Local Business Stories

How do Hong Kong businesses embrace changes and flourish in the new normal?

By developing 5G-powered robots, we wish to make the world a better place to live.

Mark Mak, Co-founder, Roborn

 

 



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See how Roborn swiftly shifted their business focus to go ahead of market demand when the pandemic hit.

Chapter 1: Promoting the application of technology

Roborn was founded in 2017 as a start-up and was behind the invention of a motion control robot that launched in the same year. At the time, this represented a major breakthrough for the tech sector in Hong Kong. Roborn then earned a reputation for innovation with its roll-out of a first-of-a-kind 5G-enabled humanoid robot in mainland China, demonstrating the capabilities and growth potential of Hong Kong’s science and tech research and development (R&D) sector.

With the increasing use and growing popularity of new technologies such as AI and automation, robots are no longer elements for sci-fi movies but practical solutions with an impact on people’s daily lives. For Roborn, the heart of its business is to integrate robotics into the operations of a broad range of industries, generating greater economic and societal value through enhanced efficiency.

Chapter 2: Responding to a crisis with agility

Roborn’s core business has historically been R&D relating to 5G motion control smart robots. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has hampered cooperation with its partners in mainland China, grinding many projects to a halt. Seeing the surging demand for products to help fight the virus, Roborn acted promptly to shift its business model into the development of epidemic prevention robots.

Mark Mak, Co-founder of Roborn, recalled, “The rapid spread of the epidemic brought demand for epidemic prevention-related supplies to levels that no one was ready for and put unprecedented pressure on healthcare systems around the world. In the face of both adversity and uncertainty, we decided to suspend our other active projects and devote all our available resources to the R&D of robots involved in epidemic prevention.”


Set on this new course, Roborn quickly assembled a team of scientific research and medical experts, and successfully developed a temperature monitoring smart robot in just 15 days. The robot has since been deployed by various government departments, private companies, medical centres and schools in Hong Kong. The company subsequently rolled out other kinds of robot involved in different aspects of epidemic prevention, including a UVC disinfection robot, as well as an air quality monitoring robot. Roborn has also promoted these technologies in other overseas markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

A timely and effective change of business strategy relies not only on a company’s ability to adapt to market forces, but also on a combination of many other factors. “Making a dramatic shift in our business focus was definitely something easier said than done, particularly when the pandemic was at its early stage,” continued Mark. “The worldwide supply of the thermal components needed for developing temperature-monitoring robots was highly inadequate at the beginning of the pandemic, and we had to snap them up and bear the costs from our own reserves. Coupled with huge R&D expenses, we were under severe financial pressure at that time.” Mark went on to describe the great challenges faced by the company in terms of manpower, time and cost control in the midst of the pandemic.


Chapter 3: Timely support from a trusted partner

HSBC provided Roborn with support when it was needed to transform crisis into opportunity. Mark explained, “We met a Relationship Manager from HSBC Commercial Banking at an industry event. Despite the fact that we were not a client, this RM has since been keen to check in regularly on our business updates and banking needs. In addition, thanks to its position as a global bank, HSBC gives us huge confidence. Therefore, when our company underwent a restructuring in 2019, we decided to move our main business accounts to HSBC.

“I have always thought that banks only provide their clients with one-way, impersonal banking services. But our Relationship Manager from HSBC has


always kept in close communication with us to keep abreast of our business development. After the HKSAR Government rolled out the Special 100% Loan Guarantee under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme in the wake of the pandemic, our Relationship Manager proactively informed us of the scheme and guided us through the details and application process. As a result, within a month we had successfully secured a generous loan facility, providing timely relief for our working capital needs,” said Mark.


Chapter 4: Stepping into a successful future

Looking ahead, Roborn hopes to help different industries tackle some of their biggest pain points by applying robotic solutions. Mark said, “Propelled by the emergence of a new economy, innovation and tech companies are poised to enjoy vast opportunities as we stand on the verge of broad digital transformation across all industries.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with HSBC. Leveraging the bank’s extensive global network and client base, I am confident we can connect with more potential clients and business partners to further unearth the potential of robotics adoption,” continued Mark.

HSBC will continue to act as a connector in the business community. Using our comprehensive digital banking solutions and extensive network, we will support local tech companies like Roborn to discover growth opportunities and embark on another successful chapter in their business stories.

Terence Chiu, Head of Commercial Banking, Hong Kong, HSBC

 

 



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