Category: Business

A win-win cooperation for Airbnb and Oyo?

Just days after announcing its acquisition of travel app HotelTonight for more than US$400 million, home sharing giant Airbnb has revealed another major investment in Indian hotel management startup Oyo.

The deal is reportedly worth US$100 to US$200 million in exchange for a significant stake in the startup and was said to be part of the Indian startup’s Series E funding round.

A spokeswoman from Oyo told local media that their company has been working closely with a range of global distribution partners including Airbnb, and other regional and global players.

However, none of these relationships were exclusive in nature.

AirBnb: China and India Markets in Sights

One of the main reasons for Airbnb’s investment in Oyo was due to its presence in India and China, two markets where the US company has traditionally faced obstacles and challenges.

A report by Business Today notes that Airbnb’s China listings only made up about 5 percent while its listings in India is less than 1 percent.

Truth is, Airbnb has created Aibiying a few years back in order to expand their operations into China, however it has still lagged behind local businesses like Xiaozhu and Tujia.

Nathan Blecharczyk, the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Airbnb had mentioned in late 2017, that China’s notorious technology restrictions, which block access to sites like Google and Facebook, has made it difficult for online businesses like Airbnb to grow.

“Emerging markets like India and China are some of Airbnb’s fastest-growing with our growth increasingly powered by tourism to and from these markets,” said Airbnb’s president of homes, Greg Greeley. “In many of these markets, Oyo is empowering local hospitality entrepreneurs to provide more options to more travelers.”

Oyo China

Oyo also claims to be one of China’s top five hotel chains, having expanded into the country since November 2017.

The startup currently has 180,000 rooms and more than 4,000 hotels in major cities including Xian, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Kunming, and Xiamen under franchise, manchise, and lease agreements.

Meanwhile, by room count, Oyo is reportedly the largest hotel company in India and Blecharczyk refers to India as an important business opportunity for targeting business travelers.

“Currently, we have about 6,500 companies in India who have signed with Airbnb for business travel. So there is a lot of traction here,” he said.

Both companies are currently exploring ways to collaborate, one way being listing Oyo accommodations on Airbnb.

Moving Beyond Home Rentals, Airbnb Gets Ready for IPO in 2020

In any case, it is evident that Airbnb is beefing up its portfolio in preparation for an initial public offering next year.

This goes to explain the aggressive moves lately in expanding its lodging offerings beyond home rentals for tourists, for which the company is famous.

Its recent investment in hotel booking startup HotelTonight as well as its stakes in Indian hotel unicorn Oyo seems to be cases in point, to tap into business travelers who are willing to spend more on traveling.

Besides, in December, Airbnb had also acquired a small French property management startup called Lucky Homes and a small stake in The Wing, a startup focused on co-working spaces and social clubs for women, again points to its expansion beyond tourists and backpackers.

“For Airbnb to grow, it has to be present across segments.” Chandramouli, the Chief Executive Officer of TRA Research said. “Airbnb cannot remain just a platform. By investing, it is like an expansion for Airbnb as they move into hotel rooms too.”

And that’s where Oyo fits in neatly with its presence in India and China, as well as its footprint spans across more than 500 cities across China, Malaysia, Nepal, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and most recently Japan.

Oyo: A Strong Global Network via AirBnb

Oyo

Founded in 2013, Oyo calls itself India’s largest hospitality company which helps manage budget hotels in India. It aggregates hotels onto booking websites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com that helps them improve efficiency.

The startup currently evaluated at US$5 billion by existing investors, has raised nearly US$1.5 billion to date from SoftBank, Sequoia Capital, and Grab, among others.

“Airbnb’s strong global footprints and access to local communities will open up new chances for Oyo,” said Maninder Gulati, the Indian company’s global chief strategy officer.

The Oyo-Airbnb deal will immediately allow Oyo’s 10,000 villas and homes in India, Dubai, and other markets to be listed on Airbnb.

Currently, the startup claims to be the world’s seventh largest hotel group, with 515,000 rooms under management.

Just as Airbnb faces some challenges in the Indian and Chinese market, Oyo faces them in Airbnb’s home market – the United States.

Having just recently launched its business in the United States, with an initial debut in Texas with its Townhouse brand name, Oyo is going up against American economy lodging brands like Super 8 and Travelodge.

Besides, Airbnb has amassed a large audience of users both to its websites and its mobile app, and now that it’s featuring hotel product more and more — in addition to buying a hotel booking platform — that could work to Oyo’s benefit, too

Oyo might find that actively marketing its product on Airbnb could cost less than using other online travel agencies or even Google’s own price-comparison search tool, and because the Oyo brand is relatively still new in the U.S., Airbnb’s platform could facilitate an introduction to the U.S. market in a seamless way.

“A listing partnership where Oyo supply is available on Airbnb could be mutually beneficial for both companies. Oyo could potentially get access to more western inbound travelers to India, China, and Southeast Asia, its key markets, that are comfortable booking through Airbnb but would otherwise be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Oyo,” Seth Borko, a researcher for Skift said.

The Indian unicorn is also branching out into new services such as rental housing, a business it took global last week in Tokyo.

The Bigger Picture in Travel: Synergies in Product and Ambition

Airbnb Ipo

Though previously, Oyo and Airbnb have been rivals of sorts, the two shared grand ambitions to dominate travel and accommodations.

Moving forward, Oyo’s Founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal believes that Oyo will overtake top-ranked Marriott International, which manages 1.29 million rooms, by 2023.

On the other hand, Airbnb is looking to break from its hoe sharing platform and become a “superbrand of travel”.

Australia’s Newest Tech Unicorn is Three-year-old Payment Startup AirWallex

AirWallex, a cross-border payments startup in Australia has become the next unicorn after raising a US$100 million Series C funding led by DST Global. A unicorn is indicative of having reached a milestone valuation exceeding US$1 billion.

This makes AirWallex the fourth unicorn, following the footsteps of graphic design company Canva, aerial imagery company Nearmap, and Sydney software company Atlassian which has been listed on NASDAQ in 2015.

DST Global, the investment firm which has led the new funding round, was known for having made investments in notable startups like Facebook, Airbnb, and Spotify, as well as fintechs like Nubank and Robinhood.

“We talked to a number of global funds we found interesting but we picked DST because our biggest priority is international expansion and the firm will help us opening doors and going after larger opportunities,” Jack Zhang, one of AirWallex’s co-founder said of the lead investor for the round.

But aside from DST Global, existing investors from Airwallex’s previous rounds including Sequoia Capital China, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, Gobi Partners, Horizons Ventures, and Square Peg Capital also returned for the Series C fundraising.

Its Series C comes at the time when AirWallex’s Asia Pacific business had increased five to eight fold this year with billion dollars worth of transactions and as the startup was looking to take on more small businesses as clients.

“Very few companies are growing at this kind of rate,” Zhang said.

The new capital will be used to expand Airwallex’s suite of international collection and payment products, in addition to supporting global expansion into the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

Looking back at the roots of this payments startup, the inspiration for the fintech platform started with a coffee cup dilemma.

In 2015, co-founders Jack Zhang and Max Li met with some obstacles when they were trying to buy coffee cups and labels for their cafe Tukk & Co in Melbourne’s Docklands.

“We were importing a lot of stuff from Hong Kong and China and other places because we wanted to do it really well and cost-effectively,” Zhang told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“However when we were making a payment using the traditional methods of either a bank or Western Union, the cost could be through the roof. We are talking a couple of percent and using multiple intermediaries.”

This then led the pair to join up with friends from Melbourne University – Xijing Dai, Ki-lok Wong, and Lucy Liu – to start AirWallex.

AirWallex founding team

From left: Max Li, Xijing Dai, Jack Zhang, Lucy Liu and Ki-lok Wong

AirWallex is not your Traditional Broker

“We started Airwallex because we knew there was a better way to make global payments,” said Zhang.

Unlike traditional brokers which adds on an ecommerce unit for SMEs, AirWallex is built from the ground up specifically for ecommerce. There’s no need to pay layers of brokers expensive fees which is why it can keep its costs low.

Much like the consumer-focused Transferwise, AirWallex provides an international payment service that lets marketplaces, merchants, and SMEs manage cross-border revenue and financing in their business.

“We wanted to be able to build something a lot more robust, a lot more real-time, cost-effective, as well as transparent in pricing to other customers so we could make the life of those businesses easier,” explained Zhang.

The startup currently supports a client base of internet giants including JD.com, Tencent, and Ctrip.

With a single know-your-customer check, an Airwallex client can open a local bank account in 50 different currencies, as well as instantly send and receive money internationally using lower interbank rates to more than 130 countries.

For example, an ecommerce seller that is importing from China using AirWallex would be able to make payment in real time at a cost that is comparatively lower from other international payment solutions which charge as much as three to four percent in currency fees.

Checking the Unicorn Mark

When asked its new unicorn status, Zhang said, “The status is a little bit strange, to be honest, but it is just giving us the credibility and reputation to service more customers.”

“Airwallex is proud to free business from many of the traditional barriers that have made international transactions so difficult.”

Despite its value, AirWallex’s reported revenues are modest. In its most recent financial records filed with the regulator for the year ending June 30, 2017, Airwallex had reported a revenue of US$14,803 and a loss of US$806,195.

However, Zhang explained that this figure did not include global revenue and the business is now tracking well beyond its forecast of US$20 million.

“For a company at our stage, revenue is not the key thing, it is all about the processing volume and we are on track to process tens of billions of dollars in 2019,” he said.

AirWallex China

Zhang said Airwallex’s vision continues to grow and it aims to become the fundamental infrastructure for online business to scale.

The startup has started focused on Asia, and China in particular. It is also looking to expand its presence in the United Kingdom and the United States through acquisitions, with the team actively seeking interesting payment startups.

Besides, Airwallex is also casting its eye on banking licenses in selected markets, which could mean it returns to raise additional capital at the end of this year or the start of 2020.

“We believe that there are huge opportunities for companies such as Airbnb and Amazon while SMEs need a true one-stop shop for their business to go from local to global. We know we have so many revenue streams we can get on the future, but for now we are focused on customer acquisition and helping our customers to scale,” he said.

Regarding IPO, Zhang said that given how easily the company is raising money privately, the company has no plans to go public for at least three years.

Traveloka expands services beyond Southeast Asia

Travel-booking giant Traveloka, one of Indonesia’s four startup unicorns, officially announced its expansion to Australia on Wednesday.

Users in the country can now access Traveloka through the website or mobile application. The online travel company said it is currently offering five features including flight ticket reservation, hotel accommodation, airport transfers, and admission tickets to travel attractions and activities.

For Traveloka, this development marks Traveloka’s second foreign expansion this year as the firm opened a new R&D office in Bangalore in late January. However, in terms of offering its service, Australia would be its first country outside of Southeast Asia.

In the last few years, Traveloka has been aggressively spreading its influence in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Southeast Asia’s Travel Stop

One of Southeast Asia’s leading technology companies, Traveloka is present in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, SIngapore, and the Philippines

has forged partnerships with more than 100 domestic and international airlines that serve more than 200,000 routes worldwide.

The company offers more than 40 payment options for consumers in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Its mobile application has been downloaded more than 40 million times from Google Play and Apple’s App Store. This makes the platform one of the most popular travel booking apps in the region.

Wonderful Indonesia Tourism

Traveloka is one of the co-branding partners of the government’s Wonderful Indonesia tourism promotion program. It is committed to help the country reach its target of attracting 20 million overseas visitors this year, and hope its expansion to Australia will introduce more tourist attractions in Indonesia to Australian travelers and vice versa.

“The government’s target to attract 20 million foreign tourists will not be achieved if it does not synergize with players in the industry,” said Edy Wardoyo, the deputy of marketing development at the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.

“Together with Traveloka, we hope this synergy can help our mission, and we will continue to support Traveloka to exist in this new market,” Edy added.

According to Statista.com, Indonesia ranked second after New Zealand in 2018 as the travel destination of choice for Australian tourists. Traveloka also notes that the Australian market is one of the promising tourism markets, where foreign tourist visits from Australia to Indonesia has shown an increasing trend year-on-year.

Data provided by Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency (BPS) shows that 1.3 million Australian tourists visited the country last year, while the figure is expected to have a 15% increase to 1.5 million this year.

It seems like Bali still tops the list for many Australians who visit Indonesia as the island welcomed at least 763.000 Australian travellers in the period from January-August 2018, according to the agency.

With this, the company’s presence in Australia will further facilitate travel access and answer the diverse travel needs of users.

“Today we are thrilled to be able to add new countries outside Southeast Asia. In general, Australia is a country that has better infrastructure in terms of connectivity, payment, and internet adoption,” said Yady Guitana, the Head of Global Partnership for Traveloka.

“We hope that our presence in Australia and can further enrich the lives of users by empowering them to discover the world around them by offering various travel and lifestyle products on one platform,” she added.

The Growth Strategy After Australia

The company has raised at least US$500 million to grow its business. The lead investor in its latest round was US travel giant Expedia. Traveloka is said to be seeking another US$400 million for its expansion.

Expanding to Australia is part of an effort to support the Indonesian government in its goal to attract 20 million foreign visitors to Indonesia. Traveloka is an official partner of the Indonesian tourism board’s Wonderful Indonesia campaign.

Three Southeast Asian Startups Poised to be the Next Unicorns

It’s two months into 2019, and more startups are poised to join Southeast Asia’s old guard of unicorn companies as funding are flooding into the regional startup scene.

Majority of capital are continuously associated with a few familiar names. Late-stage companies are raising larger rounds and putting them closer to the US$1B billion valuation.

Here are three potential unicorns that you have to keep an eye out for in 2019:

1. Fashion Supply Chain Zilingo

A potential Southeast Asian unicorn is 3.5-year-old Zilingo. The ecommerce startup announced on Tuesday that it has secured a US$226 million Series D round.

The funding is provided by existing backers including Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Germany’s Burda and Sofina, a European backer of Flipkart-owned fashion site Myntra.

EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board also joined the round as a new investor.

This Series D round takes Zilingo total proceedings since its inception to US$308 million, making it one of Southeast Asia’s highest capitalized startups.

According to TechCrunch, Zilingo is close to unicorn status with just a rounding error away from US$1 billion (a number the startup is likely to come across sooner or later given that its Series D was made so rapidly).

Zilingo app

Zilingo is the brainchild of CEO Ankiti Bose and CTO Dhruv Kapoor who founded the service capitalizing on Southeast Asia’s growing mobile adoption and internet connectivity.

The two aim to bring small fashion vendors from the street markets of cities like Bangkok and Jakarta into ecommerce.

However what contributed to its speedy growth since its founding was its expansion moving from consumer ecommerce to business-to-business service.

The startup ventured into a network of supply chain pieces for retailers or brands, including manufacturing, logistics, and even payment.

With this, anyone interested in private labels or fashion selling could use Zilingo as a one-stop solution to make and source their product.

Since setting up its first presence in Thailand and Cambodia in 2015, the startup has grown to have offices in eight countries with 400 employees.

The latest proceedings will continually propel the startup as they are preparing to launch in Australia soon and further aim to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain.

2. Asian Sports Media Company ONE Championship

One Championship

Crushing the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) market, Singapore-headquartered ONE Championship is Asia’s largest sports media property.

Since its inception in 2011, the startup has emerged with the largest selection of elite Asian martial artists practicing various martial arts originating from Asia such as Silat and Lethwei.

It wasn’t smooth sailing at first. The first three years of ONE Championship for founder Chatri Sityodtong was living hell.

People at the time did not understand ONE Championship’s vision then, broadcasters, brands, advertisers, and even potential employees turned him down.

It was when they finally realized their platform is based on humanity that they started to grow.

“We finally figured out that people don’t watch because of the punch or the kick or the submission. People watch because their heroes are representing their country on the global stage of martial arts,” Sityodtong said.

ONE Championship succeeded in creating Asian martial arts heroes, having discovered local Asian Stars such as Angela Lee, Eduard Folayang, and Shinya Aoki.

Martial arts aside, technology has also been a big part of what ONE Championship does. The media company leverages online broadcasting and social media to hold live events every month across cities all over Asia.

Through this online strategy, the startup has seen a 58% increase in total fans year on year, nearly five times more video views at 299 million, and more than 3 times social media shares at 746K.

Currently, One Championship has a global broadcast to over 1 billion potential viewers across 128 countries.

The startup’s latest funding is its US$166 million-worth Series D led by Sequoia which has placed the startup near US$1 billion valuation.

3. Mobile Community Marketplace Carousell

Carousell

Expanded across 19 cities and seven countries around the world, Carousell solves a pain point for consumers by making the exchange of goods and services more accessible.

Its founders are three young Singaporean entrepreneurs – Marcus Tan, Siu Rui Quek, and Lucas Ngoo – who initially set out to build technology that served the world.

“We still have a long way to go in realizing our vision for Carousell,” Carousell’s co-founder and CEO Quek Siu Rui said.

“Carousell’s purpose is to be more than just a transactional platform. Our end goal is to grow a community of millions of people around the world who share our belief that changing the way we consume things can make life more meaningful.”

To this point, the startup has so far raised about US$126.8 million in funding from seven venture capital firms in the process including Sequoia Capital, 500 Startups, and Quest Venture.

In related news, Carousell has been strong at forging partnerships. The startup teamed up with GoJek in January to offer new riders $13 in vouchers when they download the app through ads on Carousell.

Who is Winning in the Battle for E-Wallet Domination in Southeast Asia?

With a rapidly increasing population of 600 million smartphone savvy users, Southeast Asia has been the hotbed for e-wallet startups that looks to change the society way in payment.

While we have all seen how you can pay for street food in Beijing with a quick scan of the QR code via WeChat Pay or Alipay. This is still yet the reality in most parts of Southeast Asia whether it is in affluent Singapore or an emerging market like Indonesia.

The trend, however, looks like the definitive future for the region, with more than hundreds of e-wallets startups taking station in the Southeast Asian region.

Besides, retail, financial and on-demand services like ride-hailing giants Grab and low-cost airline AirAsia are also pushing for digital wallets.

Grab is ramping up its efforts to increase transactions using its e-wallet service GrabPay, which can be used to pay for rides and foods, as well as transfer money between users.

Go-Jek, on the other hand, had also recently made an acquisition of Coins.ph, a cryptocurrency pioneer in Southeast Asia which is also the first firm to be regulated in the region as a Virtual Currency Exchange and Electronic Money Issuer (e-wallet).

The potential of the Southeast Asian market, with its huge unbanked population, rising middle class, and high smartphone penetration is what propelled the region to become home to many digital payment startups.

Despite that, Southeast Asia, for now, is still a battleground for e-wallet companies.

E-wallets in Southeast Asia

GrabPay

Singapore is moving towards cashless payments, with mobile wallets like PayNow nd Dash gaining momentum, however most still prefer contactless card payments.

One of the most common ways to pay is through Nets, a local firm founded in 1985 with over 100,000 acceptance points nationwide. Although Nets started off as a card payment company. The startup recently embrace QR code payment technology.

On the other hand, cash is still dominant in Malaysia, but digital payment players are working hard to change the market, from Grab to WeChat to Duit Now.

PayNow and PromptPay – Singapore and Thailand government supported e-transaction systems that allow peer-to-peer transfer of funds using only identification numbers and mobile phone numbers.

The two countries are facilitating their transition to a cashless society. The PromptPay system is part of Thailand’s National ePayment plan which seeks to integrate formal financial transactions such as welfare payments and taxation into an electronic system.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore recently made public that it would facilitate a partnership for cross-border transactions between PayNow and PromptPay.

In Singapore, Grab is trying to integrate hawker stalls into the GrabPay system.

In Thailand, SCB Easy of Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikornbank’s K Plus are two active mobile payment providers. Non-banks include Line Pay, Garena’s AirPay and AIS’s mPay.

In Indonesia, Go-Jek has also launched Go-Pay. In December last year, Go-Jek bought over three fintech firms in a move to dominate the Indonesian digital payments market.

In Myanmar, only 5% of the population have bank accounts. The majority of the public deposit or withdraw their money through authorised agents with their identity card without the need for registration. These agents include the thousands of SIM card point of sales and small businesses like grocery store merchants that are scattered around the country. The major mobile payment players are EasyPay; TrueMoney; MyanPay; WaveMoney.

In Cambodia, mobile payment application Pi Pay has scaled quickly to become a ubiquitous digital wallet solution and the first e-commerce app to gain real traction in the city.

Vietnam most promising E-Wallet solutions: Mo Mo and Payoo. Uber has signed a deal with Mo Mo that will let riders to pay for their rides with the e-wallet.

Loas, BCEL One mobile application and e-wallet OnePay launched by Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) allow customers to transfer funds between accounts, pay utility and phone bills, pay taxes, and more, right from their own mobile phone.

While OnePay allows users to pay anyone, anywhere, directly from their account by simply photographing a QR code.

E-wallets influence from Outside Southeast Asia

China’s e-wallets have their eyes on Malaysia for expansion.The country, for now, is the only nation in the world that is able to use WeChat pay in their local denomination.

The environment is also fertile ground for payments in Malaysia to flourish, a renaissance of the ecommerce boom circa 2015 that led to the rise of payments fintech.

In terms of external competition, we see digital wallets or e-wallets from Temasek and Google taking off in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Tencent (the group that owns WeChat Pay) and Alibaba’s Alipay are looking to expand their market to Southeast Asia.

WeChat Pay, the wallet service that is included as a feature in their messenger app has been cleared for a Malaysian electronic payment license that would allow transaction in ringgit.

While Ant Financial (the company that runs AliPay) is working with merchants to supply services to travellers from China, and forming joint ventures with local partners for e-wallets using their brands.

Alipay’s e-wallet partnerships in the SEA: TrueMoney Wallet, Thailand; GCash, Philippines; Touch’n Go, Malaysia; and Emtek, Indonesia.

Lack of a Dominant E-wallet Startup

While there’s a bunch of mobile payment startups in the countries, the dominant spot is still empty for the taking.

The use of cash and bank transfers remain prevalent in the region, and digital payment penetration is still only concentrated in cities.

Another big problem with online payments in Southeast Asia is that each market in the region has multiple digital wallet services from different players, making the payment sector highly fragmented and frustrating for consumers who wish to pay online.

Even a small market like Singapore has some 27 different digital wallet services, Zack Yang Zhan, the co-founder of Singapore-based FOMO Pay told SCMP.

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