How the Zalora Mafia helped create Southeast Asia’s startup scene

While the past decade saw the birth of many tech startups in Southeast Asia, it could be considered a different era, especially for ecommerce. Shopping online wasn’t commonplace then, and ecommerce transactions were done via blogs, forums, and social networks.

Xiaomi and Oppo are betting big on their global fintech ambitions

Xiaomi and BBK Group’s Oppo are joining the race to become global fintech powerhouses. For their first gambit, the companies are replicating their China playbook to sell loans in India in an attempt to shore up wafer-thin margins on budget smartphones.

How Ninja Van is powering cross-border ecommerce beyond deliveries

When Chang Wen Lai founded Ninja Van as a last-mile delivery solution for his own menswear brand in 2014, he never imagined he would be helming one of Southeast Asia’s largest logistics startups. “Our plan was to have 20 drivers and call it a day,” the former Barclays trader quips.

WeChat vs. Alipay: The heated battle between China’s super apps

In China, mobile apps are deeply embedded in people’s everyday lives. You can access a variety of “local services” – shop for groceries, order takeout, get a taxi, settle bills, and book your travels – with just a single app.

Inside Stoqo’s sudden demise

When Stoqo, an Indonesian food logistics startup, announced its shutdown last week, it was widely seen as the first tech casualty of Covid-19 in the country.

TikTok capturing users’ hearts, but not the marketers’ bucks?

Tech startups would turn green at how quickly TikTok has emerged to rival companies such as Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook. With over 700 million downloads in 2019, it overtook Facebook and its messenger app as well as Instagram, and Snapchat. It’s now the world’s second most downloaded app, just behind WhatsApp.

These startups could unlock ecommerce’s true potential in Indonesia

Many ecommerce platforms have hit a wall in Indonesia. Despite billions in US dollars in investments, traditional ecommerce players like Tokopedia and Shopee have a long way to go to win over the rural population. While people in Greater Jakarta are spending a third of their household expenditure online, those who live far from the country’s capital are still reluctant to do that, according to data from the Indonesian government and Google’s eConomy report.

Major layoffs at prominent digital lending firm Oriente

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the online lending industry hard. While more people and businesses are seeking loans to make up for lost income, online lenders are seeing defaults spike and slowing down the issuing of new loans.

Why is Facebook betting $5.7b on Reliance?

Facebook’s venture with Indian oil-to-gas conglomerate Reliance could turn out to be instrumental to its plan to capture the country’s vast retail market and serve as a template for Southeast Asia or any region it hopes to enter.

Zilingo’s layoffs expose internal fault lines

As the alcohol started flowing at Zilingo’s year-end party, employees witnessed the co-founders file out of the warehouse and head to the clubs – along with a select group.

How Singapore’s rooftop gardeners are filling the food supply chain gap

As urban consumers, we tend to take it for granted that we’ll always have fruits and vegetables at our disposal in markets, groceries and other stores. But as governments across the world are implementing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, experts warn that we’re also running out of staples.

Do food delivery platforms deserve the public beating they’re getting?

These days, Colin Chen has taken on the mantle of restaurant manager, logistics operator, and software engineer.

Is Disney finding India’s Hotstar too hot to handle?

In the 1934 animated Disney classic The Big Bad Wolf, a pig warns Little Red Riding Hood, “Better to be safe than sorry. Shortcuts are not always good.”

Dubious practices, ‘profiteering’ taint Indonesia’s bid to regulate online lending

Update (April 24, 1:00 pm): Added comments from AFPI and OJK. Update (May 5, 9:00 am): Added further comments from AFPI and OJK.

Trends and pivots in the coronavirus economy

With Covid-19 dragging the economy down and people cooped up at home or sheltering in place, consumer behaviors and trends are changing.

Funding Societies raises $40m, but streamlines its business amid Covid-19

Funding Societies, a peer-to-peer lending platform targeting small and medium-sized enterprises, has shed 18% of its total workforce across its Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia offices, Tech in Asia has learned. It brings the total staff tally at the startup to more than 300 employees.

Unicorns face a reckoning after doling out generous salaries in boom time

As a recruiter, David Bolton has a ringside seat to the inflated salaries that tech firms often offer their employees.

Commentary: Should Masayoshi Son step away from SoftBank Group?

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group is among the high-profile casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic as many of its well-publicized technology bets have begun to unravel. In a recent interview with Forbes, founder Masayoshi Son said that 15 of the 88 portfolio companies in the SoftBank Vision Fund are likely to go bankrupt. But he also believes that another 15 companies should succeed.

Indonesia’s online lenders tighten credit screening, cut jobs amid loan default risks

After demonstrating rapid growth in recent years, Indonesia’s online lenders are now turning cautious, as the Covid-19 pandemic might make it difficult for borrowers to pay back their loans.

Honestbee founder’s biggest lie in a web of deceit

Brian Koo, a scion of the family that controls South Korean electronics giant LG, has been looking to make a name for himself.

Social commerce is gaining momentum in Indonesia

Despite a slowdown in fundraising across Asia, venture capital firms are betting on Indonesia’s emerging social commerce platforms.

RedDoorz takes tough measures to survive Covid-19

Like all players in the travel sector, Singapore-based budget hotel startup RedDoorz has been “drastically affected” by Covid-19, Amit Saberwal, the founder and CEO at RedDoorz, tells Tech in Asia. As a result of the pandemic, the company saw an approximately 80% decrease in the volume of travel bookings and hotel occupancy.

Video streaming in Asia is not for the faint of heart

Asia’s video-streaming startups are finding just how tough the going can be as they contend with the steep costs of producing content for consumers who are price conscious and spoiled for choice.

An influential new Indonesian VC could open doors for startups

Since it was founded in 2018, Agaeti Ventures has become a rising force among Indonesian VCs, currently being one of the most active investors in the country. Its general partner, Pandu Sjahrir, is the key man.

How a Singaporean became a billionaire by selling microchips

Swee Ann Teo is a Singaporean geek with a restless streak. Coming from a middle-class family, he owned an old Apple II – one of the world’s first mainstream personal computers.

Why are alternative protein startups like Impossible Foods scaling to China?

With Covid-19 plunging all aspects of decision-making and business planning into darkness, the last thing startups would have on their minds is expansion – let alone into China.

Myanmar travel startup lays off staff as bookings drop

Myanmar-based domestic travel startup Flymya laid off a third of its approximately 200-strong headcount, says CEO Jeff Pan. The move happened prior to reports on March 23 that the country had confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19.

Co-working spaces see a surge in demand – but it may not last

As Covid-19 continues to spread unabated, companies across Southeast Asia are looking to minimize the impact on their teams, partly by spreading their workforce across multiple locations.

How Grab’s super-app advantage is reconfiguring insurance for the masses

What Grab wants to achieve in Southeast Asia’s insurance sector is nothing short of a tall order: protect millions of families in Southeast Asia against life’s uncertainties, with simple, digital, and flexible services.

Hospitality startup Airy pivots toward profitability, but the pandemic may slow its progress

Indonesian hospitality startup Airy is pivoting toward profitability this year, after aggressively expanding its hotel network over the last five years and becoming the country’s biggest aggregator of budget hotels.

Startups need to manage cash and have “a bit of luck” to survive Covid-19

It’s a grim situation for startups in Southeast Asia: Some companies are in danger of running out of cash as Covid-19 sours investor appetite and slows fundraising activities, founders and key executives tell Tech in Asia.

Commentary: Should Sea sell Shopee and focus on Garena?

The full year 2019 financial results recently released by New York-listed Sea Ltd highlights the extreme performance disparity between its online gaming unit Garena and ecommerce business Shopee.

Asia a ‘high priority’ for Revolut following mammoth $500m fundraise

Revolut, one of the world’s highest-valued financial technology startups with a valuation of US$5.5 billion, has its eyes on Asia.

Minor Gojek, Grab investors head for the exit amid worsening economy

As Southeast Asia’s tech unicorns Grab and Gojek reach ever-higher valuations, investors have been looking to cash out.

Former Gojek COO attempts to crack Indonesia’s education problem

Rohan Monga, the new CEO of Zenius, is aggressively pursuing growth after the Jakarta-based education technology startup secured US$20 million in fresh capital from investors including Northstar Group earlier this year.

Singapore company turns bread to beer to cut Southeast Asia’s food waste

Why let bread go to waste if you can drink it? Bakeries toss out a lot of unsold bread that are close to expiry. That’s why Singapore-based Crust Brewing is giving these items a new lease on life and turning leftover croissants and baguettes into beer. In the future, the brewer has aspirations to expand into Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing beer markets in the world.

Uber considers suspending ride-sharing in India after US, Canada

Covid-19 might hurt Uber as the US-ride hailing and food delivery app considers extending the suspension of its ride-sharing services in markets outside the US and Canada.

Gojek says transport business has been profitable, denies layoffs

Gojek CEO Andre Soelistyo told employees during an internal town hall meeting late Thursday that the company’s transportation business has been profitable for “a few months.” He did not provide more details. It’s also not clear if he was referring to gross or net profitability.

Two models emerge from latest wave of co-living startups in Indonesia

The concept of co-living has taken root in many markets as an alternative to typical modes of urban dwelling, such as renting or sharing apartments. But in many cities across Indonesia, the concept of kost – which is similar to co-living in that residents rent a room in a building while sharing common spaces like the kitchen and lounge – has long existed as an affordable option.

Private exchanges could be the cheaper, faster alternative to an IPO

Imagine this: You are an early employee of a startup like Grab or Traveloka who joined the company with a stock options plan. Years later, the startup has entered decacorn territory, now worth over US$10 billion. But until the company lists on a public stock exchange or gets acquired, there are limited avenues for you to cash out.

Gojek mafia makes waves across Indonesian startup scene

In Silicon Valley, the term “PayPal Mafia” was popularized by Fortune magazine in 2007. It refers to the payments company’s alumni who have gone on to start, lead, or back other tech companies. The pack consists of prominent names including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Reid Hoffman.

Bringing electric motorbikes to Southeast Asia’s masses

Jakarta’s smog grows thicker by the year. Sputtering motorbikes clog the city’s congested streets in rising numbers, spewing toxic fumes as they weave in and out of traffic.

Q and A with a former Alibaba executive: Every crisis presents opportunities

This week’s column features Porter Erisman, an ex-vice president at Alibaba. He is also the producer of the film Crocodile in the Yangtze River – The Alibaba Story.

FabHotels moves in on India as market leader Oyo downsizes

When Vaibhav Aggarwal went to Bangalore for a friend’s wedding seven years ago, he wasn’t too pleased with his accommodations.

Hoolah is tapping into a growing millennial demand to ‘buy now, pay later’ in Asia

Suppose you were deliberating whether or not to purchase a US$1,500 television online. Instead of paying the full amount upfront, you’re now offered an option to pay just one-third of the price upfront, and spread out the remaining sum over the next two months. It’s a free-to-use option with zero interest, assuming subsequent payments are made on time.

Temasek joins ShopBack’s $75m funding round

Temasek is now a shareholder in ShopBack, the top cashback platform in Southeast Asia. The Singapore state fund is leading a US$30 million top-up to the US$45 million funding round the startup raised last year.

Commentary: China’s manufacturing confidence soars. It could be a false rally

Amid the doom and gloom that the Covid-19 outbreak has brought to the global economy, there’s one bright spot: The China Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is signaling a strong rebound in March for the manufacturing industry.

Bytedance poaching Facebook, Google talent in Singapore push

Bytedance is on the hunt for over a hundred new employees in Singapore as it shapes up for a possible initial public offering later this year and tries to extend its footprint outside of China.

Behind CXA’s difficult journey to launching its ambitious insurtech platform

Like many others that have taken the same road, Singapore insurtech startup CXA Group is finding that it isn’t easy to transform itself into a technology company.

Grab bets on convenience to boost GrabPay after changes in rewards program

Grab recently made some of the biggest changes yet to its GrabRewards loyalty program in Singapore. This comes after similar moves in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

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