Disruptive Asian online marketplaces that you want to know about

Disruptive means radically change the old way of doing things and making it better in every way. A marketplace on the other hand, is a platform where commercial dealings are facilitated between buyers and sellers. Marketplaces have existed for a very long time, the “Agora” in ancient Greece and the “Forum” in ancient Rome. The oldest running marketplace is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, which has been in operation since 1455. In the last 20 years, with the technology revolution; we saw the emergence of online marketplaces, such as eBay and Rakuten.

Disruptive online marketplaces came to existence through innovation that uses new technology and unorthodox business models; targeted to general public with high efficiency at a lower price tag. One of the forms of disruptive online marketplaces which have emerged in the past 5 years is the concept of “the Sharing Economy,” and sometimes referred to as “Collaborative Consumption.” It is a form of peer-to-peer trade or rental of physical items or time between individuals or businesses, largely around underutilized assets. Based on a Nielsen consumer report, the sharing economy model in Southeast Asia is still young with consumers that are increasingly receptive to the concept. Some of the top markets in the region are Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. The leader in innovation and experimentation for collaborative consumption; Singapore continues to expand their startups ecosystem with the addition of vertical marketplaces that generated quite a buzz in the region. The neighboring countries are also quick in picking up the trend, and have seen an increase in a pool of marketplaces that tailored to various specific groups and needs of each territory.

One of the most disruptive online marketplaces that have experienced tremendous growth is grocery delivery services. The hectic lifestyle for many middle to upper-class communities in Southeast Asia has bring delivery services to the next level. Startups like Singapore’s Honestbee; use freelance shoppers such as housewives and college students who receive order on their phone, purchase the groceries, and deliver them to buyers directly. Other competing startups providing similar services are RedMart (Singapore), and Happy Fresh (Indonesia) which is also operational in Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Online grocery delivery services are increasingly popular in Asia because most people in the region are time-starved from their job, they don’t own vehicles, and faced with notorious traffic jams that discouraged people from going out.

Indonesia recently started to welcome sharing economy marketplaces that improvised solution to problems among the lower income communities. Take TaniHub for example, an online marketplace that exists to connect buyers directly with the local farmers. Small farmers in Indonesia gained little profits from their crops due to monopoly from the distributors that control the market price. It goes to an extreme where tomatoes are bought at Rp. 200/kg (US$0.02) from the farmers by distributors, which then sell them at a price 10 times more in the market. TaniHub promises to be the bridge that enabled farmers to gain more profits, and buyers that get fresher produced at a fair price. Local produce such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and other main staples are ordered directly from producers through an app, which then delivered to buyers’ doorsteps.

Another traditional marketplace that’s having a makeover is the service industry. Malaysia-based startup Kaodim is poised to transform small and medium sized businesses for the better. It is a marketplace aims to provide a faster, more dependable way to hire services ranging from plumbers to tutors. Within its first month of launch, the platform received 500 vendors on board, 400 job requests being made and 1,300 quotations returned. Currently the service industry in Southeast Asia is still widely dominated by inefficient directories, crowded listing and ads that have become less attractive to the public. It can be expected that this type of marketplace will expand and change the way services being done traditionally. Joining the crowd; similar startups are popping up in Indonesia with Seekmi, and Housejoy in India.

Image: LadyJek, www.ladyjek.com

It’s no secret that Uber is regarded as the pioneer in on-demand taxi services in the world. Branching into Southeast Asia, the US-based company is adapting to the local demands with the launch of its first motorbike taxi service in Thailand. The pilot scheme is competing with the established regional-rival Grab Taxi, which is currently operational in six countries across Southeast Asia. Motorbikes are a popular option for commuting in many countries in the region, especially in big metropolitans like Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta. GoJek in Indonesia has seen enthusiastic growth in its operation despite protest from local “ojek” or motorbike drivers and legal hurdles from the government. The market has become even more competitive and narrowed with the arriving of LadyJek; a similar motorbike services targeted exclusively to women only. This kind of service has become the main alternative over many unreliable taxi and motorbike drivers that routinely refuse meters and charge high fares in their services.

All of these marketplaces exist because the society is changing. Combined with improvement in connectivity and tech innovation, Southeast Asia is enjoying tremendous growth in online marketplaces offering all kinds of services. The demand for an even more efficient way of living caused marketplaces to branch off to an even more specific market, and arguably, they will continue to grow bigger and spark other more vertical market to conception.

About: Kenneth Low is a co-founder of Arcadier, a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. You can read more about Arcadier at arcadier.com or follow Arcadier on Twitter at “arcadier_”