Privasec brings Australian cyber expertise to Southeast Asia

Cyber security consultancy Privasec has an unusual way to demonstrate its capabilities. With permission from its clients, the company will hack into their systems to test and uncover vulnerabilities.

Privasec then works with clients to develop a strategy to secure their systems, applications and data. This helps them mitigate, detect and respond to risks across their entire environment. 

Privasec is a governance, risk compliance, offensive security and digital transformation firm. Since its inception in Southeast Asia in July 2018, Privasec has established a strong reputation in the cyber security industry and built a robust client base. It used the connections and learnings from Austrade’s Landing Pads program to work closely with partners, SME businesses and the cyber community, and generated interest in its unique offerings.

As Privasec grew its team and expanded its services, it captured a larger market share and formed long-term partnerships with banks, financial services institutions, hospitality groups, universities, insurance companies and investment funds. Its clients include the Asian Development Bank, CIMB, Circles.Life and SingTel.

‘Organisations are not going to hand over the keys to their networks and systems if they don’t trust us,’ says Prashant Haldankar, Privasec’s Managing Director, Asia and Group Chief Information Security Officer. ‘Our association with Austrade – an Australian Government agency – gives clients a high level of assurance that we are trustworthy. Austrade’s introductions and support have led to great opportunities for us.’

Bringing Australian cyber security expertise to Singapore

Privasec was founded in 2014 by Haldankar and his two colleagues Karan Khosla and Romain Rallu. The company’s technologies and services help CIOs and CISOs worldwide to take a strategic approach to cyber security risk mitigation and digital transformation. It has over 50 staff across Singapore, Malaysia and other regions. With a steady flow of clients, Privasec has seen its revenue almost double year-on-year.

Many of Privasec’s Australian clients have offices or an operational presence in Singapore. Privasec was servicing these clients from Australia but was keen to enter the market on its own merit.

In 2018, Privasec registered in Singapore, opened an office and hired local staff. Haldankar says a local presence is key to growing a business in a country and region that values personal relationships. He then started speaking at industry events in Singapore to build brand awareness. This also positioned Privasec as a thought leader in cyber security, bringing Australian knowledge, expertise and capabilities with local context.

The Privasec team.

Landing Pads boost Southeast Asia ambitions

In 2019, the fledging business received a boost when it was accepted into Austrade’s Landing Pads program in Singapore.

‘We applied for the program because we wanted to leverage Austrade’s vast network,’ says Haldankar. ‘We wanted to work with their partners and mentors and breathe their world.’

Through Austrade, Privasec met representatives from SingTel and viewed their SpiderLabs system. The company visited Rolls Royce’s factory to talk about cyber security. It also attended and spoke at industry conferences as part of the Landing Pads program.

‘Austrade’s partners in the program helped us understand the landscape for doing business in Singapore and across Southeast Asia,’ says Haldankar. ‘Our mentors also coached us on how to approach investors for funding and venture capital, although we were not looking for investors at the time.

‘All of these introductions and activities raised our profile, extended our networks and gave us the momentum to grow our presence in Singapore.’

Growing business in Singapore

Privasec’s technical assurance service and focus on tailoring solutions to clients’ unique compliance needs enabled them to help clients meet changing regulatory requirements.

‘Our reputation for quality work and client-centric approach has earned us the trust of top government agencies in Singapore, such as the Government Technology Agency and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore,’ says Haldankar. ‘We collaborate with them on industry-level cyber security strategy needs and on thought leadership activities.’

Expansion across Southeast Asia

Privasec’s success in Singapore led to expansion into neighbouring countries. The company registered its business in Malaysia in 2020.

‘Malaysia is a bigger geography compared to Singapore and has more opportunities,’ says Haldankar. ‘In the early days, we had partnership discussions with local service providers on collaboration and capability building. Since then, we have had a number of wins. We’re now looking to expand our team in Malaysia and have achieved 80% of our team building target.’

Privasec has also worked with Austrade to explore opportunities in the Philippines. Austrade has already helped the company to secure a contract with a major Philippines bank. Austrade has also helped grow Privasec’s clientele in the Philippines (and Malaysia) to include large banks, financial services institutions, payment processors and conglomerates.

‘Our Austrade contact has a large network made up of senior executives like CEOs and company presidents,’ says Haldankar. ‘She is like a business evangelist for us. She brings business need and opportunity together for us, so we can collaborate and execute the strategy for the company.’

In September 2023, Privasec hosted a networking dinner at the Australian Ambassador’s residence in the Philippines. ‘We met high-profile leaders in business and government, which opened up opportunities to contribute to sharpening cyber security policies with the Philippines Government and private sector,’ says Haldankar. ‘Austrade’s support was crucial in making this event possible.’

Austrade’s continued support

Haldankar says the Asia market has large untapped opportunities across all Privasec’s service pillars. ‘Our next target markets are Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia,’ he says.

‘We are looking to grow our client base – which currently includes 15–20% of Asia’s top businesses – to at least 30–40% of the region’s top businesses in the next 2 years.’

Privasec is also looking beyond Asia. The US is a market of interest; the company’s US clients include many global tech giants, and it is keen to add more to the list.

‘We have seen how Austrade teams in different countries work together to help us,’ says Haldankar. ‘Their global network will be very useful in helping us expand worldwide.’

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