Taking Thai entrepreneurial flair to the next level
August 19, 2014 01:00 By Asina Pornwasin The Nation
Arunsawad.com founder Kittinan now looks to turn car-insurance claim start-up into major success both here and overseas
Kittinan Anuphan, who embarked on his tech start-up journey when he set up Arunsawad.com 14 years ago, is now 12 months into another challenge, having established a second company – in the mobile-app field.
A couple of years ago, the entrepreneur expanded Arunsawad.com onto the cloud platform and then, last year, he formed Anywhere to Go to provide the Claim Di mobile solution for car insurance – the goal being that the firm’s mobile app would become the gateway for clearing claims for all types of auto insurance.
Kittinan, who had no experience in software programming, was keen on sales after working as a technical sales representative for several IT companies – before taking the path of software entrepreneurship back in 2000.
He acknowledges that he has been both a winner and loser during his 14 years running a software business in Thailand. However, in the past two years, Arunsawad.com has begun to grow well, with Bt20 million in revenue per year.
Kittinan was visionary enough to foresee over the last 14 years that mobility would grow in importance and that there were huge opportunities in the field. Arunsawad.com mainly provides enterprise mobility solutions focusing on two main industries, insurance and healthcare.
It now offers many services, such as Anywhere to Claim, Anywhere to Go and Anywhere to ER. The company already has a 40-per-cent market share in terms of auto insurance policies, and 20 per cent of the market in healthcare insurance business, he said.
“We develop mobility solutions for enterprises. It is such a good business, but we could not expand our capacity for this kind of business because it requires investment in terms of human resources. Therefore, we have maintained our revenue at around Bt20 million per year,” said Kittinan.
Despite this limitation, over the last couple of years he expanded Arunsawad.com’s mobility solution for enterprises onto the cloud platform – with one customer, Falcon Insurance, having 300 to 500 claims per month.
“Under the cloud platform, instead of providing system sales to each insurance company, insurers that have fewer claims per month can use our service without buying a system, as they can pay per transaction,” he said.
Fortunately, Big Data and social networking now play critical roles across businesses and consumer lifestyles, he said, adding that huge business opportunities are out there.
His initiative in this respect was to expand mobility solutions previously designed and developed specifically for a particular enterprise to a whole industry ecosystem, especially for the insurance sector.
To pursue this goal, he founded Anywhere to Go with Bt1.5 million of capital and then took his start-up idea in the form of a prototype of Claim Di to be incubated in the “dtac Accelerator” programme – run by DTAC (Total Access Communication) – for the past three months.
Claim Di was one of five winners whose entrepreneurs were given a chance to pitch to global investors in the “Geek on a Plane” event, and to receive seed funding from top venture-capital firms such as 500 Startups, Golden Gate Ventures, and individual investors such as Mike Prasad, Takeshi Ebihara, Rebright Partner, Samer Karam, Alice Tommy Chila, Super Aces Ventures, Ravi Agarwal and engageSpark.
Kittinan said the funding would assist the company to prepare to further pitch for series-A funding and launch onto the regional and global markets.
“We will use the pre-series-A funding to promote our services and to further develop our application, as well as to improve the features. This year, we will focus on the Thai market before expanding to the regional market next year. We plan to raise series-A funding, which we expect to use to jump into the Asian market,” said Kittinan.
The business idea of Claim Di is to offer a mobile application that allows car owners to make a claim to their insurer right at the accident scene within 15 minutes of an incident taking place.
This dramatically shortens the time to make a claim, saves on insurers’ claim costs, and reduces the incidence of claims fraud.
“Our main product for car insurance is called Anywhere2Go, which is the business-to-business model between customers and us, while Claim Di is the business-to-business-to-consumer model, which means we develop a mobile solution for car insurance, and a mobile application for car owners. We charge the insurers, while letting consumers use the app for free,” said the entrepreneur.
Initially, he said, his company is targeting its 11 existing insurance-company customers to expand the use of Claim Di, while at the same trying to attract new customers. Five insurers have already confirmed they will use Claim Di.
Sights on regional expansion
Next year, the company hopes to take the app into the markets of Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Malaysia.
“However, the company expects to generate revenue of US$2 million [Bt64 million] next year, all from Thailand. Revenue from overseas markets will be recognised by 2016,” he added.
The value of the Asian car insurance market is many times bigger than the Thai market, which is worth $43 billion, and there is therefore a huge opportunity for Claim Di to expand regionally.
Venture-capital support and Claim Di’s business model being focused on the cloud will help the company accelerate into expanding within Asia and globally in the near future, he said.
Turning to this year’s domestic focus, Thailand has 15 million cars, of which 8 million have voluntary insurance. These 8 million cars together involve some 14 million claims transactions a year.
The cost for an insurance company to send an agent to the scene of an accident in order for a claim to be made is Bt550 per time in Bangkok, and Bt1,100 outside the capital, he said.
Kittinan said Claim Di enabled insurers to cut their operating costs because car owners could make a claim themselves instantly via the application. In fact, the cost per claim is lowered to just Bt50 per transaction when they do not have to dispatch an agent to the scene.
Khailee Ng, a venture-capital partner for Southeast Asia at one of the top early-stage venture-capital firms in California’s Silicon Valley, 500 Startups, said he saw big opportunities for the Anywhere to Go business model.
“The main criteria we consider to invest in that size of business are opportunity and speed of growth. Anywhere to Go has both.
“We also invested in a similar application called Snapsheet, which focuses on the US market. We know and understand this kind of business, so we are confident there are huge opportunities.
“More importantly, its founder [Kittinan] has good understanding of his business domain and good expertise, as well as being humble enough to listen to mentors in order to improve and get his business moving forwards,” said Ng.
As an investor, he said 500 Startups’ goal is on two levels: to create a return on investment, and to create a start-up success story.
He also commented that Thailand’s start-up ecosystem was growing rapidly, as evidenced by his company’s biggest number of investments in Southeast Asia being in the Kingdom – with eight invested start-ups from a total of 18 in the region.
Anywhere to Go is in fact the seventh, and another is due to be formally announced soon. The other six Thai start-ups already invested in by 500 Startups are Noonswoon, Playbasis, Eko, Pomel, Taamkru and Builk Asia
“We have invested in 800 start-ups in more than 40 countries worldwide. In Thailand, in the last 12 months, we have already invested in seven start-ups, with Anywhere to Go being the latest one. We are working on the documentation for another one, which is set to be announced soon,” said Ng.
Thailand is considered as an interesting destination for investors looking to put money into start-ups, he said.
The country has many new start-ups every month, and its readiness and strength include strong support from telecom companies, Thais having global experience as start-up mentors, government support, and a community of start-up founders and investors, he added.
“Only [having start-up] founders and investors is not enough to drive the start-ups to move forwards, and the support from all stakeholders in the ecosystem is very important to encourage the development of start-ups. Thailand is good at doing this,” said Ng.
Ruengroj “Krating” Poonpol, dtac Accelerate’s programme director, said the Kingdom’s start-up community was already on the world’s start-up radar.
“We have done 30 start-up deals, the deal with Anywhere to Go is a most exciting one as we completed it within two weeks,” said Ruengroj.