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Here’s a round up of today’s key headlines.

1. Japanese investors pump money into Indonesian electronics price comparison site

Jakarta-based price comparison site Pricebook today announced it has completed its third round of funding from two Japan-based firms. KLab Venture Partners led the round, with participation from Aucfan. Read the rest of the story here.

2. TravelersBox expands its services to Chinese tourists

 
TravelersBox is an ATM esque contraption at airports that lets you swap leftover foreign currency to things such as Starbucks, PayPal or iTunes credit. Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. How mobile operators are filling the e-payments gap in emerging markets

Banks are unable to keep up with smartphone ownership and mobile Internet growth in emerging markets. Mobile operators are well positioned to take over the role of banks in emerging markets. They have a monetary relationship with almost the entire population in every country of the world. This gives them the ability to fill the online payments gap. Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. Thai, Chinese firms join for WeChat Pay

ASSET Bright Company, which is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Thursday announced a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent Group to provide WeChat Pay facility to capture Chinese tourist spending in Thailand. Read the rest of the story here.

Here are the ecommerce headlines you should know before you head home tonight.

 

1. Google expands its initiative to provide free Wi-Fi hotspots in emerging markets

Google today announced a collection of updates that are aimed at helping get ‘the next billion’ internet users in India and emerging markets online. It could make a huge difference to emerging markets. Read the rest of the story here

 

2.E-commerce firms in plea for state help

More than half of Thailand’s online stores and e-commerce turnover is dominated by foreign e-commerce operators such as Lazada and newer players like Singapore’s Shopee and South Korea’s 11street. Read the rest of the story here

 

3. Vietnam can become Southeast Asia’s largest B2C ecommerce player

This is according to a recent report by global research company Frost & Sullivan, which also predicts the region’s e-commerce market will double in five years. Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. How to enhance last mile delivery, consumer experience with SMS Services

While not a popular choice of communication between people today, businesses still leverage SMS because it is always delivered even when customers do not have smartphones or data connection, representing reliability and consistency. Read the rest of the story here.

 

5. Microlending site UangTeman raises pre-series A to lend banks a hand

The startup launched in 2015 and has a simple premise: it hands out small loans of up to US$136 for a period of 10 to 30 days. The name, by the way, roughly translates to “Friend’s Money”. Read the rest of the story here.

Indonesia presents a large opportunity for ecommerce among other emerging countries in Southeast Asia, reports Tech Crunch.

Current projections are putting the fragmented country’s e-market value at $130 billion by 2020, coming third behind China and India.

With an estimated annual growth rate of 50% and strong mobile-first initiatives, retailers have a unique opportunity in Indonesia to focus on developing truly mobile platforms to help facilitate e-market growth.

Indonesia’s ecommerce landscape

Indonesia’s current ecommerce market is similar to China’s online marketplace beginnings, with a large pool of entrepreneurial sellers providing goods purchased based largely on social media recommendations. The market also shares resemblance with how the US ecommerce market was in the beginning, with untrusting consumers who doubted online payment systems.

 Indonesia is truly unique in that it has the potential to create a hybrid of the widest opportunities from America and China’s ecommerce economies.

Mobile first Indonesia

Indonesia has established itself as a mobile first country. In 2015, over 70% of Indonesia’s internet traffic came from mobile devices. Social media has played a key role in this, as Indonesians have the highest mobile Facebook usage rate worldwide, with 63 million in 2015. This number is expected to increase, with projections that it will grow to 99% by 2018.

Indonesia ecommerce highlights

VARIED PLAYERS

Indonesia’s retail market currently consists of CPGs being sold in retail spaces known as “fragmented trade,” which is primarily made up of independent small business owners. Ecommerce is currently growing at a rate twice as fast as fragmented trade, forcing many of these independents to turn to the ecommerce model.

This means that the nation is prospering with multiple entrants and varied players.

Unlike other Asian nations, Indonesians do not solely rely on mass retailers to guide their purchasing decisions, allowing for these individual sellers to maintain market share. With lots of potential growth in rural and semi-rural areas, ecommerce specifically allows Indonesian consumers to source hard-to-find goods, as opposed to rural areas in other countries.

MOBILE

Indonesia’s truly mobile-first scenario also allows sellers to use smartphones to their advantage, gathering hyper-personalized data to target individual Indonesian consumers as opposed to just specific demographics or groups among Indonesia’s more than 250 million population.

Mobile-first also allows for the easier entry of participants into the Indonesian e-commerce scene, with startups having the flexibility to choose who they want to target and sell to.

LOGISTICS

In the age of companies developing in-house solutions instead of relying on outsourcing, the untapped logistics market also gives rise to the growth in Indonesian ecommerce. Companies have the ability to develop proprietary, or even simply more efficient, delivery systems as another form of competition in the online marketplace.

ONLINE PAYMENT

Many ecommerce transactions are currently paid through either direct bank transfer or cash-on-delivery, which is greatly limiting ecommerce growth through lost transactions. With Indonesian spend growing nearly 10% annually, cash-on-delivery will soon be unsustainable. Creating a trusted solution to utilize online payments could lead to huge growth.

Indonesia presents a variety of unique opportunities in becoming one of the largest ecommerce spaces. It’s shortcomings, such as payment complications and poor logistics infrastructure leaves room for untapped potential, which if filled, could lead to continuous growth. A growing middle class with increasing spending power, coupled with emerging players from varied sectors such as retail and independent merchants should boost the ecommerce market.

A version of this appeared in Tech Crunch on July 29. Read the full version here.

Rocket Internet is hiring for its four ventures in Myanmar to keep up with the country’s growth, reports Deal Street Asia.

Rocket Internet will be expanding operations and hiring more positions across all of its Myanmar based companies, they are as follows:

  1. work.com.mm – job search portal
  2. house.com.mm – real estate listings
  3. motors.com.mm – automobile listings
  4. ads.com.mm – classifieds

Rocket Ventures entered Myanmar in 2012 and was among the first foreign tech ventures in the country, even before the foreign telecom operators officially entered the market in 2014. The market is now growing rapidly, and Rocket wants to make sure they have the bandwidth to accommodate increasing demands.

The expansion of Motors.com.mm suggests that the market is heading towards a more sustainable economy with consumers looking into auto purchases, buying auto insurances and managing car loans.

The telecom market is also accelerating as Myanmar internet penetration increased with Myanma Post and Telecommunications (MPT) reaching 20 million users by the end of June 2016. The two foreign operators, Telenor and Ooredoo have also recently launched their 4G network. Telenor has 16 million customers in the country while Ooredoo has 6.9 million users.

As foreign operators have taken a large share of the telecom industry, this blocks a lot of growth for local players to take their share of the telecom pie.

Rocket Internet refused to disclose exact investments figures, but are committed to staying ahead in the ecommerce space by increasing their footprint.

Rocket Internet recognizes the significance of telecoms’ role in online retail, and have partnered up with Ooredoo for Shop.com.mm’s first mobile sale this year.

Among the four ventures of Rocket, work.com.mm and ads.com.mm have the highest number of visitors as they appeal to a broader group of people who are looking for a job or trade goods on an ongoing basis.

Data shows majority of visitors are accessing the site from their mobile phones.

Rocket Internet’s decision to expand operations may be linked to the increasingly competitive nature of the ecommerce market in Myanmar, as their business models are very simple and have low barriers to entry.

A version of this appeared in Deal Street Asia on July 18. Read the full version here.

The formation of The Fintech Association of Thailand was announced today at the ‘Positioning Thailand’s Fintech Ecosystem’ conference held at C-asean. The association will see members from the private, public and financial sectors come together to boost Thailand’s fintech potential.

The event was organized by C-asean to promote the launch of The Fintech Association of Thailand in collaboration with:

  • Wisudhi Srisuphan, Thailand’s Deputy Minister of Finance
  • Dr. Veerathai Santiprabhob, Governor of Bank of Thailand
  • Korn Chatikavanij, Thailand’s Former Minister of Finance
  • Tipsuda Thavaramara, SEC Thailand Deputy Secretary-General
  • Teeranun Srihong, Senior Executive Vice President at Kasikorn Bank

And other industry specialists who participated in different rounds of the panel.

Thailand’s sectors must encourage friendly, collaborative competition in order to advance the country’s fintech growth without fear of cannibalization. Traditional industries are being disrupted, which means that Thailand is moving towards a new phase, says Dr. Veerathai.

This is the first year that the Bank of Thailand has received more request to close down bank branches from commercial banks than to launch more branches.

Threat from global players

Thailand should not be wary about competing with other ASEAN countries in fintech, instead, it should be concerned about the influence of global players such as Alipay or PayPal. These global companies have the capacity and outreach to disrupt domestic development. If Thailand is unable to fully accelerate the government’s e-payment platform, PromptPay, then the country could potentially lose access to data and transaction information.

The role of regulators in the success of fintech

Regulators in Thailand are traditionally conservative and hardly deviate from the fine print. However, the Bank of Thailand is working wth the government to relax certain financial regulations.

Regulation should be principle based, rather than rule based. A good regulator must also be an innovation facilitator. Rules cannot be rigid when it comes to technology.

The possibility of forming a ‘sandbox’ was discussed during the roundtable as other countries such as Singapore have launched them to facilitate the growth of fintech startups. The sandbox is to be treated as a lab space or incubator.

Regulation, in regards to fintech should be principle based and not strictly rule based as it will leave no room for innovation. The forum called for regulators to also take on the role of ‘innovation facilitators’. With this in mind, the Bank of Thailand is currently reviewing to revise certain financial regulations with the government.

The Thailand Fintech Association will be able to drive progress for fintech in Thailand, but it must also keep in mind the consumer and infrastructural and regulatory challenges that come with moving towards a changed cashless society.

A ruling by an international tribunal against China’s claims over most of the South China Sea has created a new wave of uncertainty for shipping and international trade according to industry associations, reports Wall Street Journal.

Any disruption to ship-borne trade in the South China Sea could have a wide-ranging impact on global commerce, including energy supplies. Merchant ships should be allowed to go about their business on the world’s ocean without delays. China has been harsh and rhetorically rejected the ruling, but has committed to negotiations with Philippines. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have claims in the South China Sea.

Tuesday’s ruling could embolden smaller Asian countries to be more assertive regarding their rights in these waters, increasing run-ins with China and leading to possible disruptions of freedom of navigation.

Thousands of ships transit the waters daily, connecting markets and goods in East Asia with the Middle East and Europe.

Total annual trade through the South China Sea amounts to $5.3 trillion, with US trade accounting for $1.2 trillion.

A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas passes through the South China Sea, much of it bound for Japan and South Korea.

Tensions in the South China Sea have grown in recent years as China has built artificial islands on reefs and atolls it occupies, triggering alarm from smaller neighbors and hereby triggering the US to send warships throughout the area to assert freedom of navigation.

Given the current challenging state of the shipping/maritime industry globally, any increase in insurance will exacerbate an already difficult time for shipping companies. An escalation in tension is bad for Asia, because the region is very integrated, it would be negative for all countries that are linked to this tight web of trade and investment.

Concerns are now regarding whether China will take action to effect trade flows or shipping. Disputes over the South China Sea will impact commerce, including ecommerce supply chain in the region.

A version of this appeared in The Wall Street Journal on July 14. Read the full version here.