Check here for yesterday’s biggest ecommerce headlines. We’re sorry this was slightly delayed, due to our website being under maintenance.

1. Rocket Internet aims for profitability in 2017 for its key startups

Sales rose at clothing retailer Global Fashion Group, food-delivery startup Foodpanda and home-furnishing business Westwing.  Read the rest of the story here.


2. Southeast Asia is stage for Taiwan online service providers

For Taiwan-based online e-commerce, shopping or gaming service operators, Southeast Asia countries afford relatively good opportunities for extending business operations from the domestic market to overseas. Read the rest  of the story here.


3. Southeast Asian businesses urged to use Hong Kong as export hub

The HKTDC will come to Thailand  to promote Hong Kong as a gateway into China and other parts of the world. Hong Kong can offer a good logistics infrastructure, as well as business solutions and e-commerce.Read the rest of the story here


4. Masii co founder: “Thai people are smarter than the websites out there”

The startup has launched an online financial products comparison platform that offers credit cards, car insurance, hotel cards, and personal loans. Read the rest of the story here.


5. Pomona considers itself the Pokémon Go of shopping

The Jakarta based startup helps bricks-and-mortar stores drive foot-traffic and increase in-store engagement. Read the rest of the story here.

Alibaba’s Ant Financial and Tencent have won digital wallet licenses in Hong Kong, reports Bloomberg.

This is considered a big and significant step in the two internet giants’ overseas expansion beyond their bases in China. The license helps the companies bounce back from an earlier setback to their growing payments businesses.

China’s central bank in July banned people who didn’t own a mainland bank card from storing money in Ant Financial’s Alipay or Tencent’s WeChat Pay accounts, depriving them of a large potential customer base of overseas Chinese. However, Hong Kong authority has now granted approval for users in the city to store money in digital wallets.

Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, which is trying to expand globally from India to Germany, is using Hong Kong as a test lab before building an overseas presence.

Credit card penetration is high in Hong Kong but people are wary of using plastic while shopping online because of safety concerns. Apart from cards, Hong Kong shoppers previously could buy pre-paid Alipay cards from convenience stores, convert their cash into yuan, then deposit in Chinese online accounts.

Digital wallets should be able to cement a place into Hong Kong shoppers’ lifestyles and purchasing habits, due to the general accelerated lifestyle of residents there.

A version of this appeared in Bloomberg on August 25. Read the full version here

Kickstarter, the world’s most famous crowdfunding platform is making its first entry in Asia through Singapore and Hong Kong, reports Tech In Asia.

“There’s already a large, supportive community of Kickstarter backers in Singapore and Hong Kong — people who have been supporting the creative ideas of others for years,” says Julie Wood, director of global communications for Kickstarter.

It’s true that Singaporeans are already passionate about the platform.

The campaign for the Pebble 2 smartwatch set, which netted a massive $12.8 million, had almost 2,300 backers from Singapore.

Every Singaporean project to date has had to clear some serious hurdles to make it onto the platform. Kickstarter is currently available to project creators in 18 markets, including the US and the UK, Australia, and scattered European countries.

This means that companies from Singapore previously needed at least a legal presence, bank account, and credit card in one of those countries and raise funds in those specific currencies.

Challenges for Kickstarter in Asia

It is difficult to get on the platform. For a company outside of the Kickstarter countries, one would have to set up an entity in the UK, for example, deal with tax regulations and find a local representative. Not having to deal with these additional burdens could be good for local companies, as is the opportunity to raise funds in their own currency.

An important fact about Kickstarter is the fact that most people are concerned with joining it. But there should be more information regarding community building and education, rather than just access.

Many global companies have used Singapore as an eventual gateway into other Asian countries. However, no official statement has been announced regarding Kickstarter’s expansion plans. A regional expansion would mean that more projects would be funded locally, without having to deal with regulations from the other side of the world.

A version of this appeared in Tech In Asia on July 28. Read the full version here. 

IBM launches its first blockchain innovation center


IBM plans to open a blockchain innovation center in Singapore in collaboration with the Singaporean government to digitalize the trade and finance sectors, reports ZDNet. The centre will develop applications and solutions based on blockchain, cybersecurity, and cognitive computing technologies and also engage with small to medium enterprises to create new applications and grow new markets in finance and trade.

The blockchain can translate to strong benefits throughout our entire finance ecosystem including the boosting of local tech capabilities.

As Singapore aims to become Asia’s main financial technology hub, IBM’s initiative perfectly aligns with the government’s goal. The tech company will be working with the main economic planning agency, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to accelerate blockchain adoption for finance and trade.

One project, together with PSA International—one of the world’s largest container transshipment ports owned by state investor Temasek Holdings—aims to connect fintech with global trade and logistics.

Singapore is rushing to reinvent itself as Asia’s fintech hub to fend off a regulatory threat to its wealth management industry and revive a sluggish economy.

Singapore is now ahead of its long time rival, Hong Kong, but measures to cut the number of foreign workers and regulations have created a risk averse culture which is at odds with the trial and error approach of fintech startups. This remains a key obstacle in developing this sector in Singapore.

The opening of the new blockchain center will build on IBM’s work with the Linux Foundation Hyperledger Platform. At the end of 2015, IBM was among one of the tech companies to partner with the Linux Foundation to develop an enterprise grade, open-source distributed framework. This aligns with the foundation’s belief that this standard of innovation can transform the way business transactions are conducted across the world.

A version of this appeared in ZDNet on July 12. Read the full version here.

reduce foreign exchange fee

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A new service proposed by OFX, one of the world’s largest international payments businesses, will enable merchants to reduce the foreign exchange fee faced when selling on international marketplaces by 6-fold according to Forbes. The service is already running in Hong Kong and will soon be launched in Singapore and China.

One of the complexities to manage when selling across international borders is currency exchange. As a merchant, it can be a real punch in the gut when you lose money in forex and on top of that, have to pay 3-4% fees to marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to convert money back into your home currency. “Given how slim online retail margins are, this is a big deal,” says Richard Kimber, CEO of OFX.

To alleviate the pain of paying such fees to marketplaces, OFX, one of the world’s largest international payments businesses has launched a new service called OFX for Online Sellers.  Jeff Parker, Chief Enterprise Officer for OFX comments,

Exchange rates and associated fees can mean the difference between growth and stagnation for emerging merchants

When you’re ready to move the money back into your local Hong Kong account, you only pay 0.5% commissions to OFX rather than 3-4% to Amazon. There is no charge to open an online seller account and no account keeping fees. By collecting money in domestically held accounts via OFX for Online Sellers, OFX is allowing merchants to save up to 60% in exchange rates.

The service to reduce foreign exchange fees currently works for merchants who sell to or from North America, UK, Europe, Hong Kong and Australia. It will soon add Singapore and China to the list. Right now, the site is only in English but will offer multiple languages later down the road.

Parker concludes: “We’re providing the means for merchants to reach new customers across country borders.”

A version of this appeared in Forbes on July 6. Read the full article here

Indonesia’s logistics costs are 24% of GDP, currently the highest in the region. The country’s logistics performance index (LPI) also lags behind its neighboring countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and even Vietnam, according to World Bank but Hong Kong-based digital logistics startup OpenPort is attempting to lower Indonesia’s logistics cost via technology.

The platform enables clients to track the entire distribution process – claiming to cut companies’ logistics costs by up to 30% by cutting out the middleman. Connecting shippers and carriers via OpenPort’s digital platform will also replace the inefficient paper-based process, decreasing the time it takes carriers to receive payment from three months to one month. Their cloud-based digital logistics platform will allow the supply chain to be managed entirely in house, solving headaches for many logistics companies in the archipelago.

“With more than 17,000 islands scattered across the country, Indonesia needs to make its logistics and supply chain management system more transparent and more efficient, and it is impossible to do so without deploying technology and systems that can seamlessly monitor processes and cut out inefficiency wherever possible.” said its chief executive officer, Max Ward.

The Indonesian Logistics and Forwarder Association (ILFA) has highlighted that the republic can unlock a potential US$250-billion worth of value in the logistics market if it could make the sector more transparent and cut out hidden costs.

The startup plans to expand its operations in Indonesia to Surabaya where the major Perak Port is located.

A version of this appeared in Digital News Asia on June 14. To read the full article, click here.