By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com | May 15, 2014
Tourist alert! Three people are dead and 22 people are injured in Bangkok after a gunfire and grenade attack on a new protesters’ site early Thursday morning. The anti-government PDRC camp is close to the Democracy Monument–in the city’s prime tourist area.
The deadly violence achieved one of the immediate goals of the anti-election PDRC protesters: parliamentary polls set for July 20 have now definitely been postponed by the Election Commission. The commission’s secretary-general indicated Thursday that the elections are being postponed rather than cancelled: “The situation has to be right and accommodating for an election to take place … We don’t think this is the right time.”
Army Reacts to Fresh Bangkok Violence
Were members of the UDD (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship), the so-called Red Shirts who support the present Pheu Thai Party caretaker government, responsible for the shots and grenades last night?
As in most previous incidents–28 people have died since last November in violence related to the protests–we may never know. The grenades and guns were wielded by occupants of a pickup truck that plowed through the protest camp. But the responses of the military and Electoral Commission certainly aren’t what the pro-elections UDD is seeking. The Army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, warned Thursday that if unrest continues, “it will be necessary for the military to launch a full-scale effort to end the violence.” MORE
By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com | Oct 5, 2014
At the end of Rocket Internet’s disappointing first day of trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange last week, co-founder and CEO Oliver Samwer looked weary but, as usual, kept on-message, telling CNBC that “most [Rocket sites] are market leaders in their sectors.”
When he announced the IPO last month, Samwer told a press conference, “I do not have growth, competition or margin as my key problems. Why? Because I’m the first mover in most of my markets.”
Rocket may well be a dull duplicator of others’ innovative ideas, so the subtext goes, but it is boldly pioneering in markets where the grateful natives are just discovering this internet thing. One could easily get the impression from coverage in the western media that there is no e-commerce or online retailing in developing countries from Asia to Latin America to Africa.
World’s Largest Internet Platform?
Where exactly is Rocket the first mover? And how does the investor and digital startup factory intend to become the “biggest consumer internet group outside of the US and China,” “the Alibaba of non-US and non-China countries” or, most recently, “the world’s largest internet platform outside the United States and China”? MORE
Only in Myanmar: the $19 3G smartphone
By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com | August 10, 2016
The phone in the above photo is a shiny new $19.44 smartphone. When I saw this for sale in small shop on the corner of Anawrahta and Pansodan streets in Yangon a few weeks ago, the 23,000 kyat (at 1,183 kyat/US$1) price included one SIM card. As you can see, it’s 3G capable and has slots for two SIM cards.
Later, I saw the same Thai brand, complete with Thai packaging, among the familiar and strange brands of phones for sale on sidewalk tables, like the ones in the photo below. Since bargaining comes with the territory and these phones aren’t being sold in a shop with overhead costs, do they cost even less than $19? Such a low price for a new phone must also affect the pricing of secondhand smartphones, regardless of brand.
Myanmar (Burma) has three mobile carriers: the government’s MPT and the two private carriers: Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor. Two years ago this month, Ooredoo introduced its service with 1,500 kyat SIM cards; MPT had dropped its Sim price from the equivalent of $300 to 1,500 kyat some months before that, but the private company turned on the advertising and promotion firehose and Telenor followed suit a few months later. A decade ago, SIM cards were in the $1,500 range. Nowadays, some Myanmar people have two phones, each with a different carrier, because coverage varies in different parts of the country. And since a SIM card costs less than $1.50, why not? Continue reading
Myanmar digital startup NEX has won second round funding of US$150,000 from Singapore’s Blibros Group, the privately-held investment arm of Sweden’s Böcker family. Yes, this is the family of Magnus Böcker, CEO of the Singapore Exchange and former CEO of Nasdaq OMX Nordic. NEX got its initial angel investment of $50,000 last year from Singapore investor Ned Phillips, formerly of E*Trade and Chi-East.
I met NEX’s founder and CEO, Ye Myat Min, who’s all of 23, a few months ago when I was in Yangon. NEX had 15 employees then; now there’s 20. The new investment will enable the company to build on Fyre, its Web-based software introduced in May that enables small businesses to quickly set up an online storefront. One of the first customers was TAC, the country’s first authorized re-seller of Apple products. ”Most small shops want an app, but they can’t afford to get their own. Instead, they can pay … MORE
(Originally published December 31, 2013)
By Susan Cunningham
Beginning with fashion site Zalora in the Philippines in late 2011, Germany’s Rocket Internet has been hatching dozens of copycat e-commerce sites in Southeast Asia and the general vicinity–and quickly shutting down some of them. It’s invested at least $200 million already in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam–perhaps more like $500 million if Rocket startups are spending tens of millions of marketing dollars in each country as rumored.
In the coming year, we’ll probably see some of that money expended on the intense city contests for taxi-booking apps and restaurant delivery services. I also think that, as new fashion sites pop up or existing ones become more visible, Zalora will have to come up with a better selection of women’s clothing. MORE