Hong Kong-based online lender Oriente today announced a US$105 million initial round of financing to scale its business across Southeast Asia. The fintech startup already runs lending platforms in the Philippines and Indonesia and will launch in Vietnam soon.
It’s one of many firms going after online lending in the region, a space that’s seen as a huge opportunity because individuals and small businesses are underserved by traditional banks.
Oriente has factors that make it stand out. It’s founded by a highly experienced team that includes Geoff Prentice, who joined Skype’s Swedish and Estonian co-founders in 2002 and oversaw Skype’s expansion to Asia, and Hubert Tai, previously CTO at Lufax, a giant online lender in China and a subsidiary of Ping An.
Oriente is taking a leaf from Lufax’ playbook in that it’s also teaming up with established businesses instead of entering the market solo. The lead financers of this massive round are a “group of family offices including members of the Berjaya Group, JG Summit Holdings, and Sinar Mas,” the company says. All three are well-known conglomerates in Southeast Asia with business interests spanning financial services, property, and retail.
By partnering up with its investors, JG Summit and Sinar Mars, Oriente launched products named Cashalo and Finmas in the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively.
A US$105 million round is an impressive figure. Funding Societies, based in Singapore and backed by Sequoia Capital, might be considered a rival (though it’s focusing on business loans than personal loans) and it recently raised US$25 million in its series B round.
It’s announced at a time when the firm is already up and running with a staff of some 1,200 people across seven offices. Prentice told KrASIA that Oriente is hiring at a rate of 50-75 people a week. Many of these are customer service roles because the company believes that the offline component, including human assistance, will continue to play a big part in Southeast Asia’s digital economy. The firm was able to finance itself from the co-founders joined resources up until the external financing round was recently closed, he says. The number of borrowers has already grown to over 60,000 in the first five months, the firm says.
While some smaller players have struggled or avoided to comply with authorities in the heavily regulated arena of financial services, Oriente has had an easier play through its partnerships with conglomerates. In Indonesia, its local subsidiary PT Oriente Mas Sejahtera has been approved by the Financial Services Authority since February 2018.
One of its products is an offline credit scheme where shoppers can get installment payment plans for a basket full of different items. You could be at the cashier and instead of paying for everything at once, you fill out a form and get to pay it later in several tranches. This product already works in the Philippines with partners like Robinsons Appliances, Robinsons Retail, Handyman, Oppo, Cherry Mobile, and Memoexpress. A similar option will be available to Indonesian shoppers soon.
Editor: Ben Jiang