Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Lion & Lion drives growth with new capabilities, team expansion across SEA

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Digital-first agency Lion & Lion has announced the next stage of its transformation after a successful turnaround delivering outstanding financial results for the last three years. This new growth strategy will be pursued by strengthening core capabilities, and delivering impact through the integration of data and creativity.

There are two specific areas of strategic significance in relation to Lion & Lion’s growth plan – ‘Better’ by adding on even more specialised data capabilities, an in-house content production studio and by investing in growing our regional hub in Singapore; and ‘Bigger’, relates to the reach of Lion & Lion’s product as the agency over time, develops more specific ways to apply what they do today within e-commerce and B2B. This refers to both product innovation and dedicated teams.

In addition to its new data and analytics team, Lion & Lion will also launch an in-house content production studio in Kuala Lumpur to expand its integrated creative offerings, optimising growth opportunities with brands who require full creative to digital-film content production services.

Fredrik Gumpel, CEO of Lion & Lion, shared that over the last three years, they have been consistently growing their business and capabilities, and seeing how their current product and regional delivery model are resonating with clients has given them great confidence to invest even more in the same direction. 

“With our dedicated focus on the Southeast Asia region and increasing demand for our integrated solutions, we believe we can generate strong returns from these investments – both in terms of building a competitive product for the future and creating solid financial results. With offset in our successful transformation and the underlying economic growth in Southeast Asia, our investment plan is centred around doing more of what we do today – just better and bigger,” said Gumpel.

Meanwhile, Krishna Kumar, group director of strategy and media, noted, “Our value proposition of making [an] impact will be underpinned by data-driven approaches, be it inputs that make all our functional deliveries better or outcomes that are clear and measurable. With impending changes in the data world that will impact a lot of our audience and media data, our approach will be geared to meet these challenges and help our clients.” 

Cheelip Ong, regional chief creative officer at Lion & Lion, said, “With a new dedicated film and content production team with directing, motion graphics, editing and music creation capabilities; to complement our strengths in creative, social and digital experience solutions, we can facilitate brands’ demands for digital film content that engages. Our new T-shaped talent hires across all operating markets will also help us to blitz scale growth to win in our region, while creating exponential impact for our clients’ businesses.”

As Singapore has become a hub for multinational businesses, with many of Lion & Lion’s clients having a regional scope there, the agency will also be leveraging that momentum in 2023. A dedicated investment will go towards growing the agency’s team in Singapore to drive more local business and unlock long-term regional growth.

Main Feature Marketing APAC

Establishing leadership in Asia: How Hakuhodo is powering its growth via acquisitions

As the advertising industry continues to change in order to address the needs and concerns of consumers, agencies are rethinking how to improve their capabilities for brands. One of the firms’ strategies is expansion through acquiring other companies in the space, and this is exactly what we’ve been seeing in the case of Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo Inc., which has made a number of buy-outs in the past periods.

In February 2017, Hakuhodo acquired ICG, an activation agency headquartered in Singapore, while in 2018, the agency acquired Vietnamese IMC group Square Communications and three companies in the Philippines, creative engineering company IdeasXMachina, brand agency Beginnings Communications, and events/activation company eNAV.

A year later, Hakuhodo has acquired shares in digital agencies, Winter Egency Co., Ltd. in Thailand in 2019 and AdGlobal360 in India in 2020. Also in 2020, it acquired Taiwan’s Growww Media, an operating holding company with five brands under its umbrella: United Communications Group, a full-service advertising agency, KY-Post (activation and exhibitions), Pilot Group (PR), Interplan Group (large events and exhibitions), and Medialand (digital marketing). Most recently, the Japan-based agency has completed the acquisition of Malaysian digital creative agency Kingdom Digital. We know that these undertakings are meant to supercharge growth, but what does such a targeted business move by one firm imply about the changes in the industry as a whole?

For MARKETECH APAC‘s newest The Inner State, we spoke with Shuntaro Ito, senior corporate officer at Hakuhodo and president and CEO at Hakuhodo International, to share with us their growth strategies and plans for their recent acquisitions.

Elevating Hakuhodo’s competitive positioning

Commenting on Hakuhodo’s continuous acquisitions and competitive positioning, Ito said that they feel there are two approaches; the first is the acquisition of overseas companies, which propels the Hakuhodo Group’s competitive advantage on the global stage, and the second is the application of the competitive advantage they have in Japan over Asia and other overseas markets.

He further shared that bringing in companies that are passionate about growing together as a group is strategically very important, and this is why they are pursuing the acquisitions of companies that shine across the different markets which share the Hakuhodo Sei-katsu-sha thinking (Hakuhodo’s term to describe people not simply as consumers, but as fully rounded individuals), partnership philosophy, and focus on the importance of creativity.

“During the acquisition process, we apply our sustainable management thinking and place importance on maintaining sustainable corporate management in a continuous manner. In going forward, based on this thinking, we would like to further expand our network,” Ito added.

Meanwhile, when asked about what he thinks are the top needs and challenges of brands when it comes to their advertising business, and how a bigger and continuously growing Hakuhodo can be of an answer to them, Ito noted that challenges differ by brand but Marketing ROI and full-funnel capabilities are key needs they see across many clients. 

“Therefore, I believe marketing solutions that make full use of digital and data are necessary and it is important to create real touchpoints that work together with digital. We seek marketing partners that can take on these challenges in a holistic way. Trust is also a very important component and we believe it is also a strength of ours,” said Ito.

The value of the acquisitions

According to Hakuhodo, their belief, ‘people are our main asset’, is shared with the companies that join them before the acquisition and are asked to maintain this stance. 

Ito said that at the same time, they also encourage sustaining and further enhancing the corporate culture and uniqueness of the individual companies, and in order to manage the Hakuhodo Group as one entity, they set up contacts across their group and co-work from the very early stages.

“From working together with our overseas subsidiaries, creating alliances with Japan and other group companies across the world, encouraging a parallel network across companies that fall under the same category, we create opportunities to work as a member of the Hakuhodo group and in going forward, would like to further expand on this,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ito said that on the long-term benefits of the acquisitions to Hakuhodo, clients’ needs can cover a multitude of areas and with change at an alarming rate, the Hakuhodo Group must continuously evolve to cater to these needs. 

“Thus it is important for us to organically take on clients’ needs, as well as use our external resources, with the latter being acquisitions which will greatly contribute to the Hakuhodo Group’s globalisation and growth,” he said. 

Through the latest acquisition of the Malaysian company Kingdom Digital, they are now able to offer clients in Malaysia and across Asia services in digital marketing, digital campaign, social media marketing, content marketing, and digital content creation. 

“Along with this wide array of services, we believe we are now able to work with other companies within our group both online and offline to provide marketing solutions tailored to our clients’ needs,” Ito noted.

Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Amazon’s annual Prime Day event returns globally this July

Vietnam – Amazon has announced the return of its annual Prime Day event this 12 and 13 of July, offering Prime members various choices of must-have products at big deals and promotions. This year, sellers across the globe, including those from Vietnam, will be able to sell their products to more countries during the event, as the 48-hour deals event kicks off on 12 July at midnight PDT (3 a.m. EDT) and runs through 13 July for Prime members in Australia, Japan, Singapore, and other countries. 

Prime Day has become a critical opportunity for third-party sellers around the world, including Vietnamese selling partners, to grow their businesses and build global brands. 

Since the announcement of Prime Day 2022 return, hundreds of Vietnamese sellers have registered to join the campaign, and this number continues to increase. In particular, Vietnamese sellers from home decor, kitchen dining, gifting and beauty categories have shown their eagerness and good preparation to capture this selling opportunity with various deal submissions.

Through the event, customers will be able to shop for products from top national brands and small and medium-sized businesses across every category. New deals from fashion and electronics to toys and home—will go live throughout Prime Day, offering savings on products across categories, including from ‘Customer’s Most Loved’, ‘Internet Famous’, and a selection of ‘Climate Pledge Friendly’ products.

Gijae Seong, head of Amazon Global Selling Vietnam, said, “With the Vietnamese local businesses and household brands our members love and trust, we’re excited to offer our best Prime Day deals yet to even more customers around the world.” 

Seong added, “This year, we’re not only making it simple for members to find the best deals, but also trying to provide our selling partners with more features to benefit and maximise their selling.”

Beyond the expansion of the participating countries, sellers can get more benefits from new features designed to help members make the most of their shopping ahead of time. For example, Prime members can simplify their hunt for deals by subscribing to receive deal alert notifications related to their recent Amazon searches and recently viewed items. 

Besides, starting 21 June, busy Prime members can add products to their Wish List, Cart, or Save for Later, and Alexa can notify them up to 24 hours in advance of an eligible deal going live on those items. Members can then ask Alexa to remind them about the deal when it’s live, or even order it on their behalf.

Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Game development Virtuos acquires art production studio Glass Egg

Vietnam Virtuos, a global game development company, has announced the completion of its acquisition of Glass Egg Digital Media (“Glass Egg”), a 2D and 3D art production studio with 400 employees based in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. Following the acquisition, Glass Egg will rebrand itself as “Glass Egg – a Virtuos Studio”. The studio will continue to operate independently, with Phil Tran and Steve Reid staying on to helm the studio as CEO and CFO, respectively.

Together with Glass Egg, Virtuos which already owns HCMC-based Sparx* will employ close to 1,000 game specialists in Vietnam, where another studio will be opened in June 2022. This supports Virtuos’ goal of growing to 1,500 employees locally, and becoming the largest game development company in Vietnam.

Gilles Langourieux, CEO at Virtuos, said, “We’re excited to bring the Glass Egg team on board the Virtuos family. With its strong brand equity, coupled with its sizeable and long-term local operations, Glass Egg demonstrates excellent synergies with Virtuos, and we look forward to harnessing our combined expertise to strengthen our commitment to excellence.”

Virtuos’ acquisition of Glass Egg is set to bolster the company’s offerings in art production and game development. Leveraging Vietnam’s position as a Southeast Asian game development hub, the new studio will not only bring the company closer to its Asian clients, but also give Virtuos access to a deep pool of creative talent.

Phil Tran, CEO at Glass Egg – a Virtuos Studio, shared, “We are honored to be a part of an industry stalwart, Virtuos. This means our staff will have the ability to expand skills and take on a wider array of projects, which will benefit our clients as well. With the support and resources of Virtuos, we are energized to meaningfully contribute to the industry in its next phase of growth.”

Virtuos was advised by Lincoln International, while Sperry, Mitchell & Company assisted in negotiations and served as the exclusive financial advisor to Glass Egg.

Meanwhile, Steve Reid, CFO at Glass Egg – a Virtuos Studio, commented, “Operational integration is our top priority post-acquisition. By using the same project management, communication tools and platforms, we can better facilitate interoperability with other Virtuos studios globally, and ensure we have more production options to offer to our clients than competitors.”

In addition, Glass Egg, a Virtuos Studio, joins the likes of Volmi Games, CounterPunch Studios, Black Shamrock, and Sparx* in Virtuos’ long history of studio acquisitions and integrations over the past decade. In 2021, Baring Private Equity Asia invested $150 million in Virtuos, and the company launched a studio in Lyon, France, to further expand its global network of studios.

Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Decentralized autonomous organization BLOX raises US$12m to support globalisation

Philippines – BLOX, a decentralized public chain registered as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) LLC in Wyoming, USA, has recently completed a seed round of US$12.5 million, to support BLOX’s operations, development, and marketing.

BLOX’s seed round itself showcased some of the blockchain’s capabilities. The consortium of angel investors bought into the organization via DAO stakes that came in either BTC or ETH totalling close to US$12.5 million as of current exchange rates and gave them ownership and voting power over the DAO’s direction. The round was oversubscribed, but would-be investors are encouraged to consider BLOX’s series A, set for completion by year’s end.

BLOX current capabilities now banking functionalities such as peer-to-peer instant global transfers, fiat and crypto exchanges, card issuance, point-of-sale transactions, and extends to decentralized finance projects, as well as NFTs and smart contracts, which can be executed at a fraction of the gas fees of other blockchains. 

Jay Anonuevo, one of the co-founders of BLOX, is proud of the organization’s progress to date, he said, with blockchain, it’s easy to fall into the trap of technology for the sake of technology. Since Anonuevo is originally from Southeast Asia (Manila, Philippines) and now based in Silicon Valley, he is also keenly interested in globalizing the technology. 

“Fortunately, we have steered our product development with users in mind, and the end result reflects this focus. Now individuals and businesses can use and create blockchain-based applications more efficiently and easily,” Anonuevo said.

Anonuevo further added that BLOX’s current functionalities can enable a central bank’s digital currency (CBDC) and that BLOX is pursuing US licensing that would make it the first blockchain bank in the world, capable of storing and transacting with both fiat and crypto.

As another example of this relevance, Anonuevo pointed to the recently launched BLOXWeb, a decentralized, blockchain-based internet. BLOXWeb enables users to freely surf the net, free from any censorship or state suppression. This unfiltered access to information is of course an important right in the current world climate, where many states are controlling what information their citizens can consume. 

“The response we’ve gotten from investors and the community is inspiring. It shows us that they truly see BLOX as a foundational technology capable of competing with – and surpassing – some of the household names in the space. We’re going to show how BLOX can empower use cases for blockchain all over the globe,” Anonuevo adds.

Anonuevo continued, “APAC is still one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. We believe that BLOX can serve as the backbone for many of the new technologies defining digital life here, including everything from fintech and e-commerce to connectivity and communications,” said Anonuevo.

Meanwhile, such transactions are facilitated by five global nodes across Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America and by proof-of-stake miners who have collectively mined more than 33 million out of the total supply of 84 million BLX coins (its native token) set to be distributed by 2088. The BLX coin has also been approved on COEX STAR, a virtual assets exchange in the Philippines, set for listing sometime later this 2022. 

SME Featured East Asia

COVID-19 a double-edged sword among Taiwan’s small businesses

Taipei, Taiwan Small businesses in Taiwan are most likely to unlock hidden growth opportunities, while wreaking havoc on others during the pandemic. In a new data from CPA Australia, it shows that half of Taiwan’s small businesses grew in 2021, while 63 per cent expect to expand this year. Both results are the highest among the advanced economies included in the regional survey. 

Of the markets surveyed, includes 4,252 small business owners or senior managers across 11 Asia-Pacific markets, including 310 from Taiwan. The survey was conducted from November to December 2021, was designed to understand local business conditions, challenges and confidence. 

Based on the characteristics of high-growth small businesses from the survey, CPA Australia recommends that small businesses in Taiwan consider the following actions: increase their focus on online sales and digital transformation, seek professional advice to improve the profitability of their technology investments, and explore opportunities to innovate through new products, services or processes.

Elic Lam, FCPA (Aust.), honorary Taiwan adviser to CPA Australia, said that COVID-19 is a double-edged sword for Taiwan. Fifty-two per cent of small businesses nominated COVID-19 as a major negative factor in 2021, up from 45 per cent in 2020. However, 38 per cent also said it was a major positive influence on their business. For the second consecutive year, COVID-19 was nominated as both the top positive and negative influence on local small businesses.

“This is not a coincidence. Taiwanese small businesses in export-oriented and technology sectors such as manufacturing, transportation and information technology continue to benefit from surging global demand,” Lam explained. 

Lam added, “The rise of the Otaku (“stay‑at‑home”) economy in Taiwan has boosted domestic demand for computer and internet-related devices, delivery services and gaming. Many small businesses have grasped these opportunities, even under strict social restrictions. However, tourism-related industries such as retail and hospitality registered relatively weaker performance due to a drop in local consumption and overseas travellers.” 

In response to COVID-19 last year, Taiwanese small businesses were most likely to reduce capital expenditure to 27 per cent, followed by seeking government support and subsidies 22 per cent. 

The government’s relief measures aided many small businesses to overcome major COVID-related challenges last year. However, with small businesses facing a new COVID-19 outbreak, increasing costs and the possible end of government support in June, they should be proactive in transforming their business model, especially increasing their focus on digitalisation.

Last year, several Taiwanese small businesses improved their digital capabilities. In 2021, 45% of businesses reported receiving more than 10% of their revenues through new digital payment technologies, a new high for Taiwan. Another 45% reported that online sales accounted for more than 10% of their revenue last year, which is a new high for Taiwan. These rates, however, were still well below the survey averages of 65 and 61 percent, respectively.

Aside from digitalisation, the survey findings indicate that high-growth small businesses in the Asia-Pacific were more likely to focus on innovation. It’s pleasing to see expectations to innovate in Taiwan this year rose to a record high of 67 per cent.This is further evidence that COVID-19 has caused many businesses to look for hidden growth opportunities. 

Lam emphasised, “Stimulus voucher programs such as the ‘5000 Quintuple Stimulus Voucher Program’ were successful initiatives that not only helped to stimulate the local economy but also accelerated the adoption of digital payments. The government may consider introducing similar stimulus measures to continue encouraging adoption of technology and to boost Taiwan’s digital economy. 

Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Smart commerce platform SHOPLINE to expand in SG

Singapore – Smart commerce platform SHOPLINE has announced its global expansion by establishing a headquarters in Singapore. The selection of Singapore as the new global headquarters for SHOPLINE was a unanimous decision among its senior leadership.

The company said that the expansion was strategically based on location and the connectivity of Singapore which makes it ideal for a global hub. Coupled with Singapore’s Government efforts in establishing a reliable and efficient infrastructure, as well as a conducive and pro-business environment.

In the coming months, SHOPLINE is expected to expand its global support and capabilities to bolster its existing 1600-strong R&D team by recruiting more diverse talent in Singapore. This aims to bump up the workforce in Singapore and bring the SHOPLINE solution to address broader e-Commerce verticals in the market, all while continuing to further collaborate with the Singapore Government to digitize the nation.

SHOPLINE’S goal is to build a successful partner ecosystem that merchants can leverage on, SHOPLINE has partnered with key global strategic partners including Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp), Tiktok and Google, and Payments and Fulfilments Partners including Paypal, Atome, Stripe, Ninja Van, HyperSKU and Kakaklo, in the bid to strengthen the platform capabilities of SHOPLINE to one that is truly seamless and omni-channel.

Joshua Qiao, general manager of SHOPLINE 2.0, said that the growing demands of business owners for a centralized e-Commerce system and the need to build their own database fueled SHOPLINE to innovate, differentiate and lead the digital disruption through their platform, unique positioning, deep understanding of what their merchants need and localization efforts.

“The future of e-commerce lies in SHOPLINE’s disruptive approach in offering a full-featured all-in-one retail solutions platform. In collaboration with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SHOPLINE is humbled to be a pre-approved Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) vendor that enables merchants to enjoy up to 70% of subsidy from their annual subscription costs, sharing and contributing to the actualisation of the Singapore Government’s vision to digitalize the economy and create a smart nation,” Qiao said.

With an overwhelming response from Singaporean merchants and reputable businesses from a wide variety of industries, SHOPLINE is confident and geared for a successful official launch later this year.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Indonesian SMEs lead APAC in business growth

Jakarta, Indonesia   Despite being hit hard by COVID-19 in 2021, Indonesian small businesses beat their Asian-Pacific rivals in business growth, in part because of their high e-commerce penetration, according to a report by  CPA Australia. The report notes that this growing trend is set to continue until this 2022.

TheAsia-Pacific Small Business Survey polled 4,252 small business owners or managers, including 301 from Indonesia, in 11 Asia-Pacific markets to understand business conditions and confidence. As a result of the pandemic, Indonesian small enterprises were the second most likely to be adversely impacted. Seventy-two per cent of Indonesian respondents named COVID-19 as the most damaging factor to their firm.

When asked about how they had coped with the pandemic, 45 per cent of respondents stated that they had transferred their business online. E-commerce is becoming increasingly important to businesses, with 68 per cent of respondents reporting more than 10 percent of their revenue coming from online sales in 2020. In 2021, 61 per cent of businesses plan to utilise social media to promote their products and services, up from 51 per cent in 2020.

In 2021, seven out of ten Indonesian businesses expect to see a rise in revenue, making the country the region’s business growth leader. When it comes to creating jobs, small enterprises outnumber the larger corporations. Respondents predicted that they will increase their workforce by 35 per cent in 2021.

Dr. Adi Budiarso, chairman of the CPA Australia Indonesia advisory committee at FCPA Australia and the director of the financial sector policy centre at Indonesia’s ministry of finance, said that 2021 was a very challenging year for small businesses in Indonesia because of the pandemic.

“Nonetheless, I am proud to see the resilience and agility of Indonesia’s small businesses. The survey findings not only show their skill in sustaining business operations but also growing through the use of e-commerce. Government assistance programs such as PEN program and Rumah BUMN no doubt assisted with this,” Dr. Budiarso said. 

Strong business forecasts for the year 2022 are a direct result of these competencies. Eighty-seven per cent of those questioned believe their companies will grow this year, making Indonesia one of the most upbeat markets studied. Since many want to hire more workers, this is the most common outcome of 51 per cent.

Indonesians are the second most likely to believe that they will require outside funding in 2022, with 91% of those polled believing this to be true or very likely. 60.8% will look for outside funding to help their firm develop. However, only a quarter of those polled believes that getting a loan will be simple or very simple in the future.

Dr. Budiarso emphasised, “Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are major contributors to our economy and employment. A friendly financing environment would enable them to keep expanding. According to the survey findings, banks are their primary source of finance. New rules issued by Bank Indonesia should encourage local banks to increase their lending to MSMEs from June this year.”