* How the TechNode community sees China tech in 2021

By Susan Cunningham
TechNode.com
January 2, 2021

The most important theme of 2020 wasn’t the emergence of a technological innovation. Rather, it was how the pandemic supercharged certain existing trends in China while revealing cracks in the firmament we should have seen long before. At least, that’s what some thoughtful members of the TechNode community said in a remarkable display of consensus.

We asked them to reflect on the tech year in the time of coronavirus, and point to what we can anticipate in the year ahead.

They say that fast growth is likely over (and that’s a good thing). They say that many, many ordinary Chinese people lost their blind faith in giant tech (welcome as well). And governmental authorities began making firm strides toward regulation.

Whether pertaining to monopolies, fintech, or protection of personal data, long overdue regulations are now coming, our experts say, but what form they take will surely be a major source of worry, relief, and dispute in 2021. Will authorities, for example, regulate community group buying to protect vulnerable small enterprises?

Perhaps most significant of all, it turns out that tech trade wars were just beginning back in 2019. MORE

* Grab Usage in Freefall in Singapore Since Uber Exit

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 who 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


Postscript: I should have mentioned in the story that the Android operating system had about 75% of the Singapore smartphone/tablet market during most of 2018. In Indonesia, Android had about 92% of the market.

* Priceza, Priceprice, PricePanda – Who’s Winning And Losing SE Asia’s Price Comparison Races

[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

* Malaysia’s Richest 2018: Anthony Tan’s Grab Hits $6B Valuation As Ride-Hailing Race Quickens

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes Asia

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. 
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* Rocket’s Lazada And Zalora Lost $235.3 Million In 2014 But Are Moving Toward Profitability

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com | May 12, 2015

Lazada, Southeast Asia’s largest shopping platform, and its sister apparel site, Zalora, racked up huge gains in sales and transactions in 2014 but together lost $235.3 million. The good news for those invested in the German parent company, Rocket Internet Group, is that losses as a proportion of revenues are shrinking.

Rocket, which has stakes in 141 internet companies throughout the world, released its 2014 results last week. It listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on October 2, 2014.

Lazada Losses and Revenues Double

Lazada’s six general merchandise sites operate in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Lazada’s net revenue was US $154.3 million last year, more than double 2013 results of $75.5 million. Yet the company’s net operating losses (EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were $152.5 million, also more than double the 2013 figure of $67 million.

(Most figures in Rocket’s annual report were in euros; Lazada’s results were reported in US dollars.).

For online retailers, however, a key metric is growth in Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV)–the sales value of products sold. In the case of an unprofitable company like Lazada, another metric is the share of losses relative to GMV and whether that share, the negative margin, is narrowing year on year. By that measure, Lazada is moving in the right direction. MORE