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Here’s what you know today.

1. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods isn’t just about groceries

Amazon will buy Whole Foods for more than $13 billion.

The Whole Foods purchase changes the landscape dramatically. Suddenly Amazon owns a nationwide network of already-popular grocery stores that have already solved the tricky logistical problems involved in sourcing and storing fresh food.

What Amazon brings is the world’s largest online sales portal and its mastery of the home-delivery business. Scale, meet scale. Logistics, meet logistics. Loyal customer base, meet loyal customer base.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Malaysian fintech startup, Mycash Online reaches equity crowdfunding goal in a day

The app serves foreign workers in Malaysia, letting them reload phone credit, pay bills, buy bus tickets, and more. It says it plans to expand into innovative remittances and banking services but is still seeking regulatory approval for those.

MyCash’s campaign went live at the beginning of June and was fully taken up the next day with a total of US$300,000 raised, according to a statement by Cradle. That’s the Malaysian government-backed fund which was the lead investor in the round.

MyCash says it’s the first fintech firm to successfully raise funds through equity crowdfunding in Malaysia.

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2. Indonesian P2P lending site Investree to enter Vietnam, launches sharia-based service

The Jakarta-based startup said it is currently undergoing the process of setting up a joint venture with an undisclosed local financial institution.

“So we will act as a platform provider, while our local partner will be the player as they are the one who understands the market most. This is exciting as we were able to get a lot of insight, as well as data, on Vietnam,” said Investree CEO and Co-Founder Adrian Gunadi.

“We are going to test the market’s response by giving products, pricing, access, and structure that are similar to [sharia-based services] in conventional banks,” Gunadi said.

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3. Wal-Mart might actually beat Amazon’s sales growth

Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s online sales is likely to grow double than Amazon.com Inc during the back-to-school season, helped by the Jet.com acquisition and competitive price offerings, industry research body NPD said.

An aggressive pricing and marketing strategy, coupled with the fact that Amazon’s business has reached maturity in back-to-school sales, will see Wal-Mart winning the online retail tussle this back-to-school season, NPD chief analyst Marshal Cohen told Reuters.

Cohen said he expects Wal-Mart to grow its online sales between 2 percent and 5 percent.

Wal-Mart’s online offerings have risen from 8 million items, at the start of 2016, to more than 20 million by the end of the year. In comparison, Amazon has more than 300 million products.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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1. Grab wants to offer more consumer services

Grab wants to be the number one provider of online-to-offline (O2O) services, said founder Anthony Tan. O2O is a term to describe services that bridge the digital and offline worlds. Grab has been trialing food and parcel delivery in some of its markets. But so far, it hasn’t diversified as much as Go-Jek when it comes to types of services it offers.

“There are many O2O consumer services waiting to be disrupted,” Tan said but didn’t specify if Grab plans to launch any that are similar to Go-Jek’s.

However, he emphasized the importance of first- and last-mile services, which include deliveries and transportation, and mentioned the potential of retail, hospitality, and lifestyle sectors. Tan said that Grab wants to “win payments in Southeast Asia.” He pointed to the example of PayPal and how it leveraged eBay’s massive reach to cement its position as a payment platform, saying that Grab’s installed base can be the groundwork for its payments services.

While payments and commerce is an important new frontier for Grab, its transportation features are still evolving.

In Jakarta, Grab plans to test GrabNow, a feature which lets riders book a GrabBike rider they just flagged down, without having to wait for the app to run through its match-making algorithm.

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2. LINE starts to attract luxury brands in Japan

There are signs that the luxury industry is taking more interest in the platform in 2017, as several major fashion labels have flocked to the app this year. LVMH brands Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Dior launched official LINE accounts at the beginning of the year, and were joined by Prada in February.

As these new brands launch on the platform, they’re forcing early adopters including Coach, Michael Kors, and Burberry to step up their game to keep up with luxury marketing innovations. In the months since its January launch, Louis Vuitton has surged ahead of competitors, generating 237% more interactions per post in April than the Index Luxury brand average, despite a lower follower base.

Fendi is also investing in LINE with a strategy that understands the role of LINE as a closed one-to-one communication tool, where users expect brands to behave more like their friends and less like advertisers.

The brand used chatbots to reveal exclusive celebrity content when users message a designated keyword, and utilized gamification for a virtual slot machine that offered the chance to win an original Fendi USB flash memory stick. The collaborations with luxury brands may be a good move for Line,

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3. Amazon’s pivot to lower tier consumers

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will slash the price of membership to its Prime program by almost 50 percent for low-income shoppers on federal welfare.

It’s a direct challenge to Walmart, the reigning king of American retail, which relies heavily on low-income shoppers and receives nearly one of every five dollars of its revenue through SNAP, or food stamps, each year.

Prime, which includes fast premium shipping and access to movies, games, and exclusive Amazon television shows, typically costs $99 upfront or $10.99 a month. Households that can show they’re receiving public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will be able to subscribe to Amazon Prime for just $5.99 a month.

With today’s announcement, Amazon is trying to become Walmart faster than Walmart can become Amazon.

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Here’s what you should know today.

1. “Amazon for cars” Carsome raises $6 million round

Carsome, a used car marketplace based in Malaysia, plans to enter more markets in Southeast Asia after raising $6 million in a new round led by Gobi Partners.

Carsome has its own inspectors that appraise users’ second-hand cars, which are then added to the platform. After that, over 1,500 car dealers can make offers on the vehicles through a bidding system.

Sellers can sit back and wait for the best bid to come in rather than visiting standalone shops one by one.

The company will use the fresh funds to expand into new markets and set up more inspection outlets across the four countries where it already has a presence: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Why did Gobi partners invest?

“The C2B model that Carsome emphasizes on makes a lot of sense especially in emerging markets like Southeast Asia because there is not enough data that enables trust between sellers and buyers. Carsome provides a de-risking element for both sides – the sellers who are generally individuals and buyers who are dealers,” says Victor Chua, Gobi Partners vice president of investment for ASEAN.

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2. Alibaba takes another step into India, acquires movie ticketing company

TicketNew is Alibaba’s first major acquisition in the ticketing space outside of China.

The Chennai-based company enables the booking of movie theater tickets in over 300 cities across India.

Alibaba plans to invest to the tune of $18.6 million over a period of time,” says Ramkumar Nammalvar, founder and CEO of TicketNew, which competes with BookMyShow and other players in this space. Alibaba’s foray into movie ticketing in India follows its taking control of the ecommerce arm of Indian payments and ecommerce unicorn Paytm earlier this year.

Alibaba’s movie ticketing service via TicketNew could be an important component in its ecommerce play on Paytm Mall.

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3. Walmart store workers now delivering packages

In an effort to tamp down last-mile delivery costs as it ramps up its e-commerce sales, Wal-Mart Stores is employing store staff to make deliveries to customers’ homes.

The task is voluntary and a way for store associates to make more money, said US ecommerce CEO, Marc Lore. “If they choose to opt in, we’ve built technology that allows them to set preferences” like how many, how big and how heavy the packages are, and which days they can make the trips.

The effort is still an experiment, with three test locations – two in New Jersey and one in northwest Arkansas.

This is where Wal-Mart’s vast network of stores comes in handy. “Walmart has strength in numbers with 4,700 stores across the U.S. and more than a million associates,” Lore said Thursday. “Our stores put us within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population.

Now imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way. It’s easy to see why this test could be a game-changer.

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Here’s what you should know today.

1. After bank takeover, Indonesia’s Salim Group plans push in digital payments

Indonesia’s largest conglomerate, Salim Group, has acquired a majority stake in a local bank.

Through various affiliated entities, the group bought at least 51% of Bank Ina Perdana by subscribing to new shares issued by the Indonesia-listed lender. The acquisition value is estimated at $42 million.

In recent years, the smartphone boom has created a new wave of demand for financial services such as electronic payments and peer-to-peer lending. Salim decided that operating its own bank and building a financial backbone would be crucial for running an end-to-end digital business, which it has been developing since 2013.

“It makes sense for us to refocus on banking because the transactions carried out by the banks are becoming quite big,” said a Salim executive.

The group is also eyeing peer-to-peer money transfers and loans using Indomaret stores as a bank branch. Edy Kuntardjo, Bank Ina’s president, said the bank expects to roll out some of these services in 2018, subject to regulatory approval.

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2. US firm Vemanti to acquire Vietnam’s tech conglomerate Two Group

The deal is seen as a first step for the American firm towards making strategic investments in Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Two Group, founded in 2013, owns four ventures in e-commerce, location navigation, content streaming and social media verticals, all “operational and revenue-generating”, Vemanti said. Vemanti, founded by overseas Vietnamese Tan Tran, said the transaction, once ratified and finalized, will create a framework to capitalize on the fast growing internet economy of Vietnam, especially in ecommerce and online advertising.

Two Group ventures include Kay.vn, a platform that enables merchants to set up online stores; Diadiem.com, a B2B data mapping provider serving customers including Google Maps and Navteq; Yume.vn, a content curation social network with over 3 million users; and YouTube channel 16Plus for bloggers and social media influencers.

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3. Recommended Reading: Why is Wal-Mart betting big on ecommerce acquisitions

The brick-and-mortar giant has been gobbling up online retail startups at a record pace.

The payoff has been swift: In its most recent quarter, Wal-Mart’s e-commerce sales ballooned 63% with an attendant 69% rise in digital gross merchandise volume, as same-store sales increased 1.4% and traffic to stores rose 1.5%

For a retailer that has staked its enduring success on the physical landscape, this pace has garnered kudos from many analysts. Moody’s Investors Service Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O’Shea called the post-Jet acquisitions “small, but tactically-important.

“Retailers need someone to run the business and secure their assets, but they also that disrupter to agitate a bit and spark that renewal. That’s the Marc Lore play at Wal-Mart,” says Greg Portell, lead partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney.

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