Here’s what you should know today:

1. Baidu partners with PayPal for mobile wallet service

PayPal is expanding its presence on mobile by pairing up with Baidu, allowing the Chinese company’s 100 million users to make payment to PayPal’s 17 million merchants.

The news is the latest in a series of partnership from PayPal after integrating with Apple and Samsung Pay, as well with banks Citi and Chase.

For Baidu, the partnership offers a way to increase the odd in their favor on the competition in China’s mobile wallet landscape that currently dominated by Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChatPay.

Read the full story here

2. Whatsapp hits 1 billion daily users, Whatsapp Status has more users than Snapchat

Chat messengers app Whatsapp records 1 billion daily users as revealed during the Q2 2017 Facebook Earning calls. The company only has 350 million daily users when it was acquired by Facebook in 2014.

Facebook has also successfully rolling out Snapchat’s Stories format to a much wider audience than the original inventor.

Instagram Story and Whatsapp Status are each used by 250 million people every day, meanwhile Snapchat only has 166 million daily users on its app. Facebook itself records 2 billion monthly users.

Read the full story here.

3. Snapdeal to sell its digital payment platform FreeCharge to Axis Bank

After accepting the buyout from Flipkart for $950 million, Snapdeal is also selling its digital payment platforms FreeCharge to Axis Bank for $60 million.

Axis Bank will have access to FreeCharge’s base of over 50 million mobile wallet users, its staff of about 150 – 200 and its resources and proprietary tech.

FreeCharge was first acquired by Snapdeal in 2015. The deal was reportedly worth about $400 million.

Read the full story here.

Vietnam, like most countries in Southeast Asia, is experiencing a rapid surge in middle class growth but at a rate faster than its neighbours. According to BCG, the ‘middle and affluent class’ is set to double to 33 million people by 2020 and earn approximately $714 or more a month.

Despite the slowdown of on-demand startups across the rest of the world, Vietnam’s developing landscape has been wide open for value-added services as more professionals in their late twenties and thirties move into their own apartments and pursue white-collar careers.

On-demand groceries and food delivery service MarketOi is one of few startups based in Ho Chi Minh focused on serving the increasing amount of individuals that can afford ‘status’ – expats included.

“It’s not only about being middle class, but also about showing that they’re middle class,” – Oscar Mussons from Dezan Shira & Associates.

eIQ talks to MarketOi’s partner, Nicolas Embleton, about how the company is tackling the ever changing market.

Southeast Asia’s “hip food scene”

The current “food commerce” startups in Southeast Asia – foodpanda, UberEats, honestbee, HappyFresh, etc. – are either delivering hot meals or groceries. MarketOi, founded by French entrepreneur Germain Blanchet last year, actually does it all.

Placed orders are fulfilled within an hour or less as separate in-house riders are based in each of Ho Chi Minh’s districts.

MarketOi “Hunger Games”-esque homepage

“Customers can order a pizza from a restaurant, a croissant from a bakery and a coffee at Starbucks within one order. We try to optimize the route by estimating cooking and preparation time, and sorting out the pickup order so that it makes sense in the delivery chain. The food has to be hot at arrival, and if it’s impossible, the customer is always notified in advance,” says Nicolas.

“MarketOi is a service, we have to do the best to make sure our customers get what they need.”

The company currently has 40 official restaurant and grocery store partners, with over 50 unofficial partners undergoing a trial period that typically lasts three months. MarketOi aims to reach 100 official partners by the end of this year.

“We onboard brands first to test their demand during trials,” says Nicolas. “If the feedback is positive, then we sign them as an official partner.”

Foreigners’ satisfaction about economic aspects in Vietnam and Japan. Longer lines indicate higher satisfaction. Graphics by HSBC

Today, 80% of MarketOi’s user demographic are expats and 20% locals.

On-demand food is notably popular among the stream of expats living and working in Ho Chi Minh thanks to the great “work-life balance” as reported by HSBC data.

“MarketOi is still growing, and since the founding team are foreigners ourselves, it’s easier to know what other foreigners want and become early adopters,” says Nicolas.

The platform services 500 active customers to date and carries out approximately 1,300 deliveries a month with $15,000 in monthly revenue. Since its launch last year, MarketOi has experienced 5% growth week on week.

The platform is also investigating delivery for things such as pet food and medicine, two areas where Nicolas sees potential.

“We essentially want to become top of mind for consumers when they need something in a short span of time,” he says.

As most service providers, convenience is key, but operating in a developing market like Vietnam is not without its challenges.

Scaling the on-demand business  

“The Vietnamese market is tough,” says Nicolas. “There’s a lack of brand loyalty and costs are high while margins are low.”

“Restaurants also feel the same pressure to fill seats in order to balance their high costs, but it can be tough in a city with low dining out preference for Western establishments,” says Nicolas.

“We offer restaurants a way to increase revenue without increased marketing costs,” says Nicolas. “MarketOi does the marketing and receives a commission for each partner order.”

It seems like eating out is picking up in Vietnam though, thanks to an influx of international brands but only for special occasions. The most common meal that the Vietnamese go out to eat is breakfast, with local noodle shops being the most popular option.

Only 7% of dine out destinations are at Western restaurants, including fast food chains McDonald’s and KFC.

Another interesting note is that more than a third of the company’s orders come through ‘chat app’, 30-40% from the website, and the rest from the MarketOi app. Not surprising as 9 out of 10 people access the internet through mobile phones in Vietnam.

Since majority of orders come in via chat, a MarketOi team is dedicated to answering customers and relaying orders to partners.

“Keeping the direct lines between us and the customer is important for an enjoyable experience but this system is impossible to scale because if our orders increase significantly, it will be difficult to manage the personal relationship with our customers,” says Nicolas.

He mentions that the company is currently working on in-house technology such as testing AI, processes, internal tooling and bots to help it scale.

What does MarketOi think businesses should know about Vietnam?

“Vietnam is a very ‘do it all at once, or not at all’ kind of country,” Nicolas observes. “Mass behavior is a thing here in Vietnam.”

For example, lemon tea shops were immensely popular a few years ago, and businesses filled each street with the same kind of shop, selling the same beverage and saturating the market.

This led to a fear of starting something new in Vietnam.

Government constraints are also a big hurdle for businesses that want to operate in Vietnam as noted by Raphael Wilhelm, founder, one of Nicolas’s good friends.

“Paperwork takes time and the only way to speed up process is through local connections, which can be difficult to obtain for foreigners.”

“Sometimes, to get things done, you have to contact a friend of a friend in Ho Chi Minh,” says Nicolas. “It’s the way business happens around here.”

“Within the next year, we want to expand into another city in Vietnam and increase the speed of deployment. MarketOi’s advantage lies in the fact that the service is still very much needed here, but we are seeing a clear interest in other cities where it makes sense,” says Nicolas.

The MarketOi Team in Ho Chi Minh

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Hike beats Whatsapp to launching messenger app payments in India

The launch of Hike Pay not only shows an ambition to build a messaging platform, it also means Hike has beaten WhatsApp, the chat app that dominates India, to the punch. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is typically coy about future updates and services, but co-founder Brian Acton has spoken publicly of plans to launch digital payments in India.

Hike, which is introducing version 5.0 today, is starting out with peer-to-peer and bank-to-bank payment options, the former being an in-app wallet that is not dependent on a bank account and the latter a service powered by India’s government-backed UPI payment system.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Hike CEO and founder Kavin Bharti Mittal described a product very much like WeChat’s red envelopes.

“We’ve drawn some inspiration from our friends in China,” he explained. “We think it’s going to be extremely exciting.”

WhatsApp is one thing, but India’s mobile payment space is already condensed with specialists. Paytm, which has raised money from Alibaba and most recently SoftBank via a $1.4 billion investment, leads the pack with over 200 million registered users. MobiKwik is purely focused on payments and claims 50 million users, fast growth and a potential $1 billion valuation soon.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Bebe relaunches ecommerce under new ownership

Global Brands Group Holding clarified the strategy for its new interest in bebe, saying it will relaunch a newly transformed ecommerce platform and its international brick-and-mortar stores.

The announcement represents the first initiative under Global Brands’ direction of bebe’s ecommerce platform, direct-to-consumer divisions and international operations, according to a Global Brands press release.

Thanks to $67 million in cash in the bank as of the end of last year and little debt, Bebe has been able to make a graceful exit from the retail landscape, in contrast to some of the messier jockeying for assets that is often a hallmark of the bankruptcy process.

Bluestar CEO Joseph Gabbay said that Global Brands’ ownership will facilitate the e-commerce efforts that had already begun. “Global Brands Group has been a strategic licensee and can now seamlessly synergize the international distribution, ecommerce platform and wholesale business,” he said in a statement.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Community Chatter: Bangkok’s old-school noodle shop is now accepting bitcoin payments

A branch of the popular Lim Lao Ngow fish noodle shop is one of the first restaurants in Thailand to set up bitcoin payment. The chain has been a local favorite for 80 years.

The shop lets visitors pay for their meals (a bowl of noodles is about B35) with bitcoin, where the price in baht is converted to bitcoin currency upon payment according to the blockchain system.  Bitcoin became legal in Thailand in 2014 and, according to the Coinmap, there are currently 13 services that accept bitcoin payment in Bangkok. – See more at:

In an announcement on the official website, the Lim Lao Ngow team says that accepting bitcoin payment is an investment in a digital currency that will only continue to grow in the future

Read the rest of the story here.


Here’s what you should know today.

1. Sun Life Financial acquires 25% of Vietnam-based digital bank Timo

Canada’s Sun Life Financial has acquired  25% equity of Crescent Asia Limited, the holding company of Global Online Financial Solutions, which operates Vietnam’s first digital bank Timo.

The partnership will be implemented directly through the insurer’s Vietnam-based unit.

Partnership with Sun Life Vietnam will let Timo offer life and health insurance products to its members.

Timo members will be able to apply for Sun Life Vietnam’s products directly in the Timo mobile app

Timo has been providing banking services, including payments, money transfer, savings and card management in Vietnam.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Plug and Play is tackling the Southeast Asia ecosystem through partnerships

Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Plug and Play is known for its sharp eye for investment opportunities, it has invested in names such as PayPal and Dropbox in the companies’ early days.

Now, the accelerator has its eyes on Singapore. This year, Plug and Play is ramping up its presence in the Southeast Asian region.

In Singapore, it launched an automotive industry-focused program in partnership with Daimler and Mercedes Benz called Startup Autobahn Singapore (SAS).

Plug and Play will expand the scope of its activities to larger markets in the region, as well as to support “multiple customized and bespoke programs” out of its Singapore office. Its next major regional focus this year is Indonesia.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Ninja Xpress launches C2C logistics app Ninja Easy

The new app is aimed at making logistics easier for merchants that do social commerce.

Ninja Xpress is first launching in Indonesia and looking at Thailand as the next target

Ninja Easy wants to shorten the social commerce process by enabling sellers to upload details about their product on its platform, and generate a link that they can share to potential buyers.

This will eliminate the back and forth process between a buyer and seller via Facebook or WhatsApp. Buyers can directly hit purchase and track the shipping process real time.

Ninja Easy also has subsidized on-demand pick up service for sellers, and facilitate them with real-time tracking and cash-on-delivery payment option.

Read the rest of the story here.


4. Amazon will livestream the NFL this season, replacing Twitter

Amazon has reportedly reached a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this year. The one-year deal is reportedly valued at around $50 million.

The ecommerce giant is making aggressive plays towards multiple industries this year, from fashion to groceries and now, entertainment.

Viewers will have to be Amazon Prime members in order to watch live, which is a departure from last year’s deal where games were available free for anyone on Twitter. It’s not yet clear how Amazon will display the stream.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you know.

1. WhatsApp will reportedly launch peer-to-peer payments in India within 6 months

WhatsApp plans to use UPI, a cross-bank payment system backed by the government, to begin enable payments between users within the next six months.

“India is an important country for WhatsApp, and we’re understanding how we can contribute more to the vision of Digital India. We’re exploring how we might work with companies that share this vision and continuing to listen closely to feedback from our users,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Credit card penetration is low in India, while WhatsApp has already emerged as a platform for facilitating ecommerce despite currently offering no features that expressly support that.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. QBO innovation hub will provide resources to enable Philippines startups

QBO is a partnership between tech startup accelerator Ideaspace, J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, and the Philippines government’s Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Science and Technology, with the aim to help grow the startup ecosystem in the country.

Two of the biggest challenges that Philippines startups face are securing funding and dealing with rigid government regulatory policies.

QBO aims to remove these barriers by being conduit between startups and private and government entities that can provide resources.

Read the rest of the story here.


 3. Recommended Reading: will Snapchat’s data play help fend off competition from Facebook and Instagram?

One month after its IPO, the messaging app’s execs are doggedly focused on broadening Snapchat’s appeal to brands—notably direct response-minded companies.

Snapchat needs to mine data about millennials more effectively to beat Facebook and Instagram.

Millennial marketers will be able to zero in on Snapchat users who are most likely to download their brand’s app, targeting slivers or swaths of the platform’s 160 million users who have shown interest in either the brand or the functionality it’s offering.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Singapore consolidates all startup schemes under one umbrella

The Singapore government is set to consolidate its various funding schemes for startups under a single umbrella brand – Startup SG.

In another significant move, the city-state has decided to revise the Entrepass visa scheme, aimed at enabling foreign entrepreneurs seeking to launch a business venture in Singapore.

The reforms will see enhanced co-investment support for ventures in the area of deep technology in domains such as medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing, to boost growth in private sector investment.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Innovative logistics lab opens in China

Zebra Technologies, Digital China and have joined forces to develop a state-of-the art facility entitled the “IoT + Ecommerce Logistics Lab.”

The facility will enable the alliance to research and develop, prototype implementation, test and evaluation, and conduct application demonstrations, all of which will support the creation of next-generation logistics solutions. also has plans to improve the productivity of its current picking and packaging operations using mobile devices; increase the visibility of the tens of thousands of trays and cage trolleys.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Recommended Reading: WhatsApp joins arsenal of online luxury amid race for customers

Online luxury retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter said it’s developing technology to allow customers to buy products directly through WhatsApp as the ecommerce market for Prada and Versace goods becomes more competitive.

By becoming one of the first companies to use WhatsApp to sell directly to customers, Yoox Net-a-Porter is seeking a leg up on competitors like Farfetch and luxury brands’ own sites.

Read the rest of the story here.