KrASIA, together with its parent company 36Kr, recently conducted a survey with its readers based in China. The aim was to find out which Southeast Asian startups Chinese readers find most interesting.
With companies like Tencent, Alibaba, and ByteDance leading the way, Chinese tech entrepreneurs have in the past years become more ambitious about the idea to create companies that reach the global scale. They’ve turned their eyes beyond China’s massive yet somewhat saturated market, seeking opportunities to apply what they have learned within China’s startup landscape to emerging economies in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
In KrASIA’s survey, we asked Chinese readers to score Southeast Asian startups along three dimensions on a scale of one to five:
- The level awareness (how much have you heard about this company?)
- The degree of innovation (how innovative is this company?)
- The monetization (do you think it has an attractive business model?)
The respondents could choose from a pool of 30 Southeast Asian startups.
A clear picture emerged from the incoming responses.
Overwhelmingly, the Indonesia-based online credit startup Akulaku was voted the most interesting startup on all three dimensions by our readers, followed by ride-hailing decacorns Grab (headquartered in Singapore) and Gojek (headquartered in Indonesia).
English language media looking at the rising Southeast Asian tech scene have tended to focus on Grab and Gojek, as these two have the highest valuations and are the most likely to evolve into true super apps that capture a major share of consumers’ digital transactions across a number of verticals, such as rides, food, and ticket sales.
Akulaku, on the other hand, has stayed out of the limelight, although it is considered a likely candidate to become one of the region’s handful of unicorns.
What is Akulaku?
Akulaku happens to be founded by a Chinese entrepreneur–perhaps that’s a factor that triggered our readers’ curiosity. However, the company’s CEO William Li and his team have so far preferred not to make themselves available for an interview.
The startup appears to be well funded and has prominent backers. According to a media report Akulaku raised USD 100 million at a USD 450 million valuation in 2018 after just having raised USD 70 million three months before that. Ant Financial, Sequoia India, Blue Sky, and Qiming Venture Partners are said to be among investors.
With that kind of valuation and fundraising pace, it’s no wonder it’s considered close to hitting the USD 1 billion valuation mark which would see it join the ranks of Southeast Asian unicorns like Grab, Gojek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, Bukalapak, and most recently, Ovo.
The product can be described as a pay-later feature.
Akulaku lets users purchase consumer goods and pay for them in instalments. It’s launched in Indonesia in 2016 and is associated with Hong Kong-based Silvrr Technologies.
In some ways, Akulaku is similar to Southeast Asia’s Kredivo, which offers a pay-later checkout mechanism that can be integrated into various e-commerce sites to let shoppers make larger-ticket purchases.
Unlike Kredivo, Akulaku also operates its own online marketplace, on which it offers gadgets, mostly smartphones, via its pay-later mechanism.
The Indonesian entity responsible for managing the marketplace is called PT Akulaku Silvrr Indonesia, according to Akulaku’s website. The entity responsible for the online credit business is called PT Akulaku Finance Indonesia and it’s authorized by the Indonesian Financial Services Authority, OJK.
Akulaku’s CEO Li used to work for the Chines insurance giant Ping An, but this is where the publicly available information about the company ends. Akulaku hasn’t given interviews to Southeast Asian media and the websites of its parent company Silvrr E-Commerce, Silvrr.com and Silvrr.io are currently inaccessible.