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Shopee takes a crack at India because... why not
Asia Tech Review: 6 September 2021
All of last week’s headlines went to China’s strict clampdown on gaming for under-18s, but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to government intervention in technology. There are restrictions on e-commerce, fintech and reports that state-run firms are keen to buy into rising tech companies, perhaps to help keep them in check as much for financial gains.
One of the most interesting nuggets was Shopee’s move into India. The details are unclear, but considering the success its seen in Southeast Asia and more recently its Latin American expansion, you can understand parent company Sea’s confidence. It is pushing a $200B market cap and can freely raise from the public markets, so why not push on. I expect more forays behind India—Eastern Europe perhaps?—especially if Sea can figure out how to get Shopee and Garena (Free Fire) working in unison.
Elsewhere, India’s unicorn deals are flowing; in Southeast Asia, Malaysia got its first unicorn (no, not Grab), Tencent completed a rare Thai investment; while over in Japan, a fintech IPO is coming.
All that and more this week—see you next time,
It looks like we have one of the answers to how China is going to police its next generation of big tech companies, hopping a ride.
State firms are reportedly close to taking “a sizeable stake” in the personal credit-scoring firm that’s being spun out of Ant Group to appease concerns over its power that contributed to its canceled IPO last year:
Under the plan, Ant and Zhejiang Tourism Investment Group Co Ltd (ZJGVTT.UL) will each own 35% of the venture, while other state-backed partners, Hangzhou Finance and Investment Group and Zhejiang Electronic Port, will each hold slightly more than 5%, said one of the people.
Exhibit B: the Beijing government is reportedly looking to invest in Didi Chuxing using a consortium of company—such as state-run transport/ride-hailing firm Shouqi Yueche—in order to gain a level of control that could potentially include a so-called “golden share” with veto power and a board seat
Meanwhile Didi has created a union after being ordered to do so by a court—Meituan is one that could follow suit
Alibaba has followed Tencent’s lead and earmarked 100B CNY ($15.5B) towards promoting “common prosperity” in line with the government’s goal of narrowing the wealth gap
Chinese regulators dropped stiff new restrictions on gaming for under-18s—who can play for just three hours a week
Alibaba is facing a reckoning after a rape accusation shed light on a work culture that former employees say is humiliating and toxic
JD.com will stop selling up to 86 unlicensed video games on its online shopping site
JD is also buying a controlling stake in China Logistics for $2.1B via its property unit—the deal looks like a deeper investment in warehousing and logistics to keep up with China’s post-pandemic e-commerce boom
ByteDance has downsized its fledgling financial services division
SMIC, China’s top chip-maker, is spending $9B to build a new chip plant in Shanghai that’ll change Taiwan’s TSMC for lower-end semiconductors which are in short supply right now
Mega tech event Rise is returning to Hong Kong after its planned Malaysia event fell through, seemingly due to changes in Malaysia’s MDEC tech org/government
Shopee is entering India—seems like a bold, bold move given the domination of Amazon and Flipkart (Walmart) but Shopee has made massive progress in Latin America (“changing the game”) and its incredible stock market run fuels optimism and the ability to raise capital from bullish investors. A space to watch for sure.
Prosus, which span out of Tencent investor Naspers, picked up payments platform BillDesk for $4.7B—it plans to use the business to work with its PayU fintech entity
Razorpay could raise $200-250M at a valuation of around $4B
Ola is reportedly limbering up for an IPO that could raise $1B at a valuation of $8B—Bloomberg reports it is picking banks. Meanwhile, its Ola Electric subsidiary is in talks to raise up to $500 at a valuation that could reach $3.5B
One IPO that is happening is MapmyIndia, which filed last week. The size of its offering is unclear but reportedly it is aiming to raise $164M at a valuation of up to $820M
“Early stage investing is at an all-time high in post-pandemic India with the country averaging one seed round a day this year.” ET reports that 240 seed rounds closed this year, at $284M in investments
That frantic pace isn’t limited to early-stage deals, Apna could become India’s fastest unicorn if reports that Tiger Global is preparing to invest $100M are correct. The 21-month old company is a professional network for blue and grey collar workers, helping them get jobs, upskill etc
Snapdeal is the Indian e-commerce player everyone forgot, but now it is reportedly planning a domestic IPO to raise $400M and value it at $2.5B—not a Flipkart-Walmart exit but it’ll be an interesting test of India’s IPO wave
Payment startup PhonePe opened its data hose—its Pulse site is a fascinating collection of information for data nerds and folks interest in fintech
Byju’s still hasn’t reformed its toxic sales process as Rest of World reports in this feature story—lots of similarities to a story from The Ken two years ago. Byju’s has raised billions more since then, but nothing appears to have changed with regards to chasing targets, pressuring parents and more.
India is following Apple’s legal cases in the US and EU—a non-profit group has hit the company with an antitrust lawsuit alleging it forces developers to use its payment system. Android, of course, has a dominant hold over India in terms of sheer devices and user numbers but Apple is famed for higher revenue per user
Fantasy sports platform Dream 11 is reportedly in talks to raise $400M at a valuation of $8.5B
Bikayi, which helps small businesses digitise, raised $10.8M led by Sequoia
Skit raised $23M—it provides speech and language solutions to automate call centre operations
Binance has halted all products in Singapore after the world’s largest crypto exchange was hit by a warning from the central bank—Singapore had been one hold out market as regulators across the world investigate the company. Its the location of a key Binance office and top management have stayed in the country during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Malaysia saw Grab defect to Singapore but it finally has its first unicorn—that’s online auto seller Carsome which raised $170M at a valuation of $1.3B
J&T Express is reportedly in talks to raise $1B from investors including Tencent at valuation of $20B—the company is also said to have shifted its planned IPO from the US to Hong Kong due to political headwinds. J&T is an Indonesian company but it has strong links to China, including its founder, investors and increasingly China is its focus for business growth, too
The Singapore Stock Exchange became the first Southeast Asian bourse to embrace SPACs with a new framework to allow them, which includes a minimum market cap of SG$150M (~US$110M) (full details here)
The Singapore government is looking into rights for workers of on-demand platforms after the PM himself expressed concern about their lack of security
You don’t often see Tencent popping up in Thailand but that’s exactly what happened as insurance startup Sunday raised $45M led by the Chinese giant. Sunday sells automotive, travel and health insurance with a focus on business clients. Unlike many Thai startups, it has plans to expand to Indonesia and other parts of the region which helps explain why it has raised nearly $70M—a huge amount for Thailand, and from prestigious investors too
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon want to meet Malaysia's new prime minister for permission to use foreign vessels to repair undersea cables in its waters
Crypto exchange Zipmex raised $41M from investors including Thailand’s Bank of Ayudhya, and Thai media companies Plan B Media and Master Ad—the exchange has a license in Thailand hence the connection
Grab says its online supermarket business will expand to the Philippines and then Thailand before the end of this year—its already present in Singapore and Malaysia
Vietnam-based media startup Vietcetera raised $2.7M
The tech IPO wave could hit Japan soon. Fintech startup Paidy, which specialises in BNPL and is valued at over $1B, is planning to file for a domestic IPO according to its founder
Coral Capital closed its third fund at $128 million. It is the firm’s second independent fund since breaking away from 500 Startups into its own entity in early 2019
Samsung is developing a chip and materials supply chain on home turf to protect its business from potential trade conflict with Japan or being caught between the US and China
South Korea has also jumped on the app payments legal train after it passed a law to prevent large app-market operators from requiring the use of their in-app purchasing systems
Class 101, a platform for teaching creative arts, raised $25.8M for growth in Korea and the US
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