Written by Oliver Segovia. Oliver (@oliversegovia) is the CEO of AVA.ph, an e-commerce platform for premium lifestyle brands in the Philippines, and the co-author of Passion & Purpose from Harvard Business Review Press.
Kim is one of the 600,000 employees in the Philippines’ fast growing business process outsourcing industry. Her shift, a daily 8-hour rush serving banking customers in the US east coast, begins every midnight and ends when most local businesses begin. On stressful days, she typically needs a jolt of online retail therapy. But since she gets home an hour before the closest mall opens, the internet has become the equivalent of her retail best friend.
Meanwhile, halfway across the bustling Metro Manila megacity of 12 million people, Jen is about to start her day running a wholesale trading business. She brings in premium brands from the US, and has a loyal following. But since the waiting time for retail space in her preferred mall is three years, she’s built her loyal following of customers entirely online.
Both stories, comprising of composite characters, are a reflection of typical use cases that are replicated increasingly everyday across the Philippines. Read more
It’s one thing when large corporations crash and burn while replicating the latest technological fad (Mediacorp and daily deals, anyone?). But it’s quite another for a company to recognize its weaknesses and partner startups that know their stuff.
The STClassifieds-Carousell partnership, announced just this morning, belongs to the latter category.
Both products are similar in that they are online classifieds that facilitate peer-to-peer commerce. But while STClassifieds, owned by Singapore Press Holdings, is strong on the web; Carousell, a Singapore startup with modern sensibilities, is showing promise on mobile. Sure, STClassifieds has its own mobile app, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Carousell’s design, which fits right in with the Instagrams and Paths of the world.
Kakao is a South Korea based company founded in late 2006 that is recognized for KakaoTalk, one of the most popular mobile chat apps in Asia. It has built an ecosystem of apps around KakaoTalk, giving users the ability to access a variety of services with one Kakao account. The company’s other products include:
- KakaoStory, an Instagram-like photo sharing social network,
- KakaoLink, an API that lets phone users sent links to friends on KakaoTalk, and
- Kakao Game, a platform for game developers to publish their games on KakaoTalk, and Kakao members to play games with one another.
- Kakao Page, a content and media publishing platform that pays content creators.
As of May 2012, the company is valuated at about USD 454M. In December the same year, it reached a staff strength of 280, up from 14 exactly 3 years ago.
Kakao has more products in the pipeline for 2013. That includes Story Plus, a marketing platform based on Kakao Story, Chatting Plus, which enhances KakaoTalk with third-party apps like maps and music players, and KakaoPage, a micropublishing platform that enables authors to monetize their content. A PC version of KakaoTalk has also been planned. Read more
Updated: 23 January 2013
Uber, a San Francisco based on-demand limousine service, has soft launched in Singapore today. The mobile app is available for download on the iOS App Store.
The service enables users to engage a chauffeur at a fraction of the cost. Its secret lies in streamlining payment and booking services, as well as utilizing a limo driver’s downtime. The end-to-end service — which includes an app for drivers — handles booking, payment, and even the giving of receipts.
To kickstart its “test mode”, it has begun engaging Singapore’s influencers to try out the app. They include Lesley Tay, owner of food blog ieatishootipost, as well as Theresa Goh, a star Paralympic swimmer.
An Uber blog post describes how the company’s black Mercedes S vehicles, which come from fully-licensed local limo operators, would drive to the user’s location with the push of a button, bringing them to wherever they wish to go.
East and West have combined forces in a bid to give online retailers in Asia a more comprehensive platform to sell stuff. In this case, the partnership involves NetSuite, an enterprise cloud computing company from the United States, and AsiaPay, an e-commerce service provider headquartered in Hong Kong. Read more
PayPal has announced today the hiring of Lawrence Chan as the company’s vice president for Asia Pacific New Ventures and general manager for Southeast Asia and India.
Based in Singapore, Lawrence will head the regional business strategy, sales, partnerships, and merchant adoption of PayPal’s payment solutions in the mobile and digital space. He will also lead the expansion of PayPal’s geographical reach.
One of the products he will be pushing is PayPal Here, the company’s mobile credit card reader, now available in Hong Kong, Australia, US, and Canada. Read more
A customer at a Groupon Singapore concept store. Photo: Groupon
In Asia, the daily deals industry is apparently in the doldrums. In an analysis done by Groupon Singapore, only 19 group buying companies now remain, down from a peak of 72 in 2010 and 39 in 2011. 84% of these companies lasted less than a year.
SGE has even covered the demise of a couple of these websites: Outlet.com.sg and Mocca Perks.
The downward spiral in Singapore dovetails with the predominant trend in Asia and the world: Group buying sites are shutting down en masse. In the second half of 2011 alone, Daily Deals Media reported that 1,348 such companies have gone under. While some group buying sites have been acquired, they are in the minority.
Groupon’s share price, meanwhile, has tumbled to USD 5.25 per share on 6 October from a high of USD 31, despite a profitable quarter. Another American daily deals company, JigoCity (acquired by the owner of porn magazine Penthouse), is also finding the waters choppy in Asia: It recently left Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Australia.
But just like how the movie Rocky Balboa became a surprise hit in the face of doubts in 2006 — 16 years after the disappointing last film — Asia’s daily deals sites are reinventing themselves to stay in the fight. Read more
Swiff, a service that enables merchants to collect credit card payments using smartphones, has made a major step towards entering the Thai market.
SCCP Group, the startup behind Swiff, announced on 27th September that it has partnered with Bank of Ayudhya, a leading commercial bank in Thailand, to provide its customers with a low-cost mobile POS system.
With Swiff, merchants can potentially save cost by opting for a POS system that involves just a mobile app, mobile devices, and credit card swipers attached to the tablets or smartphones. There is no need to purchase a traditional POS system.
Launched in March 2012, Swiff has since been implemented by over 100 merchants in Singapore through its partnership with Global Payments, a subsidiary of HSBC Bank. The startup hopes to reach out to various industries, including F&B, telecommunications, logistics, and hospitality.
In June, it acquired a majority stake in 4G Secure SAS, an European firm that specializes in an authentication platform for mobile apps. Its technology will be used to make Swiff more secure.
Thailand is perceived as a challenging market due to its low credit card adoption rate. Only about 6 million Thais own a credit card as of 2008, less than 10% of its 69-million population.
But helping Swiff is the fact that the bulk of credit card users would be located in urban areas like Bangkok, while low adoption rates signal rangy growth potential. Also, tourism is a lucrative revenue source for Thai establishments, and Swiff could ride on that as well.
Beyond Asia, the startup aims to expand worldwide to Africa, America, and the European Union.
In Asia, it faces competition from PayPal Here. In the United States, Square is the dominant player, while PayLeven, Verifone, iZettle, SumUp and mPowa are fighting for market share in Europe. Amazon is reportedly jumping into the fray too.
Swiff has a lot in common with these other players. But it touts its direct working relationship with banks rather than merchants as a major differentiation.
In this manner, it draws a line in the sand against PayPal, which is a payment aggregator that renders banks redundant, since merchants do not need a bank account to use PayPal.
But does interfacing with the bank as opposed to Swiff really make a big difference to merchants? Probably not. Nonetheless, Swiff could make a big difference to banks, which can now offer their customers a mobile POS solution as a value-added service.
It’s been over a month since the major Singapore telcos — SingTel, Starhub, and M1 — released their NFC mobile wallets. Altogether, these apps have amassed thousands of downloads. Yet reactions have been mixed.
News arrived last month that NFC payment would be unveiled in Singapore very soon. Digital security company Gemalto announced that the consortium it is leading was ready to launch the services. Read more
Investors and seasoned entrepreneurs seem to have reached a consensus: A mobile app that makes buying and selling second-hand stuff easy has massive potential.
Evidence? ShopSpot, which is such an app, had accepted an investment offer from SingTel Innov8 and completed a seed funding round from a group of Thai investors. Another team, Snapsell, won Startup Weekend Singapore on the back of strong endorsement from the judges.
Now, that team has finally launched their app, Carousell, for the iPhone. Like ShopSpot, it lets users upload photos of their items along with a description and price. It incorporates social features as well, such as liking, sharing, and commenting on an item. User can choose to follow sellers they like, and enter into private chat sessions within the app to discuss details of a transaction. Read more