Korean web harvesting giant is ready to scrape data around the world
Data scraping, also known as web scraping, is the process where a program extracts information from a website and collates it in a spreadsheet in the backend of a program or smartphone application. This is how smartphone apps are able to collect fragmented information from across the web and combine it to provide a specific user experience.
For instance, multiple consumer finance services apps show all of a user’s bank account and credit card records in one place to provide an overview of their financial status, thanks to the data extraction technology.
Kim Jong-hyun, CEO of IT service company Coocon, is betting big on the so-called business information industry based on data scraping as different industry players prioritize data, especially valuable financial records, in digitalizing their services.
Coocon provides financial information to banks, insurers, card companies and securities companies. The Seoul-based unit has now set its sights beyond its home turf as it has launched operations in other countries including China, Japan, Australia and the United States.
The Korea JoongAng Daily sat down with Kim to discuss the company’s vision and business strategy to expand its footing overseas.
A. We collect data and provide it to corporate clients. A company would find it hard to gather a comprehensive set of consumer data and it costs a lot of time and money. We use our own application programming interface (API), the software method by which data can be used by other programs. We also get access to open public data from the National Pension Service and National Tax Service. To gather the data, we do use data scraping programs, but we also access a great pool of information held by our partnered financial institutions. Coocon has partnered with some 2,500 institutions for data provision.
Are there other business segments besides providing data for established financial institutions?
We also have smaller fintech start-ups as our clients. One of them is Bomapp, an insurance service application that is designed to offer insurance advice and find redundant coverage of registered insurance. For a start-up like Bomapp, we don’t charge per piece of data because we acknowledge that start-ups lack funds. Instead, we agreed to take equity from Bomapp.
Besides the data service, Coocon also offers a solution to automate the process of recording transactions of corporate credit cards. Without the digitalized solution, employees had to manually update the details with receipts. But the solution allows employees to only sign off the already-listed records of payment without the need to put in numbers. Our corporate clients include Chung-Ang University, the National Health Insurance Service and Korea Student Aid Foundation.
Among fintech firms, peer-to-peer lending companies have also emerged as a major player. Does Coocon also provide services to them?
Yes, as P2P start-ups become more active, we also provide user data for them. Among our clients are Lendit and 8percent. They use the data to assess credit ratings and get information about individual asset size. They try to use the online data because the P2P companies pursue a different credit rating approach to banks. We see there is a great opportunity in the fintech industry because they are keen to venture into new businesses.
Coocon also has offices in overseas countries. Could you give us a snapshot of how the overseas business is run at Coocon?
Coocon collects information from 30 countries, but in terms of physical presence with a dedicated office, we have launched in China, Japan, Cambodia and Australia. Coocon has established an information center in those countries. While China is a tough place to operate, we have started expanding and seeing some achievements in Japan. Coocon founded a joint venture called MJS with Japanese accounting firm Miroku. The Japanese unit specifically targets accounting firms and smaller companies to help them manage tax and IT service.
In Cambodia, our focus leans toward education and development of human resources, a distinction from other locations. We run a Human Resource Development Center there in which young Cambodian people with good computer programming skills are educated and funded. The program is jointly operated with the Korea International Cooperation Agency. The training center usually accepts around 50 students with a background in engineering.
In Australia, we opened an information center.
I think Japan has great business potential because demand for data scraping is on the rise. The United States is also a big market, so we are looking for a business partner with a good track record of running services in the U.S. Coocon aims to make 40 percent of its revenue from overseas business in three years.
What is your strategy when you are deciding which countries to enter?
A company needs to bring in a service or product that also took off in the domestic market because that gives credibility. Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia have a favorable perception of Korea. There are a lot of Korean companies, too, which is why we opened the Cambodian unit to use it as a base to enter other Southeast Asian countries. I know not all companies are passionate about overseas expansion, but I think the domestic market has its limits and greater opportunities exist in the global market since we spot the rising demand for data outside of Korea as well.
Coocon recently acquired Kibnet, a payment solution firm. What was the aim of the acquisition?
Kibnet specializes in simplified payment systems. So far, the Kibnet unit operates separately, but there are great opportunities for cooperation in the future. The industry direction is to combine different services into one simple platform. So, we could provide the service that incorporates financial data listing and payment.
Coocon’s operating profit rapidly increased over recent years. What factors played into the performance?
It has been 12 years since Coocon was founded. In the beginning, we didn’t care that much about revenue and profit, but focused on investing in technology and research. The data technology was on track to completion five years ago when the fintech boom also started. I think the timing worked for us. Our sales depended a lot on Webcash, an electronic banking solutions company and also our mother company, but now we have become more independent in terms of revenue and management.
You originally worked for Webcash, the parent company. What kind of work did you do?
I worked in a research center at Webcash and handled tasks related to financial management for corporate services. The area really helped me at Coocon when I develop the solution for corporate credit card records. In the first year, 90 percent of sales came from Webcash, but the share has significantly reduced.
What is your goal for Coocon?
I want to make a company where employees are satisfied. That is my priority. So, I have focused on workers’ welfare such as building sports facilities and cafes to provide a better place to work. I try to go on casual trips with all employees annually. This year, we are planning on going to Hawaii.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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