Here are the key headlines you should know today.

1. Nike, Apple and Playboy amongst the most popular US brands during 11.11

“Alibaba is using this year’s Singles Day to showcase the number of international brands participating, everyone from Apple, Victoria’s Secret, Burberry, Gap, [and] Nike, acting as the gateway to China for these brands and fulfilling Chinese consumers’ insatiable demand for Western products,” said Danielle Bailey, head of Asia-Pacific research for L2 Inc.

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2. Malaysia takes serious steps to obtain digital economy goals

“The e-commerce ecosystem will continue to evolve in the future with the maturity of services, and the consumption patterns of the citizens. Two key areas worthy of future attention are figuring out how to retain more revenues from e-commerce sector within Malaysia, as well as encouraging global e-commerce platforms to increase investment in the country,” said Vijay Sundararaman, IDC Malaysia Country Manager.

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3. South Korean beauty startup, Althea, moves into Southeast Asia

One of Althea’s co-founders and CFO, Jae Kim, told CNBC the decision to move into the region was a “no-brainer” because of a pent-up demand for Korean beauty products that was being unmet by other companies.

Kim added various payment preferences added to the uniqueness of southeast Asia. When asked if Althea had plans to introduce its own line of South Korean beauty products, he said, “We are thinking about it but no concrete plans yet.”

Read the rest of the story here.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has plans for Indonesia’s startup ecosystem to become “The Digital Energy of Asia”, an ambition he shared during his visit to Silicon Valley, reports Jakarta Globe.

The Ministry of Communications and Information has now joined hands with KIBAR, a local startup incubator company to create 1,000 digital startups worth $10 billion by 2020. The program will be rolled out in ten cities: Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Malang, Medan, Denpasar, Makassar and Pontianak.

The government want to help startups begin their venture – namely funding; strong capital often makes or breaks a startup. These are the four startups with the most funding in 2015:

1. Matahari Mall

Indonesian ecommerce giant reportedly received $500 million in 2015 from holding company Lippo Group, a local conglomerate who owns Matahari department store, one of the country’s largest offline retailers. The company has set a target to become a driving force in the Indonesian ecommerce scene and rival Alibaba and Rakuten.

The company is eyeing $1 billion in sales within two years. Last year, the company appointed Hadi Wenas as CEO of Matahari Mall.

2. Bhinneka

This is one of Indonesia’s oldest ecommerce ventures. The company secured $22 million in extra funding in November from Ideosource, a local venture capaital which also invested in online media companies.

The investment has pushed closer to an eventual IPO in 2018, a major milestone for a company that started off as a computer supplier in 1995. Its online migration happened almost accidentally, brought on by the 1998 economic crisis which forced the company to cut overheads and start selling its products on the internet.

The company booked a triple-digit growth in sales last year, as it added a marketplace service to its webstore with 2,600 merchants using the service along with offices in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Makassar and Bandung. 

3. Happyfresh

Online grocery store Happyfresh earned $12 million in funding last year from Vertex Ventures, Singapore’s oldest venture capital firm and a division of the island country’s state investor Temasek Holdings and Sinar Mas Digital Ventures.

Happyfresh has big ambitions to turn the company into one of the largest food-tech groups in Asia. The Jakarta-based startup already has overseas presence in Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Happyfresh was launched in 2014 in Indonesia and Malaysia.

4. Qraved

The Jakarta-based food delivery startup received $8 million in 2015 from Richmond Global Ventures, a US-based venture capital which has aggressively invested in startups in China, India and other emerging markets, as well as Gobi Partners.

The money was used to expand its services in several cities such as Java and Bandung.

Out of the large startup scene in Indonesia, only a handful of them were able to secure a substantial amount of funding. This could suggest that the government’s 1,000 startups initiative may be a challenge. The problem is not usually with initial funding, but the amount of capital each startup will require to develop and expand.

A version of this appeared in Jakarta Globe on July 25. Read the full version here.

Malaysia’s less than favorable internet speed is harming the country’s aspirations in building an accelerated digital economy, reports Digital News Asia.

Ecommerce is set to be one of the key drivers of Malaysia’s digital economy, but that aspiration may be dampened by the relatively slow internet speeds available in the country, according to Yasmin Mahmood, CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

Malaysia’s average internet speed of 7.3Mbps was far below the global average of 23Mbps.

In comparison, Singapore enjoys an average connection speed of 122Mbps and even a developing country like Indonesia is fast catching up, with average speeds of 6Mbps. The Indonesian government has also announced that it aims to overtake Malaysia by 2019.

It is well known that consumers are less likely to shop or partake in online activities if the connection is not up to par. Malaysia’s notoriously slow internet speeds are often the subject of irritation by consumers and corporates. The worrying implication is that the growth of ecommerce will be affected if the connectivity does not improve.

In terms of data speed and affordability in the mobile space, Malaysia is not far off from other countries, but the big gap lies within broadband connectivity. This responsibility falls right under the Malaysian Communication and multimedia commission’s charter, and should be fixed as soon as possible.

It does not help that Communications and Multimedia Minister Dr Salleh Said Keruak was quoted as saying that Malaysians choose to pay less for slower Internet speeds instead of spending more on fast connections.

Malaysia’s online market is set to grow to $21 billion by 2025, mainly with ecommerce as a key driver, which would record an expected compound annual growth rate of 24%. However, it is falling behind in investments, despite the country’s promising ecommerce potential. Malaysia is also falling behind in terms of foreign direct investment in the Southeast Asian region, which is mainly going to Singapore and Indonesia.

A version of this appeared in Digital News Asia on July 20. Read the full version here.

Thailand recently unveiled a 4.0 economical model to develop Thailand into a valued-based economy, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, reports Retail News Asia.

Thailand 4.0 will change the country’s traditional farming to smart farming, traditional SMEs to smart enterprises, and traditional services to high-value services.

The aim is to create creativity and innovation through the application of technology.

As The Nation comments, the challenge of this model is getting the country to come out of its middle income trap.

The government wishes to see farmers become entrepreneurs and SMEs to branch out of being tied to government assistance and to become startups that grow beyond their potential growth areas.

Thailand 4.0 comes after three prior economic models

  • Thailand 1.0 focused on agricultural development
  • Thailand 2.0 focused on upgrading low income households reach middle-income
  • Thailand 3.0 emphasized on  the growth of the industrial industry

The Prime Minister sees 10 target industrial groups to be the new engines of Thailand’s growth, including seven industries that are considered the backbone of the country’s new digital economy.

Ex. the government’s e-wallet platform, PromptPay is an integral part of Thailand’s 4.0 plan to drive the country forward.

Even if this initiative kicks off, the country would not see results for another three to five years. Unless the country makes it a sustainable national aim, the blueprint is dependent on the new government’s stance on the matter, following next year’s impending election.

A version of this appeared in Retail News Asia on July 13. Read the full version here.