Asia has advantages like cheap technology and high mobile penetration rates, but it cannot simply copy/paste models and apply it to this region
There’s a perfect storm brewing in Asia.
People with fresh ideas can challenge the status quo – and win.
This new reality is coming out of an entrepreneurial environment; and is brought about by a belief (and countless war stories) of the ‘little guy’ successfully taking-on the ‘heavy weights’ across the globe.
Furthermore, entrepreneurs in Asia have ready access to very affordable technology.
In Asia, we have a mixture of cheap technology, an entrepreneurial spirit and natural efficiencies provided by online marketplaces (plus, incumbent problems within many industries). The result is ideas for improving the situation take root in the minds of people who experience these challenges every day.
And in business, this means new marketplace concepts will positively impact hundreds of millions of lives across Asia.
By the people, for the people
An idea usually comes out of a desire to solve a problem.
Let’s consider two guys working as developers for an online real estate company (Apartments.com). They need to find a way for customers to search for apartments online.
But, after many late nights at work ordering takeout dinners, they were getting irritated with calling restaurants and repeatedly reading credit cards numbers over the phone.
That’s sparked an idea, and after a ton of ups and downs, hard work and sacrifice, GrubHub came to existence in 2004. Today, the online food-ordering service that has grown into 5.6 million active users and 175,000 orders per day.
Michael Evans and Matt Maloney were working to solve a different problem when the lightbulb went off and led the two down the path towards founding a publically-listed company.
Similarly, almost every aspiring marketplace entrepreneur knows Airbnb’s success story by now.
In 2007 Airbnb co-founders (Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk) needed to earn extra income, so they created a basic website and posted an advertisement to rent their lodging space plus a home-cooked breakfast.
When three renters responded, it showed their idea was a ‘go’ — it was the start of something new that redefined the way we travel.
Eight years later, over 50 million guests have followed the footsteps of those three renters.
Both GrubHub and Airbnb are examples of online marketplaces taking advantage of the sharing economy model, and the ideal of ordinary people solving everyday problems.
Given the fragmentation and diversity of the Asian market, we are in a period in which new ideas sprout daily, uniquely solve problems and create marketplace opportunities across the region.
However, copying ideas from other countries and bringing them to Asia in the hopes it will stick is not the way forward.
Rather startups should focus on the evolution of truly localized marketplace concepts that address the real needs of a diverse Asian market.
Given the fact that half of the world’s population reside in Asia, it is only a matter of time before an Asian based start-up becomes a global name.
The humble smartphone is driving greater marketplace usage in Asia
In Asia, connectivity between people and places is surging.
The number of smartphone users grew 45 per cent year-on-year from 2007, culminating in 1.6 billion users in 2015.
Cheap smartphones and hassle-free Internet packages has resulted in the proliferation of smartphones, which ultimately leads to the growth of digital consumerism.
For marketplace operators this is an ideal situation; ‘users’ are becoming ‘consumers’. And given the limitations of user experience, that demands navigation across numerous single-merchant sites — consumers will be naturally drawn to marketplace environments.
Like I said, it is a perfect storm for the next ‘big thing’ to emerge from an Asian market.
Dream big and dream small
Any kind of marketplace has a chance to stand out and become something important for a local user base.
While creating the next Airbnb-esque idea from Thailand or Indonesia is what dreams are made of, using marketplace concepts to solve local problems is the better place to start.
In Asia, the problems to solve are many, but the opportunities are endless.
Marketplace technology is available, and the ability to access online marketplaces is inexpensive, so over time as ideas germinate in Asia, watch the consequences ripple around the globe.
Asia does not yet have its Airbnb, but it is only a matter of time before a regional company dominates the world.
About: Dinuke Ranasinghe is CEO and co-founder of Arcadier, a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. You can follow Arcadier on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more news and updates.
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