By Susan Cunningham
The Star (Malaysia)
27 March 2019
When ride-sharing company Grab agreed to buy Uber’s South-East Asian assets a year ago, it seemed that its hardest and longest fought competition was finally over – at least in its seven markets that weren’t Indonesia.
In its home base of Singapore, Grab especially had a wide open field, having raised US$4.64bil (RM18.9bil) in funding from the likes of SoftBank and DiDi Chuxing.
Its chief competitors were those taxi drivers that didn’t use the Grab app. The hailing apps from well-funded foreigners – German-Brazilian Easy Taxi and Britain’s Hailo and Karhoo – had been driven out by 2016.
Yet instead of surging with an influx of Uber’s former passengers, the number of “Daily Active Users” of the main Grab app in Singapore plunged after Uber withdrew from the city-state in May.
The number of such users fell from almost 171,000 on June 1, 2018 to 135,576 by Dec 1, 2018, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb’s data on Android phone users. That’s a loss of almost 40,000 Daily Active Users over the six-month period. MORE
I should have mentioned in the story: During most of 2018 Android had about 75% of the Singapore smartphone/tablet market. In Indonesia, Android had about 92% of the market.
Hotelier Malee Tangsin and 35 of her scholarship boys.
In November 2018 Forbes Asia‘s 12th annual philanthropy issue honored a total of 40 generous people or families from Australia, Hong Kong and 13 Asian countries. I wrote about Malee Tangsin, 90, Chairwoman of Bangkok’s Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Hotel. She and her family foundation have supported 450 boys while they attended high school in Bangkok. The photo shows the current three “classes,” most of whom are from Hmong or Akha hill tribe villages. More here.
[Originally published on Forbes.com in 2015]
With the soft launch last month of Priceza websites in Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore, Thailand’s number one shopping price comparison portal now has a presence in five countries with a total of 540 million residents. Priceza Thailand debuted in January 2010 and Priceza Indonesia in May 2013. Next market in 2015: Vietnam. If all grows as planned, the six sites will attract nearly 400 million annual visitors in 2019.
Back in 2009, when three former Chulalongkorn University classmates were dreaming up website ideas, “we were looking for a scalable model. From day one, we knew wanted to be in other countries too,” says Priceza CEO Thanawat (Wai) Malabuppha.
It’s complicated, though. The competitive landscape in each country is different. That isn’t just a reflection of per capita income and internet penetration but also of payment systems and the sheer number of e-commerce websites. MORE
This story appeared in the August 2018 issue of Forbes Asia as “Riverboat Queens.”
By Susan Cunningham
Supapan Pichaironarongsongkram is explaining the art of managing the tough men who operate her 90-strong fleet of ferries, commuter boats and charters that ply Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. “When you work with men, you don’t work as a woman and a man. A man will always look down on a woman. They probably don’t think I know much. I go to them as a friend or mother. I protect them. If they know that, they will trust me. They know they will never lose a job. We work through generations of trust.”
Supapan, 73, represents the third generation of women at the helm of Supatra & Chao Phraya Express Boat Group. Her grandmother started the ferry service roughly a century ago–the exact year is unknown–and when she died in 1931, Supapan’s mother took over at age 20 (see Thailand’s Supatra Dynasty – 4 Generations Of Women Running The Chao Phraya River). Today the group comprises ten companies and 600 employees, and the fourth generation is getting ready to take over. Supapan’s 32-year-old daughter, Natapree, better known as Pim, has been building the group’s advertising sales, hotel and real estate businesses for the past six years.
Supapan is petite, soft-spoken and impeccably groomed. If she hadn’t felt a sense of responsibility to carry on the family business, she would have followed a more genteel line of work, perhaps using her French degree or pursuing a career as a pianist. But, says Pim, her only child, her mother’s benign appearance is deceptive: “She works six days a week. She doesn’t have an engineering degree, but she knows all the specifications of the boats, the materials, the buoyancy required for the boats to float, the width of the river, the depth of the river. She will act like she doesn’t know much, but she knows everything. You cannot mess with her.” MORE
By Susan Cunningham
This story appears in the March 2018 issue of Forbes Asia as “Up for Grabs”
When Grab closed a $2.5 billion fundraising round in January, the valuation of the ride-hailing company not only rose north of $6 billion, according to Pitchbook. It also lifted cofounder Anthony Tan onto the list of Malaysia’s 50 richest. He debuts with an estimated net worth of $300 million. Led by SoftBank and Didi Chuxing, the investment was Southeast Asia’s biggest single venture-capital fundraising round ever. Other investors include Hyundai Motor and Toyota Tsusho.
Tan, 36, the startup’s chief executive, could have enjoyed a cushy ride with his family’s auto-sales business, run by his father, Tan Heng Chew, and two uncles. (Heng Chew and his brothers made the list the last five years before falling off this year.) But six years ago he teamed up with a Harvard Business School classmate, Tan Hooi Ling (no relation), to launch a taxi-hailing application in their home city of Kuala Lumpur. They first called it MyTeksi.
Myanmar and Cambodia
With eight investment rounds under its belt, Grab has branched out into services for private cars, motorcycle taxis, carpooling and goods delivery while making an ever increasing investment in mobile-software research and development. It offers transportation services in 168 cities in eight Southeast Asian countries, having added Cambodia and Myanmar in 2017. Continue reading
By Susan Cunningham
Mizzima Weekly, November 2, 2017
Despite the political reforms since 2012 and the 2015 ceasefire, 98,000 Myanmar refugees living in nine Thailand border camps display little readiness to return home, even as services are tapering off.
“What we thought would be the triggers to return home have come and gone,” said Sally Thompson, executive director of The Border Consortium. She spoke October 19 in Bangkok on a Foreign Correspondents of Thailand panel concerning the status of Myanmar refugees. The Consortium is responsible for providing basic humanitarian services such as food, shelter and camp management to nine camps along the northwestern Thai border.
Refugees’ reluctance to return home stems from several causes, Thompson said: “They see ongoing services skirmishes. They see the KNU [Karen National Union] demanding withdrawal of troops [from the state]. There hasn’t been any. In fact, there has been an increase. They want to see practical changes on the ground. A ceasefire agreement is not peace. They ask, ‘Who can guarantee my safety?'” Predominantly Karen (Kayah), camp residents also belong to Kayin, Kachin, Mon, Burman, Pa-O and Chin ethnic groups … Thailand refugees reluctant – Mizzima
I included a link and caption to this rare digitized footage of the 1926 funeral of Thai King Vajiravudh (aka Rama VI) to accompany a pair of travel advisory stories I wrote for the South China Morning Post related to King Bhumibol’s funeral rites in October 2017. The actual cremation took place on the evening of October 26, preceded by a half-dozen processions that day and by five rehearsals in the days before that. (The gist of my stories: Don’t even think that you can get close enough on October 25-27 to see anything in the vicinity of the funerary structures.)
The video caption I wrote was edited down a lot, so I don’t think readers could draw much from it. Early on in the video, that’s Vajiravudh’s brother, King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), presiding over—by pulling a specially made rope—the raising of the Royal Six-Tiered Umbrella to a spire atop the multi-story wood crematorium. That ceremony occurs a few days before the actual cremation; this year it took place October 18, with Thailand’s new king, Vajiralongkorn, presiding. Continue reading