are not box sellers. If a client says they need 50 security cameras, a lot of security companies will just give you the price. Our approach is more like: 'Why do you need 50 cameras? Do you want to focus on people going in? Or going out? Is it a pilferage problem?' " says Mr Koh.
After sitting down with the client to find out what their challenges are and requirements, Ademco then starts to customise a security system.
It's this addition of value that wins clients over, states Mr Koh.
Another factor that has led to Ademco's growth is its extensive use of technology. Mr Koh says that the company was an early adopter of cloud technology, and continues to keep a close pulse on new developments.
The company even has an in-house development and design team to ensure that the company keeps ahead of the innovation curve.
Mr Koh explains that the team's focus is to develop value-added services and new solutions for their clients using both existing technology as well as new systems that are "fresh from the oven".
"As we are focused on solutions and not simply selling another camera, we must be able to demonstrate to our clients how we can adapt our platform to increase their business efficiency and reduce total cost," says Mr Koh.
Ademco has also successfully ventured overseas, making its mark in over 20 cities across Asia, including countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
In particular, its business in China has been growing rapidly, with offices in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, and technical support operations in Tianjin, Wuxi, Suzhou and Dongguan.
Last year, Ademco's China business recorded a revenue of 60 million yuan (S$12.9 million ), up from 18 million yuan in 2014, contributing to approximately 30 per cent of the group's annual revenue.
However, Mr Koh says that the journey did not start off so smoothly. In fact, they had to learn the hard way in the beginning. In 1995, their first attempt to establish an office in China resulted in a joint venture in Lanzhou, but their business partner from China "ran off" with the money after a few years.
"It was a big lesson ... Business was growing well, but we didn't have the right partner, and we didn't have control measures in place. So we decided to come back with our tails between our legs in 1999," he says.
Despite the setback, Ademco still continued to do projects on an ad-hoc basis in China until 2010 before the company decided to take a relook at the market.
Ademco finally set up a successful joint venture with a competitor in December 2010, marking its fifth year of the partnership last year.
"In the international foray, the local knowledge and understanding of how to manoeuvre the market is so important ... My partner was born in China and has been working there for 15 years. It makes an absolute difference as he understands the local context well," says Mr Koh.
Learning from his first experience in China, he adds that getting the right partner was "absolutely vital".
Despite the leaps and bounds the security industry has made in the past decade, Mr Koh says that the level of professionalism in the trade here in Asia is still behind Europe and the US.
"When it comes to security, the job often gets shifted to either the CIO, the admin manager or HR to take care of," he observes.
However, more progressive companies are starting to realise the need for a person or team dedicated to security as issues such as cyberattacks gain more prominence.
The growing convergence between physical and cyber security is a trend that Ademco is studying, and the company is looking to expand their offerings to include cyber security services in due course.
There might also be a possible IPO on the Catalist board in the works this year, but Mr Koh says the company might hold it off if some of their other projects materialise in the second quarter.
In the near future, the company is intending to grow their geographical footprint in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, with Myanmar as a possibility.
This article was first published on February 2, 2016.
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