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Alibaba’s entry into Southeast Asia served as social proof for many entrepreneurs and businesses that they were onto something big, which led to a year of exuberance for ecommerce in the region.

“We’re just at the beginning, [the Alibaba-Lazada deal] will kickstart the whole cycle. It will attract more global investments into the region, and attract more entrepreneurs who now see this region as a great place to start a business.” — Stefan Jung, founding partner at Indonesia-based Venturra Capital in an interview with Tech in Asia

Even as we get closer to 2018, there are already numerous casualties in one of the most promising ecommerce growth markets in the world.

Alibaba doubled down on its Lazada investment by upping its share from 51 percent to 83 percent and in a push to monopolize the market, put grips on Tokopedia, arguably one of Lazada’s biggest competitors in Indonesia.

Tencent, through JD or directly, also began executing its China playbook by investing in companies like Sea, Go-Jek, Traveloka, Pomelo Fashion and Tiki.vn.

Global attention from the US came from KKR, who through Emerald Media, put $65M into ecommerce ‘arms dealer’ aCommerce in a bid to replicate Baozun’s dominance in the Chinese “TP” (Tmall Partner) landscape.

And the plays won’t stop here.

Leveraging newly consolidated positions of strength, marketplaces will cross traditional boundaries and move into areas like private label brands and offline distribution. Brands will also feel increasingly cornered, facing a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

Those that survive 2018 will have to find a niche for themselves, such as in fashion or home, because there isn’t much room left for another horizontal ecommerce player. Others will be tempted to take risky shortcuts like say, raising money through ICOs.

2018 will also see Tencent, not Alibaba or a local company, emerge as the winner in mobile payments in Southeast Asia.

It might be a good time to start learning Chinese.

1. Plata o Plomo: Southeast Asia ecommerce will be increasingly factionalized into Alibaba and Tencent camps, and locals will pick sides

Given its similarities to China roughly 10 years ago, Southeast Asia has become a gold rush for Chinese Internet giants looking to expand beyond the mainland. It was Alibaba’s acquisition of Lazada last year that triggered an arms race between China’s #1 and #2 in Southeast Asia, and in turn, will cause local companies to choose sides.

Image source: Sohu

Alibaba also led a $1.1B investment in Tokopedia in 2017, continuing to place its biggest bets on ecommerce. Moving forward, the company is expected to position Lazada and Tokopedia as the Tmall and Taobao of Southeast Asia, respectively.

Meanwhile, Tencent has aggressively tried to replicate a three-prong formula that was successful in its fight against Alibaba in China: gaming, mobile and payments.

The first step was becoming the largest shareholder of Sea (previously Garena), predominantly a gaming powerhouse that runs Shopee, a mobile-first ecommerce marketplace and the second was placing bets on Go-Jek to become a “super app” like WeChat and WeChat Pay.

Understandable as WeChat Pay now commands an impressive 40% market share in China vs. AliPay’s 54%, up from 11% in 2015.

“Is there a land grab right now for these kind of assets? I think in the land grab they [Tencent] are following us. They are seeing that we have positioned ourselves very well, and they’re sort of playing a catch up game. So what we want to do is, since we already have our positions, is to work with local entrepreneurs.” — Joe Tsai, Alibaba Vice Chairman, in speaking with Bloomberg.

Tencent and Alibaba share price increase over last 7 years compared to Amazon and NASDAQ composite
Source: Yahoo Finance (December 4, 2017)

With both Tencent and Alibaba market caps at all-time highs, we expect this trend to continue throughout 2018 with both sides gobbling up more local companies across the ecommerce ecosystem and upping shares in existing ones.

2. Facing slow organic growth, Amazon will acquire a company to fast-track its ecommerce expansion in the emerging region

Image source: Getty Images

Amazon’s entry into “Southeast Asia” was the biggest surprise and non-surprise at the same time.

A non-surprise because Amazon’s long-awaited and rumored soft-launch into Singapore was widely covered by the media even before the company’s Prime Now services officially became available on July 26, 2017.

A surprise because Amazon’s expected tour-de-force across the region ended before it even started.

Amazon fanboys celebrated the initial launch of a scaled down, poor man’s version of Amazon — Amazon Prime Now — offering a measly one million household items and daily essentials.

“I was expecting more things that I can’t get in Singapore, for example Sriracha or something small that’s not available in Singapore but most stuff on Prime Now are basic things you can get from Fairprice…” — Reddit User Ticklishcat

But there’s good reason for it.

It doesn’t make sense for Amazon to set up a full-blown local presence in the country-state. Singaporeans, under the Free AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping option, were already enjoying free international shipping from Amazon en masse for orders over US$125.

The country ranks #29 in terms of session/year to Amazon.com on a global scale but #4 when normalized for population size. With an average of 14.04 sessions per person per year visiting Amazon.com, Singapore takes the top spot among all the countries in Asia.

Singaporeans already buying from Amazon, without the latter’s full-fledged local presence: Singapore ranking only #29 in traffic to Amazon.com but #4 when normalized for population size (#1 in Asia)

Source: SimilarWeb, World Bank

The launch of Amazon Prime in Singapore earlier this month makes it even less likely for the firm to set up local operations beyond Amazon Prime Now. Amazon is no longer subsidizing the original free shipping for orders above US$125 to Singapore and Singaporean Prime members have free international delivery only on orders above S$60 on Amazon’s US website for S$8.99 per month in addition to other benefits.

Not much else has been heard about the company’s further expansion into the region, particularly Indonesia and Thailand, where markets are being rapidly carved up by Alibaba and Tencent.

With time running out for a full-fledged, organic entry into the high-growth markets of Southeast Asia, its stock trading at all-time highs, and not too distant memories of failure in China, we expect Amazon to attempt at least one major acquisition in 2018 to accelerate regional expansion.

3. Offline is the new online: pure-play ecommerce to launch physical stores to offset rising online customer acquisition costs and improve last-mile fulfillment

While traditional offline retailers like Central in Thailand and Matahari in Indonesia scrambled to move business online, online pure-play ecommerce is expected to make moves offline.

With online customer acquisition channels like Google and Facebook rapidly reaching saturation and diminishing returns, ecommerce players like Pomelo and Lazada will look to offline channels to reach new customers.

Pomelo dabbled in offline over the last few years but, fresh off a $19M Series B, recently launched its biggest pop-up to date in Siam Square, the fashion center of Bangkok. The store applies “click-and-collect”, enabling customers to order online and try items in store before deciding which ones to keep or return.

Image source: Pomelo

“In fashion, the number one barrier to purchase is still the need to try product on for fit coupled with the hassle of returns. An offline footprint addresses this barrier head on. Additionally customers can be acquired offline and data from online can be used to drive higher sales and greater operational efficiencies offline. In short, a mix of offline and online is the optimal strategy for fashion retail going forward.” — David Jou, Co-Founder and CEO, Pomelo Fashion

Love Bonito, another online-first fashion brand from Singapore, officially launched its permanent flagship store at Orchard Road after seven years of being an ecommerce pure-play.

Image source: Love Bonito

Lazada, on the other hand, may follow Alibaba’s moves in China where the ecommerce juggernaut launched Hema supermarkets in Beijing and Shanghai. In addition to reinforcing a positive brand experience and customer acquisition, these new offline stores serve as fulfillment centers, effectively making up for Southeast Asia’s lack of logistics infrastructure.

Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets in China. Image source: Quartz

Lazada Group CEO Max Bittner already hinted at the possibility physical stores in Indonesia at a conference earlier this year.

Over the last decade in China, Alibaba rode 50%+ year-on-year ecommerce growth to become what it is today, however, as maturation slows, Alibaba has doubled-down on initiatives like Single’s Day (11.11), “New Retail” (smart pop-up stores around China), and market expansion to accelerate sales (Southeast Asia).

Despite the region being projected as the next big ecommerce growth story, online accounts for only 1-2% of total retail today. If companies like Lazada and Shopee want to grow faster than the market allows, going offline will be the obvious choice.

4. New ecommerce startups will use ICOs to raise funding to battle giants

With Southeast Asia increasingly being carved up by giants such as Alibaba and Tencent in a presumed winner-takes-all-market, smaller ecommerce startups will look at alternative ways to finance themselves.

Enter newly hyped Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

Raising funds through these means in Southeast Asia was pioneered by Omise, a fintech startup based in Thailand, that successfully raised $25M in a few hours to develop a decentralized payment system.

Given early speculation of Amazon moving into the cryptocurrency space, we’ll have fertile ground for our first Southeast Asian ecommerce ICO. Already a start up called HAMSTER is selling HMT tokens to develop a decentralized marketplace that promises “no fees, no brokers”.

Revolutionary ecommerce platform funded by ICOs or ponzi scheme?

Expect ecommerce startups to use ICOs to fund customer acquisition, new product development, and inventory financing. That is, until the bubble bursts

5. A final wave of ecommerce consolidation sweeps through as local players adjust to a New World Order

We’ve shared numerous stories of casualties and consolidation during the Southeast Asian ecommerce bloodbath in our previous annual predictions.

Japan’s Rakuten sold off most of its assets in the region when it retreated in 2015/2016. Rocket Internet dumped Zalora Thailand and Vietnam in a fire sale in 2016 and sold its Phillipines entity to local conglomerate Ayala Group the year after.

In Thailand, Ascend Group put its assets WeLoveShopping and WeMall on life support to focus on fintech.

In Indonesia, reports surfaced of SK Planet selling its Elevenia shares to Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group, which was quickly followed by news of its Malaysian entity up for bid between Alibaba and JD.

Earlier in the year, Indonesia’s second largest telco Indosat Ooredoo shut down its ecommerce website Cipika. Alfamart, Indonesia’s second largest convenience store chain also had to downsize operations to pivot its ecommerce initiative Alfacart away from a general marketplace play towards an online grocery channel.

Come 2018, all eyes will be on the health of remaining bastions of home-grown, horizontal ecommerce plays. As Alibaba and Tencent up the ante, there will definitely be more casualties in the new year.

6. Go-Pay will venture outside of Indonesia through Sea, Traveloka and JD to become the WeChat Pay of Southeast Asia

Indonesia’s ecommerce today is like what China was in 2008 — the pace of change is unimaginable. When I visited our office in Jakarta 12 months ago, hardly anyone was using Go-Jek’s mobile payment platform and wallet, Go-Pay.

Returning six months later, almost all of my colleagues used Go-Pay to transfer money peer-to-peer and pay for products and services.

In most of emerging Southeast Asia (excl. Singapore and Malaysia), credit card penetration rates are in low single digits and most people don’t even have a bank account.

Source: Global Findex, World Bank

Unfortunately, few fintech and payment startups in the region have created products to address the lack of credit cards and large unbanked population. Instead, the majority happily build payment gateways and e-wallets that rely on existing and legacy credit card infrastructure like in the US (Apple Pay anyone?).

It’s no wonder cash-on-delivery (COD) still makes up over 70% of all processed transactions according to data by ecommerceIQ.

Those that do focus on mobile wallets topped up with cash like Thailand’s True Money struggle to achieve sustainable “core product value” and reach mass.

“Community, Commerce, and Payments are inter-connected in the Digital World. Thus far, all successful mobile payment plays, globally, are centered on the commerce and community axis. PayPal started with eBay, Alipay with Alibaba/TMall/Taobao, WeChat Pay leveraged WeChat/QQ, and Amazon Pay has Amazon. Due to this very reason, standalone payments/wallet business will struggle.” — Gaurav Sharma, Founder at Atlantis Capital

Go-Pay addresses these fundamental issues by allowing users to send payments peer-to-peer (P2P) and top up by giving cash to Go-Jek drivers who act like mobile ATM machines.

Top up your Go Pay mobile wallet by handing cash to a Go-Jek driver

More importantly, with Go-Jek being part of the Tencent faction, we expect the company to push Go-Pay into other Southeast Asian countries through its community and commerce platforms such as Sea (Garena, Shopee, etc.), Traveloka and JD.

Following rumors in November, Go-Jek finally announced its acquisition of Kartuku, Mapan and Midtrans. The latter, being one of Indonesia’s top online payment gateways, will give Go-Pay additional distribution channels and use cases such as Matahari Mall, Tokopedia and Garuda Indonesia, pushing it beyond the realm of P2P into B2C payments.

A strong contender for the “WeChat of Southeast Asia” is Grab, whose 2.5 million daily rides makes it the largest ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia. GrabPay, launched this year, is Grab’s effort to move Singapore towards a cashless society, with plans to expand across the region in 2018.

Should Go-Jek be worried? Not really.

Singapore is not the ideal test-bed to launch a mobile wallet because the country already has an ubiquitous cashless payment platform called “credit cards”. And GrabPay’s recent partnership in Indonesia with Lippo Group’s Ovo hasn’t garnered much attention or presented wide use cases.

“While it might seem like common wisdom to first test (an idea) in Singapore, and then take it regionally and to the world, with all due respect to the government, I think it doesn’t make sense in today’s world.” — Min-Liang Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of Razer

Go-Pay, on the other hand, is adding value to users in a country where only 36% have bank accounts and 2% have credit cards. Emerging markets like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have a similar (lack of) financial infrastructure as Indonesia.

Go-Jek, by being part of the Tencent faction, has access to a much more diversified distribution channel and offers a variety of common day-to-day use cases such as gaming (Garena), shopping (Sea, JD), travel (Traveloka) and pretty much everything else (Go-Jek itself).

7. New mobile-first fashion and beauty marketplaces will fill void left by Zalora

Zalora, Rocket Internet’s once star fashion ecommerce venture, has struggled in Southeast Asia since launching in 2012. Zalora Thailand and Vietnam were picked up by Thai retail conglomerate Central Group for pennies on the dollar while the Philippines entity was partially sold off to the Ayala real estate group.

There were even rumors of Zalora Indonesia exiting to local retailer MAP, which were swiftly denied.

A few factors contributed to the company’s difficulties: 1. Price and product variety competition with merchants selling on Facebook, Instagram and LINE, 2. Control of brands by one or two retail conglomerates like Central in Thailand, MAP in Indonesia, and SSI Group in the Philippines.

These two factors made it difficult for Zalora to pivot to an ASOS-style premium brand marketplace.

A shell of its former self, Zalora’s challenges left a void that is increasingly being filled by more nimble, mobile-first fashion marketplaces that see an opportunity in a space dominated by mass-market, general ecommerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee.

As evident from Amazon’s struggle to court premium fashion brands in the US, luxury brands don’t like to sell on mass platforms, where merchandise shows up beside detergent and washing machines.

“After purchasing Whole Foods, Amazon now has access to the wealthiest refrigerators in the country but they still can’t get into our closets because the aspirational beauty and fashion brands don’t want to distribute on their platform. Why? Because they don’t have their heads up their ass and realize that Amazon partners with brands the way a virus partners with its host.” — Scott Galloway, L2 Founder and NYU Stern Professor

Over in China, both Tmall and JD had to exert a Herculean effort to attract fashion brands. In October, JD launched TopLife, a standalone online luxury platform to provide a high-end experience that high-end brands promise. Alibaba also launched Luxury Pavilion, a section within Tmall tailored to luxury brands like Burberry and Hugo Boss.

Spearheading a new wave of mobile-centric Southeast Asian fashion marketplaces are Zilingo, fresh off an $18M Series B, and Goxip, a Hong Kong based startup that recently completed a $5M Series A with plans to enter Thailand. In Indonesia, there’s LYKE, ironically founded by the ex-Zalora CMO.

With the benefits of hindsight and understanding of the importance of social commerce on driving fashion, these emerging players will offer elements like chat, content and an influencer network to offset some of the customer acquisition cost challenges inherent in scaling ecommerce.

8. Marketplaces will grow up and clean up ‘grey market’ for blue-chip and luxury brands

Over the last six years, most of the region’s initial ecommerce growth was focused on driving GMV by tapping into any merchant and brand willing to sell online.

In 2018, marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee will continue to attempt to onboard bigger global brands but their success will require them to control grey market sellers and counterfeit goods in order to cultivate an environment in which blue-chip brands will feel comfortable selling.

Alibaba went through the same process in China when discussions surrounding counterfeits and grey market goods on Tmall and Taobao peaked around the company’s IPO in 2014.

Based on data provided by marketplace analytics platform BrandIQ, 80% of SKUs from consumer product giants like Unilever, Samsung, and L’Oreal on average are sold by unauthorized, grey market resellers. These grey market SKUs are sold at a price 30% lower than official flagship stores and authorized resellers.

Why all the fuss? Because grey market sales impact the image of brands selling in official stores.

“Lately, the explosion of third-party sellers on the site has led to authentic goods from companies such as Nike, Chanel, The North Face, Patagonia and Urban Decay being sold on Amazon even though they don’t authorize the sales, undercutting their grip on pricing and distribution,” said the Wall Street Journal.

Nike, for example, refused to sell directly to Amazon for a long time, fearing it would undermine its brand. But by not selling on marketplace creates space that will be quickly filled by grey market, unauthorized third-party resellers looking for arbitrage opportunities as seen from the previous BrandIQ data.

Customers buying from these grey market resellers perceive this as buying from the brand itself and, when having a poor customer experience, end up blaming the brand rather than the unauthorized reseller.

BrandIQ data shows that the average rating for grey market SKUs are 24% lower than reviews for similar products sold through the official shop-in-shop or flagship store.

We’ll see a push from the marketplace and brands to address grey market sales in Southeast Asia in 2018. Marketplaces will employ a tighter grip on third-party resellers in order to attract better brands, while brands will set up an official presence on marketplaces as a way to pro-actively manage the customer experience and brand image.

9. Marketplaces and e-tailers will introduce its own private label products and alienate brands

As the ecommerce market in Southeast Asia matures and consolidates, marketplaces, e-tailers and ecommerce startups will be increasingly scrutinized for margin growth. Gone are the days of aggressive top line growth and market share grabs at all cost.

With Lazada post-Alibaba acquisition and Shopee post-IPO (as part of Sea), what other value-added services will these companies tap into for sustainable revenue growth?

In this instance, companies in Southeast Asia have taken a cue from the China playbook. Lazada launched a Lazada Marketing Solutions unit to monetize its 23M active annual customers through advertising similar to how Tmall and Taobao charge for ads in China.

Today, Lazada offers display ads and programmatic promoted product ads to its customers but is expected to launch pay-per-click search ads in 2018 competing with Google, Facebook and similar networks out there. Across the region, Shopee has already launched pay-per-click search ads.

Beyond advertising, we can expect more marketplaces and e-tailers to follow Amazon’s foray into private label brands to boost margins. With the data collected from selling third-party brands, these ecommerce platforms know exactly what kind of products sell best, to whom, at what time and where.

Flipkart, one of India’s top marketplaces competing with Amazon, recently announced its aim for 20-22% sales contribution from private labels in the next five years.

“When we first decided to foray into private labels in mid-2016, a ‘Tiger Team,’ for private labels was created internally to research 50-odd retailers around the world, including Europe, the US, China and India, to envisage what the private label landscape would look like for Flipkart over the next few years. Research revealed that private labels can contribute 10-20 percent of the company’s business. For instance, US-based Costco Wholesale’s private label brand Kirkland contributes 20-25 percent of its business,” said Adarsh Menon, Flipkart’s Head of Private Labels in an interview with The Hindu.

Launching private label brands in Southeast Asia isn’t something new. Zalora launched its own fashion label called EZRA as early as 2013 followed by Lazada’s LZD Premium Collection in 2014. With the focus on top line growth in the period of 2013-2016, private label brands have taken a backseat as seen from the limited number of them listed today on Zalora and Lazada.

Althea, a Korean beauty e-retailer that recently raised a $7M Series B, specifically said to be using the new funds to launch more private label products.

Althea private label product sold on their website

“Based on the vast amount of user data that we have gathered… we are now able to understand the specific needs of our customers in each market, garner feedback almost instantly through our online platforms, and quickly turn that into a product within a month or two,” said Althea Co-Founder and CEO Frank Kang. “We have deep insights into our customer base that traditional brands simply cannot match.”

In light of all this, it’s not surprising Zalora has expressed renewed interest in pushing its own private labels, “Something Borrowed” and “Zalora”, for the new year.

10. B2B ecommerce to disrupt offline distributors, blurring lines between online and offline distribution

Despite the rosy outlook for ecommerce in Southeast Asia, the reality is that B2C ecommerce today is still in the low single digit percentages. Given aggressive growth targets, brands, marketplaces and e-tailers will increasingly look toward non-B2C channels such as B2B and B2E (Business-to-Employee) channels for revenue.

Zilingo, the Sequoia-backed fashion marketplace, launched its Zilingo Asia Mall B2B marketplace to allow fashion buyers in the US and Europe buy Zilingo merchandise at wholesale prices, effectively creating an “Alibaba” for fashion.

Shopee launched a wholesale feature earlier this year, allowing merchants to set lower unit prices for larger order quantities.

 

Shopee Malaysia offering wholesale feature

aCommerce, Southeast Asia’s ecommerce enabler and e-distributor, fresh off a $65M Series B from KKR-backed Emerald Media, coined a new term for all this — “B2A” or Business-to-All.

The company is behind the B2B and B2E initiatives for brands like Samsung and L’Oreal. According to the company, B2B ecommerce now contributes to 30% of total revenues at aCommerce, up from 10% a year earlier (disclaimer, I work here).

Written by: Sheji Ho, aCommerce Group Chief Marketing Officer

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Thailand has been one of the countries that continues to reduce its dependency with cash. The government has been keen on driving the country towards a cashless society, from launching nationwide e-payment scheme PromptPay to recently announcing a campaign that offers a reward up to 1 million THB ($29,463) for users who adopt cashless transactions.

It may seem like a lot of money to reward people to try more convenient methods of payment but the Thai Bankers’ Association predicted that commercial banks could save $2.18 billion in the next 10 years with a digital payments system as the cost of transportation and insurance that came with the use of cash transactions lowered.

Market value for digital transactions is also expected to reach $23 billion in 2021, up from $11 billion this year so it’s no wonder fintech has become so popular.

A company that was an early adopter and saw Thailand’s potential for digital payments is AirPay, the pre-payments platform by Garena (now Sea), Southeast Asia’s most valuable internet company to date.

Serving the unbanked one internet cafe at a time

AirPay was initially launched in 2014 as an e-wallet to facilitate online transactions for users of Garena’s gaming service and since been downloaded 3.2 million times.

As one of the biggest market for Garena in the region, Thailand was chosen as the product’s launch pad. AirPay Thailand’s Country Product Manager, Supphavit Hongamornsin, shares another reason with eIQ.

“Compared to the other markets in emerging Southeast Asia, we find that Thai people are more open to trying new forms of payment,” said Hongamornsin.

To ensure AirPay was user friendly for the roughly 18.3 million gamers in Thailand – where 26% of are below the age of 20 and have low bank account ownership – the company ended up creating two platforms to complement one another, AirPay Counter and the AirPay app.

AirPay digital payments

Thai gamer demographic shows a population of digitally savvy young people. Source: Newzoo

“An app was created because urban millennials with digital nativity are used to completing all types of transactions directly through their phones,” explained Hongamornsin.

The AirPay Counter, on the other hand, is a more traditional payments option that allow users to top up their AirPay e-wallet through cash payment at an internet cafe, convenience store or regular  mom and pop shop.

“We started the counter service at internet cafes because of their wide network and familiarity – there are around 40,000 of them in Thailand,” said Hongamornsin. “They’ve been highly helpful for residents in rural regions without access to smartphones or bank accounts.”

To date, AirPay has around 100,000 AirPay Counters nationwide in every sub-district of Thailand and partnered with local chain stores like Supercheap and IT Shops like IT City to expand its reach.

“Only 10% of our counters are actually in Bangkok,” said Hongamornsin.

AirPay digital payments

Internet cafe with AirPay Counter facility

Supporting the country’s cashless agenda

Since its inception in 2014, AirPay has evolved from simply facilitating online transactions for the Garena gaming community to providing a wider range of payment services for both physical and digital goods including utility bills, phone credit, movie tickets, and ecommerce.

Hongamornsin said AirPay wants to empower people, especially the younger generation, through better financial capabilities and provide a solution to siloed bank accounts.  

“Right now, there is actually very little that you can do with your bank account. In Thailand, for example, not all debit cards can be used for online payments.”

To combat this, one of the new services provided in the AirPay app is a virtual prepaid card called AirPay Card in partnership with MasterCard.

AirPay digital payments

Setting up an AirPay Card in the AirPay App

“There’s a large population in Thailand that’s still underserved by traditional financial services and unable to complete online transactions. With the AirPay Card, customers can purchase from any merchant in the world that accepts MasterCard,” comments Hongamornsin.

AirPay’s foreseeable future

In 2016, AirPay reported an annualized gross transaction value of $510 million. Although gaming services contributed heavily to the company’s revenue, AirPay is expecting the tide to shift to ecommerce with a goal of one million AirPay Card owners in Thailand by the end of this year.

Hongamornsin, however, admits that there’s still a long way to go before the country can achieve a “majorly cashless” status.

“I think it would take at least five years for Thailand to reach this milestone [80% cashless],” said Hongamornsin.

And unlike Shopee and Garena that have made their marks at a regional level, AirPay’s story is still pretty localized to Thailand.

In other countries like Indonesia and Vietnam where AirPay is present, Hongamornsin says the population is much more underdeveloped when it comes to digital payments creating new challenges.

These markets have complex banking landscapes that make it difficult for AirPay to integrate.

“In Vietnam, there are more than 50 small banks used by the population. Compared to Thailand’s roughly 20 banks, we still need to understand how to connect them all through AirPay.”

“Expansion to another country is definitely in the pipeline, but we want to make sure we are strong in our existing markets first,” said Hongamornsin.

With the pace that fintech is growing in Thailand thanks to the efforts by companies like AirPay, it won’t be long before the millennial becomes well accustomed to plastic over paper.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Instagram’s direct-response Story ads are available for self-serve buys

Ads within Instagram’s Stories feed can prompt people to swipe up to visit a brand’s site or install its mobile app.

Instagram has officially started selling ads that can appear within people’s Stories feed and link to a brand’s site or app-install page in Apple’s or Google’s app stores.

Coinciding with the rollout of swipeable ads in the Stories feed — which is viewed by more than 200 million people daily — Instagram now lets advertisers set objectives for these ads, like whether a brand wants people to view the video, visit a website, install an app or complete a specified conversion event, for example, adding a product to a shopping cart on a brand’s ecommerce site.

The direct-response ads aren’t much different from the version that Instagram added to Stories in January. Brands can feature a single vertical photo or a vertical video that’s up to 15 seconds long as their ad, and they can target the ads using Facebook’s standard ad-targeting options, like people’s age, gender, location, interests and purchase history.

This could be very effective in Southeast Asia, considering how popular social commerce is in the region.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Is Walmart’s new last-mile delivery program brilliant?

Walmart announced earlier this month that it was testing a new delivery method — one that has store associates making deliveries on their way home from work.

While the program is currently being tested at three stores — two in New Jersey and one in Arkansas — the system is an example of how multichannel merchants can further leverage their installed store base to compete with Amazon, its network of distribution centers, and a growing fleet of delivery options.

At a time when so many retailers have been closing their physical presence, this type of out-of-the box thinking needs to happen more with retailers. This empowers employees to make a difference that can count in supporting the company and their important roles. What else are retail experts saying?

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Why would Sea do its IPO in New York?

Sea Ltd, Southeast Asia’s most valuable start-up, is prepping for a US$1 billion initial public offering in the United States, a move that would be a major pivot for Southeast Asia’s rapidly expanding tech industry.

“For Southeast Asian tech firms, an overseas listing of this purported scale brings increased investor confidence in the region,” said Adrian Lee, research director at advisory and research firm Gartner.

The downside, however, is that a high-profile IPO such as Sea’s could “create pressure to satisfy overseas shareholders and dilute the focus on building up the core business in Southeast Asia”, Gartner’s Lee said.

Analysts and industry players argue that a listing in the US is the right strategy for Sea as bourses like Nasdaq are considered the best reference for technology IPOs.

“There is no better place to raise the kind of financing Sea requires than New York City, and that’s the simple truth,” said Justin Hall, principal at Southeast Asia-focused VC firm Golden Gate Ventures.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. Recommended Reading: The rise and fall and rise of beauty subscription boxes

With every Tom, Dick and, yes, Trump getting into the subscription box business, packaging and mailing curated goods to people on a monthly or quarterly basis sure seems like the big thing to do — which is surprising, considering that for a while there, the signs were pointing to the category reaching busting-bubble status, at least in the beauty industry.

Thanks to a few course-correcting changes, Birchbox managed to make some tweaks to offset its dip in new subscribers by modifying the brand’s loyalty program, focusing on Ecommerce sales, renegotiating contracts with some vendors to get shipping and printing costs down and reducing operating expenses.

“We had to shift gears quickly because we needed to prioritize profitability and take control, that was a great opportunity for us to press reset, dial a lot of things back,” says Katia Beauchamp, the company’s CEO.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Sea (formerly Garena) files for $1 billion IPO

Sea Ltd., Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup, has filed confidentially for a potential U.S. initial public offering that could raise about $1 billion.

Sea is considering listing in early 2018, though no final decisions have been made

The company, founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Forrest Li, began as an online gaming portal and has since branched out to add mobile shopping and payment services. A $1 billion deal would be the largest technology IPO out of Southeast Asia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Any overseas listing of Sea would be a blow for Singapore, which has been trying to woo local startups to sell shares at home as it seeks to build a regional hub for fast-growing, innovative companies.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Philippine blockchain startup Coins tops up series A with another $5m

Blockchain-powered fintech startup Coins announced today it has raised an extra US$5 million for its series A, which it first raised last October.

The funding is led by Naspers Ventures, the investment arm of South African tech and internet conglomerate Naspers.

Headquartered in Manila, Coins uses blockchain technology to enable financial services like money remittances, bill payments, and mobile credit top-up for its users, whether they have a bank account or not.

The unbanked – people who don’t have access to traditional banking services – are a big part of the company’s mission. The startup’s technology helps them access a range of those services through just a mobile phone. Users can top up their e-wallet easily at physical outlets that partner with Coins and thereafter use it for online transactions.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: Report: ‘Ultra-fast’ fashion players gain on Zara, H&M

Now, in a challenge to those fast-fashion stalwarts, many smaller apparel brands have sped up the design-to-sale process even more, turning fast fashion into “ultra-fast fashion,”

Boohoo.com, ASOS and Missguided can produce merchandise in two to four weeks, compared to five weeks for Zara and H&M and the six- to nine-month cycle for traditional retailers.

“Customers want it now,”said Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting. “There’s an emotional immediacy attached to that.”

Now lower-priced retailers like Boohoo and ASOS, which have strong (if not pure-play) ecommerce operations, are now challenging even the fast-fashion old-timers, according to Fung Global.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Cyber attack ‘WannaCry worm’ spurs concern for critical infrastructure

A Thai cybersecurity expert has urged all Window-based computer users to update their software to defend against the latest global cyberattack, which has already hit more than 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries.

“We should be vigilant and well-|disciplined in protecting the country’s critical infrastructure such as ATMs, airports, hospitals, telecoms, mass |transit, etc, from cyberattacks,” said Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Thailand’s critical infrastructure was vulnerable, according Prinya Homanek, president and founder of ACIS Professional Centre and Cybertron, adding that while the risk was low, the impact would be high and widespread if critical infrastructure is hit.

This morning, it was reported that a game by Garena Thailand has been shut down as a result of the cyber attack.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Coke is hurting from the switch to online shopping

Consumers are increasingly shopping online, spending more time on mobile apps, and getting groceries delivered to their homes. And that’s hitting Coca-Cola in ways you might not expect.

As its sales slip, Coca-Cola has seen its stock decline 4.9 percent in the past year. That compares with a 15 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Fewer trips to the mall means that fewer people are buying cokes in the US

The shops themselves weren’t the problem, as they were still selling large quantities of food, but more customers were ordering online and having their meals delivered. The problem for Coca-Cola: The restaurants offered glass bottles and sizes that weren’t suited to being transported via scooter.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Indonesian P2P lending platform Taralite raises $6.3 million

Jakarta-based P2P lending platform Taralite today announced that it has a raised a funding round from Japanese fintech conglomerate SBI Group.

According to a press statement, the valuation of the round was undisclosed, but the total commitment is $6.3 million, “including funds for Taralite’s lending services.”

Taralite plans to use the funding to build a “world class” R&D team that would build algorithm for its future plan to be a one stop shop.

The company focuses on providing working capital for small businesses that operate online. To achieve this, it partners with various online marketplaces and booking platform such as Tokopedia and Lazada. Taralite offers swift application processes and affordable loans starting from 0.99 per cent per month.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. Recommended Reading: In cashless Sweden, even God now takes collection via an app

A growing number of Swedish parishes have started taking donations via mobile apps. Uppsala’s 13th-century cathedral also accepts credit cards.

The churches’ drive to keep up with the times is the latest sign of Sweden’s rapid shift to a world without notes and coins. Most of the country’s bank branches have stopped handling cash; some shops and museums now only accept plastic.

Swedes’ aversion to cash is increasingly showing up in money supply data. According to Statistics Sweden, notes and coins in public circulation dropped to an average of 56.8 billion kronor ($6.4 billion) in the first quarter of this year.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Garena rebrands as ‘Sea’ after raising $550 million in funding

Garena has rebranded as Sea Ltd. after Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup secured $550 million in funds to step up a battle with Alibaba for Indonesia.

The eight-year-old startup backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. landed a clutch of new investors in its latest funding round, including Cathay Financial and GDP Venture.

The shopping and online games company is staking out a spot as competition in Southeast Asian ecommerce intensifies, particularly in the largely untapped market of Indonesia. Sea will use the majority of the new funds to expand Shopee in Indonesia. The online marketplace’s annualized gross merchandise value has more than doubled in the past nine months to more than $3 billion, according to the company.

The company’s new name is an acronym for Southeast Asia. Its businesses include the online games brand Garena, ecommerce operator Shopee and digital payments service AirPay.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Singapore fintech startup MatchMove partners Bonfleet to help drivers go cashless

Singapore-based e-payment startup MatchMove has announced a partnership with India-based Bonfleet. This deal will allow Bonfleet to integrate MatchMove’s e-wallet solution into its platform.

Drivers using Bonfleet will then be able to use its app and ‘Bon Petro Card’ to pay for fuel, tolls, and other fleet expenses across India.

Launched in 2016, Bonfleet provides a cashless fleet expense management app with pre-paid cards that drivers can use in petrol stations India.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: Why are Goop and Airbnb teaming up with Condé Nast and Hearst?

In essence, both Goop and Airbnb are betting that they will benefit from plugging into the established architecture of legacy publishers, whose vast distribution networks can offer exposure to new audiences.

Goop is looking for ways to scale through brand extensions in physical retail, conferences and private-label products. Print is just another channel for this strategy.

And while both Goop and Airbnb are creating plenty of their own content, Condé Nast and Hearst can, no doubt, offer deeper editorial expertise, where Airbnb, in particular, is less experienced.

The short-stay rental marketplace has shaken the traditional hotel industry to its core, but needs to better communicate the experiential and lifestyle elements of its offering.

But will anyone really profit financially from these new partnerships? It’s doubtful. Details of Goop’s deal with Condé Nast were not disclosed, but as a special-interest publication, it is likely that Goop’s new title will come with a higher price than Airbnbmag as well as a selection of high-end advertisers.

Read the rest of the story here.