The merger of digital marketing agency ANCHOVY. and web development company NIU might be looked back on as a pivotal moment for Malta’s maturing digital services sector, with the two market leaders combining their operations to offer clients a one-stop digital services shop and allowing them to focus on expanding internationally.

Speaking to Jo Caruana during the latest episode of The Boardroom, Benji Borg (co-founder of ANCHOVY.) and Matthew Sammut (co-founder of NIU) said the step was a natural one for two companies which often referred work to each other.

“Some of our best work over the last years emerged from collaborations between our companies to serve a single client vision, so it made sense to capitalise on our synergy while simplifying our client-facing systems,” said Mr Sammut.

Although both the well-known brands will continue existing to the outside world, they now have unified client service and sales teams. Meanwhile, the same operational teams that previously worked for the two distinct companies have been maintained, but they now work more closely together.

NIU has made a name for itself for its bespoke solutions to client needs: “Our core specialty is understanding the pain points in our clients’ technical systems and providing innovative solutions that can’t be achieved with off-the-shelf products,” explained Mr Sammut.

“For example,” he continued. “When working on ecommerce platforms, we can create applications that go beyond the simple purchase of products. We can integrate customer account systems and stock solutions, for example. And of course, we also offer bespoke web and mobile applications, as well as systems integrations.”

“ANCHOVY.'s services,” picked up Mr Borg, “come into play before and after the technical aspects NIU offers. We do extensive market research, going into things like mystery shopping and brand positioning, to formulate a voice that speaks to our clients’ customers, while ensuring that the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) of the technical system matches their expectations.”

The services offered by both brands are also closely aligned in that they continue to work closely with clients during the entire project’s lifecycle.

“We don’t just go in and come out,” said Mr Sammut. “On the systems side, projects require continuous updating and maintenance of security to counter emergent threats, while clients need to be found online, which ANCHOVY. is excellent at through its excellent SEO expertise.”

“The digital world is very large and increasingly complex,” added Mr Borg. “There are a lot of things coming out all the time, and our job is to guide clients through their online journey, one step at a time.”

In fact, Mr Borg continued, the company recommends staggering different elements of a project. “Things need to be done properly. Results have to be measured and analysed to make sure that improvements are happening where they are needed. Optimisation is crucial.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass shift to digital services, many businesses rushed to launch their online offering as quickly as possible, without paying enough attention to quality, something Mr Sammut described as “not necessarily a good idea”.

“People are accustomed to certain standards now. Customers are spoiled, becoming accustomed to platforms like Amazon and comparing local offerings to those of multinational competitors. And of course, it is very hard to get to that level, although that is what we strive for.”

To do this, Mr Borg said that listening to customers is the essential first step. “Don’t jump into building digital solutions, as you risk starting on the wrong foot. Businesses don’t spend enough time listening closely to what their customers want, going through negative reviews, getting honest feedback, and understanding where their pain points are,” he suggested, before adding with a smile: “We are very happy to have these conversations – they’re essential.”

The merger has now created a strong company with an experienced, hungry team on the lookout for more international opportunities to build on their presence in the Dubai and Saudi Arabia markets.

“Our key focus in the coming years is to grow our presence abroad and capitalise on the opportunities created through our expanded service offering,” said Mr Borg.

One necessary element is continual investment in the company’s human resources, something both co-founders say they are taking very seriously, putting out an open invitation to both workers and businesses interested in joining 9H Capital to call them up for a chat over a coffee.

“The best things happen when people are in the same room feeding off each other’s talent,” concluded Mr Borg. “We are always looking for people who are dedicated and passionate about the digital world, and operations that complement our offering, enabling us to expand the value chain we offer to clients. Contact us.”

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Written By

Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.