AIS to power more start-ups
Company will provide marketing and funding opportunities
AIS aims to support more than 100 new tech start-ups this year, up sharply from 30 projects in 2012.
AIS assistant vice president for Wireless Business Marketing Prattana Leelapanang said that AIS Start-up is the bridge to the market. It is a programme to provide long-term support to Thai tech start-ups and their ecosystem. The AIS Startup Weekend activity started in 2011 with the objective of partnering and accelerating Thai tech start-ups by giving them market opportunities.
He said AIS Start-up provides assistance in three steps. First, it helps Thai tech start-ups, mostly software developers, to reach a market of 34 million to 35 million targeted customers in both consumer and corporate markets. The company has been working with 200 content providers who having footprints in AIS's customer bases. "At this stage, AIS will do co-marketing with the start-ups. We have a market of 34 million to 35 million subscribers, of which more than 10 million are customers who usually use applications and data services, which is a direct market opportunity for tech start-ups," said Prattana.
At the co-marketing stage, the Thai tech start-ups will also have opportunities to go abroad with Singtel's 300 million subscribers in six countries.
In the next step, AIS will jointly develop with tech start-ups who have potential applications, software, and services. The joint development is to assist the prototype to become a commercial product that can be marketed successfully.
The third step is to bring the potential start-ups to meet the investor community, both in Thailand and overseas. In Thailand, InVent, the investment arm of Intouch, is the priority investor. Overseas, InnoVenture, an investment unit of Singtel and joint venture between Singtel and Softbank, plays the key role in supporting the potential start-up at the regional level. AIS also has a network of individual investment community available for tech start-ups to pitch their ideas.
"In the past, we had 200 content providers, now we have more than 200 content providers from the AIS Start-up programme during 2011 and 2012. We also have 400 partners. We aim to have 300 more partners and a total of about 700 content providers by the end of this year," said Prattana.
AIS also has a platform to distribute apps to its subscribers - the AIS App Store was set up a couple of years ago. Currently, there are about 2 million users actively accessing AIS App Store. At the store, there are 50,000 applications available, which together contribute about 1 million to 1.5 million downloads per month. Less than 5 per cent of the 50,000 total apps are Thai apps. Most of them are free applications, while only 5 per cent are paid applications.
He said there are two key success factors for tech start-ups: First, they need to have social network enabled functions. Secondly, they should come up with a payment system, both for in-app purchase and paid applications.
"Under AIS, apart from credit card, users can pay for apps via AIS MPay and phone bill payment that is an easier way for users to buy apps. Tech start-ups should be able to be monetised." said Prattana.
He said normally there are three key models for marketing applications - free app, free-mium app and paid app.
"We have the platforms to support all kinds of app types. Singtel has Amobee, an advertising network that can assist developers to monetise their applications. WEW aims to help local developers to be successful in the local market, and then we will encourage them to go regional," said Prattana.
AIS aims to make at least 10 per cent of total start-up projects commercial this year.
"Tech start-ups are in a growth period in Thailand and in the region. Thailand has good infrastructure in both the Internet and 3G network as well as smart phone and tablet devices. The market is opening up and offering more opportunity," said Prattana.