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Main Feature Marketing APAC

MARKETECH APAC’s Top 5 Stories for October: Media and live streaming giants’ tie-up snares top spot

This month’s top stories are a mix of APAC-wide and local stories, but the region of Southeast Asia steals the spotlight for the month with announcements and launches from the region grabbing readers’ interest the most. 

For one, we have the Malaysia team of a digital-first agency unveiling its new business director for the country. A travel tech platform headquartered in Singapore, meanwhile, has also successfully raised funds in a seed round in order to expand operations to Europe. 

The industry of esports has also made its way to this month’s top stories with a feature on a Filipino super app’s business journey coming out as a favorite. 

In APAC meanwhile, we have digital platforms announcing exciting new business movements and partnerships. 

A global adtech has announced its new vice president for OTT business in APAC, while two giants in media and live streaming have unveiled a partnership that will see advertisers having more access to the region’s gaming audience. 

Get to know more about this month’s top 5 stories. 

Top 5: PubMatic names Vijay Anand Kunduri as new VP of OTT business for APAC

PubMatic Kunduri

PubMatic, the global programmatic digital advertising company, has appointed Vijay Anand Kunduri, former managing director of video advertising platform Unruly for Asia, to assume the role of regional vice president of OTT business for APAC.

MARKETECH APAC conversed with Kunduri to know more about the current landscape of OTT in the region.

“The consumers have been continuing to embrace OTT across APAC and this has led to the increased consumption of the streaming content, which could be attributed to the prevailing COVID pandemic situation,” said Kunduri in the interview.

Kunduri shared that adtech platforms have a very important role to play in seeing OTT reach its full potential, and are critical in ensuring better OTT experiences for consumers.

“What that brings us to is it’s important to have the right tech infrastructure, as it’s an important factor in ensuring the ad experience on OTT whether the people are consuming on a connected TV or mobile device,” he said.

While tasked to drive the growth of PubMatic’s OTT and video business across the region, Kunduri will also be consulting with existing publishers, creating new relationships, and further establishing PubMatic as a preferred platform for media buyers and publishers.

Top 4: Esports super app KALARO on MARKETECH Spotlight

MARKETECH Spotlight_KALARO_esports_superapp_Philippines

Esports super app in the Philippines KALARO has entered the top stories this month, gracing the latest episode of MARKETECH Spotlight.

At MARKETECH Spotlight, we take a closer look at different industries through the perspective of burgeoning organizations that are currently stealing the scene for their innovations and current industry achievements. 

For this episode, we sat down with KALARO’s Founder and CEO Jun D. Lasco as they finally release their public version 1.0 last September after a year into beta and delta testing. 

Since its pilot launch last year, KALARO has grown to be more than a platform for people to compete and enjoy in esports. Now, KALARO is truly living up to its name as a super app as it forges partnerships and launches features to answer to stakeholders’ mental and health well-being. 

From the interview, Lasco revealed that it has partnered with UnionBank, one of the top banks in the country to boost its financial offerings. He shared that on this front, a Visa card for KALARO and even an insurance offering is not a distant possibility. Lasco said crypto- and blockchain-related features are also underway.

Top 3: Lion & Lion appoints Wai Sim Liew as new business director for Malaysia 

Lion-&-Lion-Business-Director-Malaysia-Wai-Sim-Liew

This month, digital marketing agency in Asia, Lion & Lion, has announced the appointment of Wai Sim Liew as the new business director for its Malaysia team. 

Prior to joining Lion & Lion, Wai Sim’s experience expands working with agencies Publicis, Leo Burnett, BBDO/Proximity, and most recently, Ogilvy, where she was a client service director.

In an exclusive interview, we checked in with Wia Sim who shared with us her view on the current digital marketing landscape among Malaysian brands. 

While pointing out the current boom in e-commerce, Wai Sim shared an interesting observation on the growth of one product category in e-commerce. 

“I think one of the slowest categories for e-commerce adoption is Fast Moving Consumer Goods because I think [it has more stress] on quantity and you want to see the label, and you want to see the cooking instructions and whatnot.”

However, Wai Sim continues, “But now, you notice that actually, hey, people talk about live commerce even for grocery items.” 

“It’s interesting to see that way Malaysians have actually chosen to incorporate e-commerce into their lives,” she added. 

Top 2: Travel tech Vouch expands to Europe with US$1.1m seed funding

Vouch-Travel-Tech-Seed-Funding-Europe-Expansion

Vouch, a Singapore-based travel tech company, which has recently raised US$1.1m seed funding, is targeting a Europe market expansion, starting off with a new office in London.

The company’s guest experience platform allows guests to check-in, make room requests, order food and beverage and get instant answers to commonly asked questions, just by scanning a QR code on their mobile phones.

In an interview with Joseph Ling, founder and CEO at Vouch, he said that improving guest experience platforms are is not just for enhancing user experience, but also responding to the interest of hotels, now that travelers will look forward to checking in.

“We also recognize that hotels, the ones that we actually partner with, are going to want to capture the value [of these customers]. So we are really looking at how we build revenue-generating product features, and how we make it easy for them to cross-sell different things within the hotel to their guests.”

He also stated that they are also looking forward to expanding the use of their travel technologies towards other travel verticals, like tourist attractions and museums.

Ling further added that with regulations ever-changing to various industries due to the disruption by the global pandemic, it only makes sense that digitizing guest experiences in the travel industry is ‘inevitable’.

“Besides increasing productivity, you are giving guests a more comfortable and familiar way of interacting with the hotel, as well as opening up more opportunities, meaning that hotels could now understand the needs and preferences of their guests,” he concluded.

Top 1: GroupM, Twitch to tap diverse APAC gaming audience for advertising in latest tie-up

A partnership that opens up new opportunities for brands to tap into the gaming demographic: this is the number one story of MARKETECH APAC for the month, as media investment company GroupM has signed in a partnership with Twitch, top streaming platform, which gives advertisers access to the flourishing gaming demographic in the region.

Through the partnership, GroupM’s clients will enjoy access to insights on Twitch audiences in a fragmented Asia-Pacific region that stream Alpha, Beta, and Early Access games, as well as access to Twitch CTV. Moreover, an upcoming co-authored playbook by these two companies will be released in the future to aid FMCG advertisers to tap APAC gaming audiences.

Speaking to MARKETECH APAC, John Miskelly, APAC investment director at GroupM, stated that the reason they chose specifically to deal with FMCG brands for the playbook is that aside from their large heritage of working with these brands they also want to aid them in placing their advertisements across new channels, aside from traditional ones like television.

“If there is an area where we can reach 1.2 billion people, that’s definitely a space where clients would want to work on,” Miskelly said, pertaining to the large gaming demographic in the region, and the potential reach advertisers can get.

He further added that most of these FMCG brands are now migrating to e-commerce platforms, since most of them are present only in-stores, and don’t have the transactional data that they can use to bolster their e-commerce offerings.

“The gaming audience is important for brands in terms of reach and engagement. And obviously, with the potential engagement seen in this demographic, there is a highly immersive audience which can get a lot of attention [for brands],” Miskelly stated.

Rankings‌ ‌are‌ ‌based‌ ‌on‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Analytics‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌period‌ ‌of‌ ‌16th‌ ‌September to 15th‌ ‌October.‌

Watch our exclusive interviews with the brands themselves on the latest episode of MARKETECH APAC Reports, now live on our YouTube channel.

This is in collaboration with Malaysia-based media company The Full Frontal.

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Main Feature Platforms Partners Southeast Asia

Spotlight: How a PH-made esports super app is bringing every stakeholder into one united esports community

Esports is growing exponentially and on a global scale. According to a report by Newzoo, in the Asia-Pacific alone, the revenue within the gaming market has reached US$84.3B in 2020, making the region the largest market in the world. 

In the Philippines, the number of games has now reached 43 million, and one esports platform in the country, KALARO, is on the mission to be at the forefront of the esports industry in the country and engage these players – and more. 

Launched in October 2020 for its close-beta testing, KALARO was launched by The-AsiaGroup.com Inc. as a fully integrated end-to-end esports digital platform. The application includes features like tournament management, one-on-one challenges, and team competitions as well as coaching, and buy-ins, among others.

Almost one year after, we touched base with its Founder & CEO Jun D. Lasco to get to know how much it has grown since its entry into the industry – the platform itself and its vision and mission – and ultimately, after delta and beta testing for the period, finally, the launch of its first public version 1.0.

Watch the full MARKETECH Spotlight episode on KALARO feat. KALARO’s Founder & CEO Jun D. Lasco

KALARO, the esports super app by the Filipino for the Filipino gamers

Before getting into KALARO’s sophistication as a tech platform, KALARO first and foremost has a mission at its heart, and that is to fulfill the needs of both esports enthusiasts and professionals in the country

Jun turns to a study similarly by Newzoo wherein 100,000 gamers across the globe were surveyed and discovered the three main motivations behind getting into esports: to unwind and relax, to engage in some form of competition, and interestingly, the social aspect of the game.

KALARO_esports_Newzoo

“More than providing a digital platform, one of our core missions and advocacies is being actively part in helping the youth in their mental health issues…and hopefully, KALARO will be one of the major platforms, social platforms, where they can engage socially, and compete, and be able to [have a sense of achievement], and unwind and have fun,” said Jun in the MARKETECH Spotlight interview

Today, KALARO is an esports super app with online tournament management integrated into its own video hub, brand integration, and social networking capabilities and with its very own e-wallet.

KALARO is the Filipino term for playmate, and true to its origins, the platform carries the mission of bringing out the world-class talent in every Filipino stakeholder in the industry which includes the caster, gamer or player, team, the tournament organizer, and brand-product creator, for them to discover and be discovered by others. 

“And again, we’d like to showcase KALARO as a world-class product and a product that all the stakeholders in the industry can really benefit from,” said Jun.

Releasing KALARO’s public version 1.0

So after a year since it was piloted, we asked, is KALARO now ready to launch its public version 1.0? 

Jun answers a firm yes. 

After beta- and delta- testing since October, and with now more than 7,800 gamers on the platform doing it on a nationwide scale, KALARO is ready for the next stage, officially launching its public version this September 2021 to start its journey towards its first one million users. 

“Yes, definitely, we’re ready to launch version 1.0. This is the first public release of version 1.0. of KALARO. [We’ve been] fine-tuning the application [since] October last year [up until] end of August [this year]. And we are now ready to package version 1.0 and release it starting September 18,” revealed Jun. 

KALARO's Public Version 1.0
KALARO’s Public Version 1.0 Signup Page

Jun said that the goal has always been about bringing a world-class app with a solid product-market-fit, which is why it took the company almost a year before it launched its public version.

Launching KALARO in October 2020 was far from an easy feat, where Jun revealed the challenges they had to go through before they launched the beta version in the middle of the pandemic. 

“The beta launch is very significant, because it was really challenging, working together in a virtual environment,” shared Jun. 

Right off the bat, the predicament that the KALARO team had to face was not being together physically and communicating while being from different parts of the country. Like the proverbial genius working in their garage, KALARO was developing and programming the platform in the night. 

Soon, following the beta launch, KALARO had 750 gamers to close-beta-test the platform, and from their feedback, the real fine-tuning began. And now here one year after, KALARO is growing from strength to strength. 

After the public version is launched this September, Jun reveals, “We will have a very aggressive set of activities and campaigns for the last quarter of this year, so that the market [of almost] 50 million gamers and our fans would realize the benefits and the value that make KALARO really enjoyable.”

The mission and vision of KALARO 

One year after its official foray into the esports scene, we touched base on how KALARO sees its role in the lives of gamers and Filipinos. 

At its core, KALARO was built to give every gamer an equal opportunity to learn, be discovered, and gain mastery, and most of all, to have fun and to also present opportunities to earn a living. But as a super app, KALARO isn’t now merely attending to the hunger for esports action but has moved to become so much more for its users. 

Jun summarizes KALARO’s mission in the three major areas: financial wellness, mental health, and most of all, national pride. 

Jun shared that the goal is to develop a platform that would serve gamers’ financial wellness because as Jun puts it when someone becomes a member of KALARO, the platform would want to provide a facility and features that will help people earn extra money. 

“That’s why we have our own e-wallet and are partnering with UnionBank [of the Philippines], and so on. Financial wellness is very important,” said Jun. 

With esports and social platforms cited as beneficial channels to manage mental health, this has become one of KALARO’s main advocacies. Jun says KALARO is like a Facebook for gamers

“KALARO being like the Facebook for gamers will allow gamers to really socialize, interact, [and] enjoy freedom in the games that they love,” said Jun. 

Above all, as a team in a country where there aren’t yet many tech innovations, putting the Philippines on the map will always be a mission. In fact, in April 2021, KALARO has begun to see its hard work and talent pay off, being named as one of the top 5 esports startups in Asia in the Esports X Business Asia Summit (EXB Asia Summit), held in Singapore.

KALARO represented the Philippines among a sea of companies from top tech innovator countries Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. In addition to this, KALARO has also successfully secured a partnership with multinational technology company for gaming, Razer, in June 2021.

“As they say, when you create a product, or when you create a service, there has to be a deep meaning as to why you’re actually building it. And again, from October last year, we have received lots of feedback and lots of suggestions, and we adapted the product of KALARO to be able to really connect to the market, and [to meet] the needs and aspirations of the gamer,” said Jun. 

What’s next for KALARO? 

KALARO’s growth trajectory is obviously on a promising level, and so beyond the launch of the public version, begs the question, what else is on KALARO’s future plans? 

As an end-to-end esports platform, KALARO doesn’t only answer to gamers, taking a whole lot of other stakeholders within the community as the platform’s priority. Aside from the gamers, KALARO caters to streamers, casters, team managers and owners, league and tournament operators, and corporate brands. 

“Since KALARO is a super app, by design, each of these stakeholders has a special role and participation inside KALARO,” said Jun. 

He further shares that building an all-in-one platform has always been the objective especially in the Philippines and even in Southeast Asia as a whole where the market isn’t necessarily tech-savvy. 

“You know, when we were conceptualizing KALARO, and we were going through the process of design thinking, focus group discussion, mind mapping, and so on, we really made sure that we will be able to build a holistic [and] an all-in-one solution for the esports industry. Especially here in Asia, or Southeast Asia, in particular, it could be very difficult for the stakeholders to be using say, five different applications just to be able to actively participate.” 

He adds, “And the major motivations for vendors and players to participate are all inside KALARO.” 

As a super app for esports, Jun shares the upcoming developments within the platform in line with its mission – and even more. 

For one, the platform has partnered with one of the leading banks in the country, UnionBank, to boost KALARO’s financial service offerings. More interestingly, Jun shared that on this front, it’s not a distant possibility that there would be a Visa card for KALARO soon and even an insurance offering. 

Still in line with its mission for financial inclusion, Jun also revealed that KALARO is looking into crypto- and blockchain-related features and services within the platform. Due to the growing interest of the younger generation in cryptocurrency, Jun says that KALARO is sure to leverage the power of cryptocurrency, where NFT and blockchain will be part of the roadmap. 

In terms of the social aspect, KALARO will be exploring live video and voice calling features in order to heighten the experience of playing together.

“So imagine if a student or a young person in the Philippines can play with his dad, or kuya (brother) somewhere abroad, and they can interact live or play together and do other things,” said Jun. 

Other than the fact that KALARO is disrupting tech in the Philippines, what is truly inspiring and makes KALARO the platform to be is above all, its advocacies to the stakeholders, who are mostly the younger generation.

“We really want to give all the chances in the world for every Pinoy and level the playing field. Even if you are not in the country’s major cities, we believe that there are huge hidden talents across the over 7,000 islands in the country,” said Jun. 

“When you join KALARO, you will have instant visibility even if you are 5,000 miles away from the nation’s capital. KALARO will give you that online presence and opportunity to be seen and participate,” added Jun.

Listen to the full conversation between MARKETECH APAC’s Regional Editor Shaina Teope and KALARO’s Founder & CEO Jun D. Lasco on Spotify:

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Main Feature Marketing APAC

January’s Top 5 stories: Which Southeast Asia brands nabbed the top spots?

After a challenging year for both brands and consumers, the new year has finally ushered in and one thing remains – brands in the Asia Pacific region continue to innovate and amaze, whether that’s through a new creative campaign, a promising collaboration, or a novel tech that no one has seen before.

Southeast Asia brands start with a bang this year, where five out of five stories for the month’s top stories come from the region. One is a last hurrah from Christmas campaigning in the Philippines, while another comes from a used-car platform in Malaysia. Two Singapore brands also joined forces for a tie-up that would benefit travelers, while a top Singaporean marketing executive came with big news that involved new business ventures. Meanwhile, MARKETECH APAC’s Marketech Expert Up Close also continued to hook readers when it featured the founder of a newly launched esports platform in the Philippines. 

Based on Google Analytics from December 16 to January 15, here are the top stories for the month. 

Top 5: Lay’s Philippines’ Christmas ad 

The Christmas spirit is still hanging over at the beginning of the year as famous chips brand Lay’s in the Philippines bags a spot on this month’s top stories with their recent Christmas campaign

With currently 4.5 million views on YouTube, the ad used a tongue-in-cheek marketing strategy, presenting an unexpected combo of endorsers to personify the campaign’s message – ‘Double the Holiday Flavor’ – featuring its Classic and Sour Cream & Onion flavor.

The stars of the ad were the country’s long-time top balladeer Jose Mari Chan and comedic social media personality Nico Bolzico. Using a humorous spin-off of Chan’s classic song ‘Christmas in our hearts’, the two duetted together on a concert-type performance, complete with Black tie and a piano. 

Top 4: myTukar’s AI car detection technology

News hailing from Malaysia hooked readers this month when its locally-developed used-car platform myTukar revealed that it will be releasing a tech that is a first in the industry – an AI Car Defect Detection system and Car Plate Masking. 

The said technology enables the platform to automate and standardize car inspection through analyzing images and videos. Using scalable and deep learning technology, myTukar is able to detect car defects such as dents, scratches and paint deterioration in seconds.

The platform’s Chief Technology Officer David Voo shared to MARKETECH APAC that the inception of the tech came about when a vendor approached the platform with the sample of the AI detection system, where the tech didn’t initially meet its standards, pushing the platform to develop it further to cater to its customers. 

COO Jeffrey Ong said, “It will overall reduce the human error and also to be enhancing our inspection efficiency. So what would happen is we would have a very accurate inspection report. This will definitely overall enhance the whole customer experience.”

Top 3: Esports platform KALARO’s founder Jun Lasco

The launch of Filipino-developed esports platform KALARO was likewise featured in the top stories in October last year, and this time we dive deeper into the man that founded the company behind the platform. 

In the episode of MARKETECH Expert Up Close, we sat down with Jun Lasco, the founder of The-AsiaGroup.com Inc. to learn more about his inspiring corporate and entrepreneurial journey in the world of tech, and later on in esports.

In the episode, Lasco bared his beginnings, which started out as being a tech executive for some of the biggest brands in the Philippines such as San Miguel Corporation, Ayala Group, and Fujitsu, in line with work that included programming and tech analytics. He also revealed the challenges he met in his early attempt in putting up a company, where three had to be eventually shut down in 2016 due to corporate setbacks. 

Now with its rebirth, Jun shared, “Being naive or too naive about business and people is also not good; funding is a must-have during the initial phase of the start-up ventures and friendships sometimes end when there is big money at stake, among many lessons.” 

Top 2: Atome and Agoda’s partnership 

Amid ongoing travel restrictions in the pandemic, two leading Singapore platforms recently tied up to entice travel-loving consumers. In December, a partnership was announced between booking platform Agoda and installment payment platform Atome, giving travelers an additional option to pay for their accommodations. 

Atome, with its famous ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme, continually adds brands and stores on its platform, and the latest partnership enables those planning to travel to have more breathing ground when it comes to financing.

In a conversation with CEO David Chen, he shared that the idea behind the tie-up is that most of the time, people wish to book a certain accommodation but are disheartened at the onset due to higher prices. 

He said, “[Buy now, pay later] is an attitude. It’s an aspiration. People want something that’s of good quality to uplift their fulfillment.”

Top 1: AIA Singapore’s Head of Brand builds own communications practice

Our top story of the month is brimming with brilliance and inspiration as insurance company AIA Singapore’s Head of Brand and Corporate Communications Joanna Ong-Ash exits the company to start her own communications practice, Bravery Communications.

Joanna served the company for a decade, being the communications lead for many of its notable programs such as AIA Vitality in 2013, which was then Singapore’s first comprehensive wellness program, and also launching the insurance company’s first-in-market critical illness plan for those with Type II diabetics and pre-diabetics. 

Taking into account Joanna’s holistic corporate experience – she brings 20 years of marketing expertise with her, working with financial services companies such as American Express and Mastercard, hence also marking her exit from corporate life. 

Of the new communications firm, Joanna shared that she wants to become a reliable partner of brands that may not be as big as others, but have a bold vision and purpose. 

Joann said, “Some of these SMEs do not have the ability to go out to big agencies to afford their expertise. Their purpose is so bold, and a lot of them, when they set up their own companies, they want to help others, they want to contribute to [the] community, and do good.”

“Where I come in, I feel like I am the extended arm of their business. When I work with a client, I’m not just working [with them] because I’m a consultant, I am working with a client because I totally believe in the cause and I want to do good together with them,” she added.

Watch the live report of the top stories for the month on our YouTube channel, where we give you exclusive appearances from the newsmakers themselves.

This is in collaboration with Malaysia-based media company The Full Frontal.

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

PH’s national esports league ties up with newly launched KALARO

Manila, Philippines – The Philippines has just announced its first grassroots nationwide esports development program on an official launch event January 16, which is to be spearheaded by the country’s national esports league, Philippine National Esports League (PNEL); and with this, locally developed esports platform KALARO has been partnered up to realize upcoming tournaments.  

The collaboration with KALARO comes as physical mass gatherings remain halted amid the pandemic. PNEL will be leveraging the platform in organizing and hosting esports tournaments across the country on a simultaneous and multiple game tournament setup. 

“Virtual tournaments is the major strength of KALARO and we can easily host any number of concurrent PNEL tournaments. Given the country’s potential to become world champions in Esports, we fully support PNEL’s advocacies”, said Jun D. Lasco, Founder of KALARO.

Together with PNEL, the country’s Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will support a Barangay level esports development across the country, or the localized units within the country’s cities. 

KALARO-Jun-Lasco-Presentation

KALARO was launched in October last year with a greater aspiration to bring esports closer to the younger generation and making it more inclusive for partner brands.

In an interview with MARKETECH APAC in the segment MARKETECH Experts Up Close, Lasco shared that KALARO hopes to expand its platform outside of the Philippine border.

“KALARO was designed for the needs of the ASEAN market but there is no stopping other non-ASEAN countries from localizing KALARO for their own specific market needs and conditions,” Lasco stated.

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Main Feature Platforms Southeast Asia

KALARO as an esports engine for international competitiveness – a testament of Filipino ingenuity

Manila, Philippines – The rise of electronic sports (esports) in the country has been profoundly reaching a total count of around 43 million Filipino gamers. Streaming live via FB, YouTube & Twitch has become a fad for the young generation. The number of Filipino video-game content creators and influencers alike dramatically contributes to the popularity of game titles such as Mobile Legends, Call of Duty, and DOTA 2 among many. Yet, one question remains: should esports’ inclusivity be a part of this 21st-century culture?

In the second episode of MARKETECH Expert Up Close – a platform for leaders and their leadership thoughts – we sat down with the founder of The-AsiaGroup.com Inc., the company that recently launched a Filipino-made esports digital platform called “KALARO” by its inventor and software architect, Jun D. Lasco. From personal reflections on his past work ventures to his vision for the future of the Filipino esports industry, Jun expresses his excitement as to why KALARO is the “missing link” on how a nationwide development of the country’s esports stature & competitiveness can be elevated into the international esports arena in less than one year.

As Western counterparts are constantly churning out esports-related endeavors such as online matches, multinational company sponsorships, and collaborations, Jun’s vision to expand KALARO beyond the Philippines entails a strategic expansion to the ASEAN market, which he believes needs a “very easy to use” and “fully integrated” esports online digital platform to catalyze to rapidly develop their esports capability and capacity at the international levels of performance.

“KALARO was designed for the needs of the ASEAN market but there is no stopping other non-ASEAN countries from localizing KALARO for their own specific market needs and conditions,” Jun stated during a video interview for MARKETECH Expert Up Close.

Early roots of tech-inclined mindset and corporate experience

Jun has a deep connection and passion for tech-related projects and companies, as he graduated from the University of the Philippines back in 1986, with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Since then, he has worked with many companies, including the International Rice Research Institute, San Miguel Corporation, Fujitsu, and Ayala Group. His stint for the Ayala group of companies lasted until 2010, yet he left a plethora of international software development projects for Ayala Systems which had resulted in the said company being awarded by the Philippine government as the “Fastest-growing home-grown tech company of the year (2010)”.

Jun Lasco’s first job was at International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in 1986, where he worked as a programmer and analyst.

“I was thinking that as a next stage, a next challenge, I need to be able to set up my own company [since] 20 years in the corporate world is more than enough,” Jun stated.

Hence, The-AsiaGroup.com Pte. Ltd. (Singapore) was born in 2013, as a holding company for many of Jun’s established companies, which includes TopConnection Asia, a technology services provider for foreign companies seeking software development experts; MyPlay Asia, which is a professional resourcing business for the Philippine market; and HelloPlanet Asia, a distance-learning platform for English lessons catering to the Japanese market.

Ricocheting against corporate setbacks and challenges

In mid 2016, the companies under The-AsiaGroup.com Pte. Ltd. needed to shut down due to corporate setbacks, which then eventually led to the natural demise of The-AsiaGroup.com Pte. Ltd. itself in Singapore.

A company picture on of Jun Lasco’s early companies he found: technology services provider TopConnectionAsia.

Nevertheless, Jun had learned several lessons from these setbacks, which he reflected on.

One of the lessons he learned is that his experience from the corporate world doesn’t equate to being a founder and a leader of a self-established company. As Jun puts it, “Your corporate success and your corporate executive roles, no matter how big you’ve become in your corporate life is not a guarantee that you can or will become successful… when you do your own business.” However, he adds the fact that “it is a good foundation, a very good experience, but don’t count too much on it.”

A great point Jun had learned from these setbacks is that overconfidence can put anyone down in their business journey.

“Being naïve or too naïve about business and people is also not good; funding is a must-have during the initial phase of the start-up ventures and friendships sometimes end when there is big money at stake, among many lessons,” Jun notes.

He also notes the key importance of finding the right business partners. For instance, in Jun’s case, his areas of expertise are technology related such as software architecture, software development, and service delivery; but he needs skills for other non-tech functions such as marketing and sales.

A mix of hobbies and interests: the formula for KALARO’s creation

Aside from his tech background, he has also been into various sports like soccer, tennis, golf, shooting, mountain biking, and esports even before it was called so. During his industry study for the esports market in the Philippines and the ASEAN region, he saw the difficulties of using different apps and having to maintain various silos of information to be able to manage and operate an esports organization and business. Addressing these crippling limitations and pain points is where KALARO shows its prowess.

“Esports is one of those industries that is growing extremely fast and most especially during the pandemic situation wherein most people have to stay indoors,” Jun stated.

He also noted that the Philippine esports is not growing as fast as it should and in a very alarming status, mainly due to the following reasons: “fragmentation of the industry players, absence of automated systems that can help organizers run tournaments efficiently, and lack of formally organized nationwide tournaments for gamers to join and hone their skills, among many other factors”.

A teaser video on the pilot launch of the KALARO esports platform.

With these challenges and market potential in mind, Jun launched the country’s first esports online digital platform called KALARO, which integrates tournament management, social media, brand store-fronts, video streams from YouTube, FB & Twitch, and its e-wallet (in partnership with UnionBank) to create a fully integrated, easy to use app that directly addresses the pain points & aspirations of the various esports stakeholders in the country.

“The core of it is the tournament management platform integrated into its social network… (and) more important for brands to be able to support gamers and teams; and for brands to get much closer to this hard-to-reach generation of gamers,” Jun explains.

A tipping point for gaming addiction and brand connections

With the phenomenal global rise of the esports industry among the millennial and Gen Z generations, there are rising concerns about addiction to video-game playing. To address this issue, Jun is integrating advocacy and social responsibility programs as an indispensable part of The-AsiaGroup.com’s existence.

“These [programs] will create balance and institutionalize what KALARO is all about – KALARO is about helping those in need and educating gamers to learn to balance their love and passion for gaming versus their education and/or profession,” Jun stated.

Consequently, Jun is quite optimistic that Filipinos will very soon discover esports as a great potential full-time career and a source of livelihood, for indeed esports has become an integral part of the global 21st-century landscape.

One of the many tournaments the KALARO esports platform hosts: for instance, the KALARO Founders Cup for the game Mobile Legends.

Esports is indeed a career: both amateur and professional levels of esports will allow gamers, streamers, teams, and leagues to earn a living. It is now at the same level as NBA or football in the Western world and also in South Korea, Japan, and China.

As 43 million people in the Philippines are considered to be highly interested in gaming & esports, Jun is confident that corporate brands would want to increase their participation in Kalaro’s advocacy and social responsibility programs for such a huge underserved market.

“KALARO is an online digital platform for brands to advertise and sponsor actors in the gaming industry; at the same time, KALARO provides store-fronts for brands to be able to sell their gaming products directly to this captive audience inside KALARO. Gamers, streamers, and teams desperately need corporate funding and support to be able to grow their careers and the platform again provides such frictionless and direct online collaboration,” Jun explains.

Future of KALARO – thought leadership advice

Aside from expanding its services beyond the Philippine market and into ASEAN, Jun is quite proud that KALARO is also a modern testament that Filipinos can create globally competitive Software as a Service (SaaS) products – more commonly known as an “app”.

“First and foremost, KALARO is dedicated to our country and every Filipino. This is why we used the Philippine flag colors as inspiration for our logo. We want to show the world that Filipinos can indeed create apps at world-class standards. Our dream is for the Philippines to have many esports world champions and maybe, soon, in the Olympics,” Jun stated; which resonates with the fact that the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, held in the Philippines, introduced esports as an official sporting event which saw the Philippines winning several gold medals.

Jun advises technopreneurs to accept that failures and setbacks do happen, from time to time, in any endeavor and the key is to be prepared in advance before they happen. “Failures and setbacks will happen along the way, it is part of the journey but (if) we are headstrong and persistent in doing what you have dreamt and planned to achieve, your dream will soon become a reality when you do not give up,” Jun adds.

Finally, when asked for his best advice for technopreneurs, he opens up by stating that mastering your craft is the foundation, enjoying the journey is key, and continue to achieve goals one after another for it is your passion that will give you the energy and fulfillment along the way. All these served as the perfect backdrop to reviving what he had once lost in Singapore and saw the incorporation of the new, Philippine-based, The-AsiaGroup.com Inc. as a duly registered Filipino corporation and Jun’s latest creation, KALARO, is today US$5 – US$10 million in valuation.

“Once you have decided what you want to do, you must execute it with utmost speed, creativity & excellence. This is a long discussion, but be ready to get things done in the fastest way possible, create products or services that are of international quality, and use your creativity as the foundation for radical innovation,” Jun concludes.

Watch our live interview with Jun on MARKETECH APAC’s YouTube channel.

If you are a marketing or tech leader, founder or an agency head and you have a good story or insights to share, we want to hear from you. Please send us an email at [email protected].

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Philippines-based The-AsiaGroup.com to launch digital eSports platform Kalaro in October

Manila, Philippines – The-AsiaGroup.com Inc, a software architecture company, has announced that it will be launching a fully-integrated end-to-end eSports digital platform “Kalaro” in the Philippines in October.

Kalaro caters to  Filipino gamers. The application includes features like tournament management,one-on-one challenges, and team competitions as well as coaching, piloting and buy-ins among others.

Other features such as live streams, recorded video, and real-time chat will also be available. The platform is also integrated with social media channels Facebook, YouTube and  Twitch enabling users to post their statuses and follow each other.

The new technology is made by an internationally-experienced team of Filipino tech-experts in the Philippines. In creating the platform, the company has teamed up with international corporate brands National Computer Systems (NCS), an information, communication and technology (ICT) service provider in Singapore, and with software-engineering company ERNI from Switzerland.

NCS handles the technology cloud infrastructure to ensure that Kalaro is globally available to all Filipinos 24/7. The company was also responsible for  the various integration requirements of Kalaro so that it can connect online to apps like Facebook, Twitch, and mobile payments GCash, DragonPayand other third party systems.

ERNI, on the other hand, designs the User Interface (UI) and overall User Experience (UX), translating it into actual working systems for the platform  users to enjoy. 

Renalyn B. David, board of directors member of The-AsiaGroup.com Inc. and Pnex Int’l Corporation said, “We are thrilled to finally unveil Kalaro to be the catalyst in rapidly developing world-class Filipino eSports talents. With the incredible support we are getting from our partners and the gaming community, we’re excited to realize the synergy Kalaro will create among corporate brands and more than 30+ million eSports enthusiasts in the Philippines”

Co-founder David Nithyananthan added, “Kalaro was able to capture the aspirations of all the eSports stakeholders and present it in a creatively designed UI which results in a fun, easy to use [platform] and with a comprehensive set of features fitting to the demands of tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zs.”