Mumbai, India – Cheil X, an independent full-service agency under the Cheil SWA Group, has appointed Anurag Tandon as its chief growth officer.

In his new role, Tandon will be leading the newly opened Mumbai office in addition to the growth charter and expand Cheil X’s business operations in the city.

Tandon enters this role with over 20 years of experience as a seasoned business leader on units such as DDB Mudra West, and WT, Mumbai where he was responsible for managing the P&L, key client relationships and top line growth.

His other stints include Ogilvy and Leo Burnett, as well as extensive brand management experience having worked across multiple categories with large global brands like UL, Volkswagen, McDonald’s and J&J to name a few.

Speaking on his appointment, Tandon said, “Cheil’s ambition to grow its new business and build a creative reputation promises to be a journey filled with challenges and opportunities in equal measure. I’m excited to be part of building a new business ground up and I know I have the support to help realise this ambition.”

“I believe we have the vision, the expertise and the plan to quickly carve out a meaningful share of the market and establish ourselves as a key player. I am looking forward to this journey of collaborating with like-minded individuals, leveraging our collective creativity and drive to rapidly propel the Cheil X brand forward,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sanjeev Jasani, COO at Cheil SWA, commented, “We are thrilled to welcome Anurag as he takes over the reins of our Mumbai office. Anurag is a well-known name in the industry with a reputation for delivering benchmark worthy work for clients across a wide range of industries. He is a valuable asset to the organisation and we look forward to working with him.”

Hong Kong – International travel and lifestyle brand TUMI has appointed Aris Maroulis as the new vice president for Asia-Pacific and Middle East, with immediate effect.

Based in Hong Kong, Maroulis will be responsible for building the brand, overseeing operations, and managing overall business in the region.

Maroulis has 25 years of experience in Asia, Europe and the US with the last 15 years focused on Asia. Before joining TUMI, he held the title of director – china business operation, asset management for Hang Lung Properties for four years, overseeing a portfolio of luxury shopping malls in mainland China.

Prior to that, Maroulis was the managing director for Montblanc China, based in Shanghai, where he had overall responsibility for the China market.

Talking about his appointment, Maroulis said, “I have followed TUMI closely for many years, both as a customer and as a luxury brand and business strategist. I have been continuously impressed by the brand’s innovation, meticulous design, unparalleled performance, and customer-first approach. I am delighted to join this dynamic team and lead the brand’s growth in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Subrata Dutta,  president, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Samsonite, commented, “We are delighted to welcome Aris to TUMI at this exciting time for the brand in the region. He has extensive luxury retail experience on both the brand and commercial real estate sides. Aris is a proven leader who will focus on identifying new opportunities for TUMI and continue to provide world-class customer experience through every brand touchpoint.”

Singapore – Self-serve programmatic advertising platform StackAdapt has recently announced the appointment of Liam McCarten as VP of sales, APAC.

In his new role, McCarten will be leading operations in the region as it embarks on its next phase of growth, and will have the remit to manage APAC with an initial focus on Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Japan.

McCarten joins StackAdapt with the experience of having worked at Meta for the past nine years, holding sales leadership roles in New York, London and Singapore. Previously he held the role of director for Global Business Group APAC, leading the health, beauty, luxury and technology verticals, where he supported the largest brands and agencies across the region.

Speaking on his appointment, McCarten said that he joined StackAdapt due to the company’s strong growth prospects, innovative technology, and commitment to client and agency centricity.

“StackAdapt has strong momentum and is on track to be a valuable marketing technology partner in the digital media buying market across APAC. We have industry-leading machine learning and AI capabilities, a patented contextual solution, first-party data integration capabilities, and multi-channel marketing offerings, enabling our clients to thrive,” he added.

Meanwhile, Vitaly Pecherskiy, CEO and co-founder of StackAdapt, commented, “As a growing global technology company, we see tremendous opportunity in the APAC market and are excited to welcome Liam to the team to help us scale in the region. The diverse nature of the APAC market calls for a tailored, precise approach to create value, and we are excited to power marketers throughout the region with the performance-driven capabilities of our product.”

APAC – SaaS technology company Eagle Eye has released its audited results for the financial year, showcasing 36% group revenue growth, and significant international revenue expansion driven by the US (129%) and APAC (56%), including its first customer in Singapore.

This is in line with the Eagle Eye’s continued expansions in the UK, Taiwan, and Australia, as well as their upcoming launch of ‘Eagle AI’ in 2024, an AI offering building on the company’s previous capabilities.

According to Tim Mason, chief executive of Eagle Eye, the development in the field of AI represents an enormous opportunity for their future, where the company sees three tangible areas for progression. First would be to continue aiming to be the leading enabler of advanced analytics and AI, followed by launching EagleAI for retailers globally, and using AI to enhance their tech stack and development capabilities. 

He also mentioned that recent developments in AI across the retail industry demonstrate that personalisation is going to be easier for all types of retailers globally to adopt, which presents an exciting opportunity for Eagle Eye’s existing AIR platform.

Talking about the upcoming AI offering, Mason said, “We have entered FY24 in a strong position with considerable momentum across the group. We are particularly excited by the opportunity for EagleAI, our new AI offering launching in 2024, building on the capabilities brought into the group with the acquisition of Untie Nots”. 

“Internally, we are exploring how AI can be applied to our own internal projects, processes  and tools to continue running the business in a more efficient way. It is in its early stages, but we believe this will be vital to reducing toil whilst maximising the time spent on innovation and product development. We expect AI to be the capability that enables further efficiencies within Eagle Eye which in turn could drive higher margins to allow us to reinvest into the business to support our continued growth,” concluded Mason. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.