Across Southeast Asia more people are warming up to the prospect of turning their personal items into unexpected sources of financial gain, propelling the rise of the ‘sharing economy’ in the region. A growing number of start-ups, too, are using this concept to launch new and promising businesses.
Sometimes called the ‘share economy’ or, alternatively, collaborative consumption, the concept found its roots in the U.S. and has since turned into an economic juggernaut. FORBES estimated that the revenue flowing through the share economy directly into people’s wallets would surpass $3.5 billion in 2013, with growth exceeding 25%.
Globally, firms in the sharing economy have seen their fair share of successes and controversy. Uber, a cab-share app, this month reached an impressive $18.2 billion valuation, but also sparked off riots across Europe June 11 from disgruntled cab drivers who feel their incomes are threatened. Meanwhile, home-share service Airbnb received a massive $10 billion valuation but also, critics say, has run afoul of local laws that govern short-term rentals.
While the sharing economy is still young in Southeast Asia, a Nielsen consumer report released end-May suggested that consumers in the region are opening up to the idea. It placed Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand among the top five markets globally that were prepared to participate in the share economy.
With its high population density and growing start-up scene, the city-state is a hub for innovation and experimentation with the idea of collaborative consumption. Founded and based in Singapore, iCarsClub, a location-based car-sharing app, earlier this month raised $10 million in series A funding—just two years after it began operations in Singapore and less than a year after it expanded to China under the name PPZuche. Another promising start-up is Roomorama, a Singapore-based start up that’s an alternative to home rental service Airbnb. With roots in New York City, Roomorama gained inroads into the European and American markets by acquiring a similar French start-up, and cashed in a cool $2.1 million in venture capital funding.
A group of six companies in Singapore earlier this month kickstarted Singapore’s first sharing-economy association, which will spread awareness about the share economy through networking sessions for businesses, consultation dialogues with government agencies and public talks. It may just help overcome some recent regulatory challenges. Earlier this month, two homeowners had their flats confiscated by the Housing Development Board (HDB) for letting their units to tourists.
Tripid takes carpooling to another level by turning their users into a community of drivers and passengers. They can opt to share rides with others and save costs, but they also earn back their gas expenses by acting as drivers for others seeking to get a ride. Meanwhile, Magpalitan.com facilitates the bartering, swapping and rental of personal items from gadgets to vehicles to clothes, as well as services such as babysitting and computer services.
Triip.me turns an ordinary Vietnamese local into an amateur tour guide overnight, allowing anyone to create a tourism package and sell in to tourists on their website and iPhone app. It has also released Wiki Triip, which combines information online about various Vietnamese destinations into one smartphone app.
PlateCulture allows users to stop by a stranger’s home for a home-cooked meal, while potential hosts simply have to list their kitchen on their site. It takes after the success of highly popular sites in the U.S. such as Meal Sharing.
Nervous about public transportation in a country that has reportedly the world’s worst cab drivers? Some cab-sharing apps could provide an alternative. MyTeksi is one rising start-up that is inspired by the concept of vehicle-sharing apps such as Uber but instead hooks up cabs in the existing taxi ecosystem. It recently raked in US$15 million from Silicon Valley-based GGV Capital, which will help its expansion into more markets—so far it operates in Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. It has about 20,000 drivers under its stable so far. Other competitors seeking a slice of the pie include TaxiMonger, which offers services in Singapore and Malaysia.
Global firms making inroads into Southeast Asia
While local innovation is still taking root, successful global brands are eyeing Southeast Asia as a lucrative market. Just this month, Uber launched its service in Vietnam and in Jakarta, with celebrities making up among the first few passengers in the latter country.
Even though Withlocals is a Netherlands-based start-up, it focuses entirely on connecting locals in Asia with tourists hoping to get an authentic holiday experience in these countries.
Airbnb has also made significant inroads into Southeast Asia, expanding into countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Its Neighborhoods service, available in Bangkok, allows travelers to search activities in certain cities and then view rooms available for rental that are close to these desired attractions. Rocket Internet also runs a similar room-rental service called Wimdu in the region that offers short-term stays in countries from Indonesia to the Philippines.
Southeast Asia"s Sharing Economy Start-Ups May Produce The Next Airbnb or ...