Understanding the local market, listening to what consumers want, being consistent with the company’s vision and mission and spending wisely are the keys to successfully entering a new market, according to leading Southeast Asian start-ups.
Grab, Omise and Zanroo were among leading Southeast Asian “grown-up” tech companies to recently share the strategies they followed in entering new markets and the challenges they faced.
The discussion was one of the “Spend the Night With” series of talks, and titled “Going regional on a budget”. It was organised by The Great Room, Bangkok Entrepreneurs and Gaysorn Urban Retreat.
Social media listening platform Zanroo’s managing director for Thailand and CLMV Pornpat Wattananiyomkajohn joined with other participants in underlining the importance of understanding the local market and culture.
Zanroo was founded in 2013 as a two-person company. After four years it is now active in 15 countries, has more than 150 employees and is implementing an ambitious plan to be present in 40 markets worldwide by 2019.
Vee Charununsri, Grab’s head of business development and public affairs for Thailand, recalled being on a shoestring budget when the taxi-hailing app was first launched in 2012.
“We spend a lot of time researching and analysing the local market before entering,” said Vee.
The company spent wisely and used intellectual rigour when scaling the business. It was only in 2014 that Grab received its first funding. Today, what was originally a social enterprise has risen to become one of Asia’s unicorns.
Pornpat said that Zanroo carefully selected local partners in the countries they expanded into because locals knew their market best. He cited the example of a dairy that launched a new fruit-flavoured milk product based on conversations they followed on social media as they sought to understand what the consumers in that market wanted.
Meanwhile, Visit Yindisiriwong, country manager for Thailand for leading online payment technology service provider Omise, said the company focused on how to make the purchase journey of users faster and more convenient in each market they enter.
“Omise recruits the most talented team working globally from Silicon Valley to Bangkok, from Asia to Europe. This is why we benefit a lot, in terms of cost savings, from remote offices and co-working spaces, allowing us to fully control the business’ fluidity and scalability,” he said.
“My advice to companies looking at growing regionally is to remember that failure is not getting knocked down, it [failure] is not getting up again, so do not be afraid of failure. At some point, everyone is going to screw up, but what matters the most is that you learn from mistakes. Then you can get back up stronger. Action and velocity are the keys.”
Staying consistent with the company’s vision and mission is another key to success, added Vee.
“It helps if your vision, mission and your statements are consistent. For Grab, it was about security, convenience and improving the lives of people. We use that mantra everywhere we go and every business that we look into. We believe that if we don’t have that mantra, it’s going to be so hard to succeed. So we always try to keep that in mind. We have that same vision throughout in order to grow effectively.”
Visit said a key future trend is “cash is less” as people move to online payment. This is in line with Omise’s mission, which is “online payments for everyone”. The mission at Zanroo, Pornpat said, is to connect with consumers more effectively, and continually evolve the way marketing is done. While other companies provide news that has taken place, Zanroo listens to conversations that could shape the future of the brands, he said.