The Philippines - top investment destination

  

Philippines top investment

The Philippines ranks number 1 among best countries to invest in, according to the US News and World Report, beating more developed countries such as Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and France. This global research highlighted that The Philippines' young population will attract more firms looking for a good labour force.

The 2018 Best Countries report data is based on how global perceptions - of 80 nations - define countries in terms of a number of qualitative characteristics, impressions that have the potential to drive trade, travel and investment and affect national economies.
On its website, US News explained that the report had been ranked “based on scores primarily from more than 6,000 business decision makers on a compilation of eight equally weighted country attributes: corruption, dynamism, economic stability, entrepreneurship, favorable tax environment, innovation, skilled labour force, and technological expertise.”
The head of the Duterte administration's economic team said that strong macroeconomic fundamentals alongside plans to ramp up infrastructure spending is what prompted the Philippines to make it to the top of the list of best countries to invest in.
“In contrast to declining inflows of foreign direct investment, or FDI, to Southeast Asia as a whole, the Philippines continued to perform well, according to United Nations data. In years to come, the country is expected to receive more FDI from within the region from powerhouses like China that are looking to utilize available labour in developing nations,” the US-based firm said in a report published online.
According to the Unctad report, “in South and Southeast Asia, several countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines, are expected to receive more FDI in years to come, especially from within the region, in line with a division of labour between more developed countries (increasingly focusing on goods with higher value added) and less developed countries (increasingly focusing on labor-intensive activities).”
Citing a report of the Board of Investments, Unctad stated, “Thus may continue to strengthen these countries' positions in regional production networks. For instance, five Chinese companies plan to invest $10 billion in the aviation, downstream oil, renewable energy, iron and steel, and shipbuilding industries in the Philippines.”
According to Unctad, FDI “flows to the Philippines - the third largest recipient in the subregion - increased by more than 60 percent to a new high of $8 billion in 2016.”
In 2017, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data proved that net FDI inflows worth $8.7 billion exceeded the $8-billion target for 2017.
Dominguez stated that there are certain factors that propelled the Philippines to the top of the list of best countries to invest in and those are: young and hardworking workforce, an excellent inclusive growth momentum, an expanding middle class, politically stable environment, strong and popular leadership, fiscal discipline, stable monetary policy, membership in Asean, and achievable infrastructure program, a strong anti-corruption drive, and improved revenue collection.”
The Philippines was followed by Indonesia on the list, while Poland ranks number three, followed by Malaysia and Singapore.
The US firm's 2018 best countries to invest in ranking was created in partnership with global marketing communications firm Y&R's brand strategy arm BAV Group as well as the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Although the Philippines was categorised as the best country to invest in, economist Alvin P. Ang - director of Ateneo Centre for Economic Research and Development - said that the government needs to make an effort and encourage foreign investors to pour capital into the country.
Under the right circumstances and in a more encouraging environment, foreign companies could further contribute in the current administration's effort, particularly on infrastructure. Ang said that the Philippines need extra money on infrastructure since local companies have maxed out.
“We still have a lot of problems, the focus is for local companies but for foreign companies that are limited options,” said Alvin P. Ang. “We are moving along that line, but that cannot be achieved in a year's time.”
The government, however, trusts that the necessary critical reforms are already in place. Socioeconomic Secretary Ernest M. Pernia said, “Our efforts to create a more business and investor-friendly environment are gaining traction in the past year and a half and the world is already seeing it.”
President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, for instance, announced a multi-billion-dollar “Build, Build, Build” initiative in an effort to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” within five years.

 

Filipino fintech startup expands in Southeast Asia

  

Filipino fintech startup

Founded in 2016, Filipino fintech startup Acudeen Technologies facilitates receivable discounting for small business in the country and is one of the most successful and fastest growing startups in Asia. The technology company enables small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to finance receivables ahead of time.

This feature is possible thanks to platform allowing transactions to happen fast from receivable uploaded cash within days. As its website states, “Acudeen is an online platform for account receivables allowing you to make seamless transactions online. Check the status of your receivables, transfer funds to your bank account, and more, happening right at the tip of your fingers.”
The website claims, “Why wait for too long before your receivables get paid when you can have cash almost instantly? Now you can worry less about getting funds for your business. With Acudeen you can see your receivables online and get cash within days.”
Inaccessible and expensive means for financing are the main problems that SMEs and MSMEs face across many emerging markets. That is where Acudeen comes to play a vital role in connecting small business owners to funders. Through the platform, an individual may upload his or her receivable ahead of its maturity date and auction it off at a discounted price. That allows them to liquidate their assets right away for use in business operations.
The company claims, “Cash flow is king. By having control over it, you can serve your clients better and you can keep saying YES to more projects! Acudeen helps you get cash faster and help you do more by making funds readily available at your disposal.”
Accordingly, the firm has managed to grow ties with financial institutions and enterprise corporations in an effort to push for financial inclusion. Acudeen Chief Executive Officer Mario Jordan Fetalino III said the company has taken the financial technology (fintech) industry by storm at the same time it has strived for financial inclusion and economic growth.
The financial inclusion Acudeen's philosophy is based on is about providing all Filipinos access to affordable and client-centred financial services that can pave the way for them to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Since 2000, the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been developing an enabling environment for the delivery of financial products tailored specially for the low income and vulnerable sectors of society.
After conquering the Philippines, Acudeen Technologies is expanding to emerging markets across Southeast Asia. According to Fetalino III, the company is targeting six different markets with a combined total addressable market of over $400 billion.
Accordingly, Acudeen is setting up operations in Vietnam and Indonesia after launching its first remote location in Myanmar. “Like the Philippines, small business owners in these countries face the same perils with regard to mobility due to inaccessible and expensive financing options,” he said.
The financial expansion into Southeast Asia will be monitored from Singapore, where the Filipino started has decided to establish its regional headquarters.
Fetalino explained that setting up regional headquarters would serve as “a stepping stone towards its goal of becoming a marketplace which essentially democratizes financial inclusion for everyone regardless of geographic location, allowing their system to be implemented on a global scale.”
Accordingly, this move makes its services more accessible and optimizes the resources to support its remote deployment across Southeast Asia. Fetalino admitted, however, that Acudeen's expansion abroad and push for financial inclusion outside its home country could result in adversities in the form of regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles.
“Though belonging to one region, the policies and regulations, and the general business environment in Southeast Asia are very different per country, which is why agile companies are the ones succeeding in this region,” Fetalino stated.
Thanks to Acudeen's adaptation of blockchain, the company is flexible and localised, offering a dynamic solution to its clients. Independently from the market where it operates, the company doesn't have to sacrifice its standards for risk assessment and invoice collections.
According to Fetaline, Acudeen has been actively looking the right partners in the region. The company expects a 10-fold increase in growth to $30 million from last year's $3 million. Acudeen continues to support economic development in the Philippines through financial inclusion.

 

Go-Jek ventures into the Philippines

  

Philippines go jek

Founded in 2010 by Nadiem Makarim, Go-Jek is an Indonesian hyperlocal transport, ride hailing, logistics and payments startup. Go-Jek is a cutting-edge app used for online transportation, food delivery, logistics, payment and daily services. Beyond a multi-service app, Go-Jek has a social mission, which is to improve the welfare of Indonesian people by empowering people.

The company started in 2011 by offering rides on motorcycle taxis - known in Indonesia as ojek - and since then, the company has expanded into food delivery, house cleaning and massage services. In 2016, the company began car rides. But Go-Jek offer much more than ride-hailing. Since it is free, its mobile payment business, Go-Pay, is growing exponentially along with all the other Go-Jek offerings.
This ride-hailing tech company announced plans to expand into Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This announcement comes after Grab acquired Uber's Southeast Asia business operations. As Uber disappears from Singapore, leaving Grab as the sole player, there's a void in the market which has been identified by Go-Jek. Its motorcycle transport services, however, will not be adopted in Singapore since the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had previously stated: “Motorcycles are not allowed to be used for point-to-point transport services, unlike taxis and private hire cars.”
The ride-hailing firm's senior vice president of acquisition and development, Michy Gustavia, announced that the company will launch its own-subscription-based platform for video streaming. The new service will be named Go-Play and it will feature original content crafted by the company's new production house Go-Studios. The platform will stream documentaries, short films, and feature-length works from local filmmakers produced exclusively for Go-Plan, and will be “95 percent Indonesian-focused,” Gustavia said.
A documentary examining the experiences of women drivers who work in the ride-hailing sector is one of the first in-house projects undertaken by Go-Jek. According to Gustavia, this documentary has been submitted to several film festivals.
These are exciting times for Go-Jek, which has partnered with US media outlet Vice. According to a press release issued by the two firms, they are co-producing a film by Indonesian director Joko Anwar. The two firms will also collaborate on original, including a sports documentary.
According to Gustavia, Go-Play will be available on a subscription basis, with daily, monthly, and yearly payment option.
Go-Jek has been open about its plans to become the go-to place for Indonesian consumers' everyday wants and needs. With so many strands in different industries, it doesn't come as a surprise that Go-Jek now wants to lay its hands on video streaming and content production.
“Larger OTT players that are part of a wider group… may be the best poised for own-content production,” Gustavia said.
According to Malcolm Rogers, an analyst at Global Data, over-the-top (OTT) video providers in the region have increasingly been producing their own content.
“Exclusive content deals such as those for sports broadcast rights secure loyal viewers but at high cost,” he explained. “Embarking on content production enables providers to better tailor content to target demographics while offering more cost control compared to buying from major studios.”
It might be a challenge for Go-Jek to get people to sign up if they go ahead with their plan on a subscription model. Iflix's experience might teach Go-Jek something. This Malaysia-based content streaming portal first tried to run a subscription model and according to CEO Mark Britt, this was a strategic misstep. Therefore, Iflix recently branched out into a free service supported by ads.
He said: “We naively believed that the Western entertainment model could easily succeed in emerging markets, and that price would be the primary customer pain point. Looking back now, we realize how superficial that view was.”
Go-Jek, however, is capable of providing a broader offering. Given its wide scope of operations in the market, Go-Jek could prompt users to sign up to a subscription if by doing so they get privileges and discounts across Go-Jek's full suite of transport, finance, and other services. Go-Jek's different strands in the business may also mean that the Indonesian company has more resources to cover costs for producing in-house content.
According to Rogers, video-streaming providers can retain customers by focusing “on niche content with either lower content costs or a dedicated and loyal fan base willing to pay a premium for niche content.”
“Larger OTT players that are part of a wider group of media or technology companies may be the best poised for own-content production,” he added.
 
The Philippine transport regulator apparently recently rejected a request by Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-Jek to offer services in the Philippines, due to restrictions on foreign ownership. It would seem Go-Jek needs to find ways to get around the restrictions.

 

Asia top photo apps

  

tech Photo Wonder(1) 

Instagram's popularity has grown exponentially ever since it was launched back in 2010. This video-sharing social networking service's success has been such that it prompted Facebook to buy it for $1 billion. With 400 million monthly active users, Instagram's popularity has also fueled the appearance of photo apps.

Startups in Asia have also made the most out of Instagram and devised sensational photo apps that have attracted many users. Here are some of the best photo apps invented in Asia:
Camera360 (China)
Compatible with iOS and Android, this app has amassed 500 million users worldwide. Apart from the obvious Instagram features, this Chinese app allows users to customise photos with stickers, edit photos and upload photos into the cloud. Its most innovative feature is enabling users to create puzzle patterns with the photos.
PaPa (China)
Just like Japan's Voicepic, this innovative app takes a step forward in the industry of photo-sharing services and it allows users to add sound to their photos. It's a combination of apps like Whatsapp and Instagram. This sound accompanying your photo can be either your voice, a song or background noise, allowing users to narrate their images or add sound for dramatic purposes. You can even reply in audio form to in the comments.
PaPa also benefits from another app, Pinterest, as it mirrors its timeline and shows who “hearted” other posts. To post, snap a photo and then hold down the record button to capture your audio.
Photo Wonder (Image above, from China)
Unlike Instagram's post-filter feature, this app allows users to see the filter before taking the picture. Apart from filters, this app allows users to edit and collage features and to download extra goodes like stickers and frames.
PIP Camera (China)
While most apps are focused on filter features, PIP Camera offers users the possibility to frame their photos in different objects such as glasses, umbrellas and computer screens.
Cameran (Japan)
Developed under the supervision of Mija Ninagawa - a female photographer and film director famous for her works with flowers, goldfish and landscapes - this app allows you to customize your photos with decorations. For instance, you can click on a flower decoration filter repeatedly to see different flower arrangements. Click on one of the 23 photo filters the app has to see incredible aesthetic results. The app also allows you to add effects to your own pictures. You can always count on Japan to come up with an innovative way to make something chic.
Japan also houses other groundbreaking photo apps, like DecoAlbum. This photo app focuses on women and allows them to create photos with text, backgrounds, sparkly visual stickers and other options. One of the few apps that prioritizes making albums, this app allows you to assemble your photos into an album.
Decopic used to be another Japanese photo app centred on decorating your photo. Whether you wanted to use aesthetic frames around your pictures or decorate your photo with hearts and stars, the app boasted endless options to customize your photo.
With over 5,000 stamps, over 100 frames, more than 30 filters, 200 brushes and other tools, Line Camera app is a wealth of possibilities. Given that comics are deeply in the Japanese culture, the country came up with an app that can turn you into a cartoon. This app is called Manga-Camera and it even allows you add decorations and text such as “pow.”
Japan has also invented an app for food lovers - Snapdish - which is all about taking photos of food and sharing it with the community of food lovers.
Cymera (South Korea)
Although this app might seem a bit difficult to use, it gives you a lot of editing options. With this app you can retouch your selfie pics, create memes, photo collages, and retouch your face. You can even turn your eyes into anime eyes. Some of the features include facial blur, highlights, shadows and many other adjustments.
Another Snow that has taking South Korea by storm is Snow. This is the Asian equivalent of Snapchat but the animated selfies to choose from are endless. Unlike Snapchat, Snow doesn't use a preview timer and features more aegyo content, including various K-pop celebrities.
A contender to Snow and Snapchat, Camera 360 is a popular face recognition app that, unlike Snapchat, allows you to take selfies with a full range of filters available. It also enables you fully control your snaps, like eliminating spots and retouching your face.

 

Big Bikes boom in the Philippines

  

New 2019 Honda CB1000R

Thanks to the Philippines growing economy, motorcycles are growing in status, as they used to be associated more with utility than leisure, according to Honda. The Japanese motorcycle brand has recently launched its big bikes in the Philippines, challenging other classic motorcycle brands such as Harley and Ducati. According to Honda Philippines president and CEO Daiki Mihara, the company was “slightly conservative.” New 2019 Honda CB1000R in photo.

Honda has big its expectations in this country in the Pacific, and it plans to sell 500 big bikes in 2018. This figure pales in comparison to the 500,000 small models it sold last year. Indeed, the company had long relied on small engine bikes used for commuting and deliveries to drive sales in the country. With the growing economy, however, Honda expects to sell big bikes which are associated with leisure rather than a necessity.
"The economy grows, then maybe people also look for big bikes for leisure, not only for commuting purpose," Mihara said. It was a flux of requests from the motorcycle community that prompted the company to bring its big bikes to the country. Most cyclists requested the 500cc Rebel cruiser.
Although the 471cc Rebel is the cheapest model out of Honda's big bikes lineup, it has a hefty starting price of P369,000, which is more than eight times the price of Honda's cheapest commuter bike, the Wave 110 Alpha, priced at P44,900.
The most expensive big bike of the collection, the CBR 1000RR superbike, has a starting price of P1.35 million, which is more than a 1.8-litre Honda Civic sedan.
Accordingly, big bikes probably won't be affected by the tax reform law, given that Honda is targeting the affluent segment of the market.
Inside Racing Bike Festival and Trade show
Tens of thousands of riders flock to the World Trade Centre in Pasay City every year to find the latest motorcycle accessories and the industry's newest offerings in the market, with a great variety of product launches programmed for the day. Top motorcycle brands take to the stage and leave festival-goers in awe.
Honda Philippines - the country's number-one motorcycle manufacturer - stole the show when they introduced their new communication campaign: “One Dream.” With this title, the campaign sought to unite riders into this kind of vision and prompt Filipinos to achieve their dreams.
“Knowing that people strive to achieve their dreams and aspirations motivates Honda to continue with our efforts of helping them realize it,” said Daiki Mihara, president of HPI. The Japanese company's recent partnership with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) for the Commissioner's Cup is proof that Honda is actively trying to become involved in the Filipino culture.
The company showcase its latest collection of motorcycles like Honda BEAT and PCX150 for the automatic (AT) segment, CBR150R for the high on-road sports and CRF150L for the off-road sports segment.
During the event, the company also introduced two of its newest big-bike models - the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP and Honda CB1100EX.
Yamaha Motor Show
During the show, the manufacturer brought the machines to life with their innovative technology and human touch. It was Yamaha's MOTOROiD, however, which impressed the audience with its display of futuristic features. This model employs image recognition artificial intelligence (AI), using machine learning algorithms for facial and gesture recognition functions.
This futuristic bike seems to be taken straight out of a James Bond film, as it recognizes its owner's face, and the rider can control its movement through simple hand gestures. It is not necessary to Yamaha's MOTOROiD to get it to move forward or backward, to stop and to turn in every direction.
The two-wheeled vehicles are stabilised through the Active Mass Centre Control System. This technology uses electronic active control to keep the motorcycle standing on its own and keep it from falling.
Yamaha also showcased the MAX series, particularly its newest model XMAX. Along with those stood a range of big bikes, including MT09, Super Tenere, Tracer 900, XSR 900, SR400, YZF-R6 and YZF-R1 and Mio lineup of under-bones.
Suzuki Philippines
Meanwhile, Suzuki informed about its alliance with its riders; this partnership is aimed at putting customers first, manufacturing vehicles that attend to their needs, and crafting forms of mobility that best suit their lifestyles.

 

East Asian cities for entrepreneurs

  

tech startups in Fukuoka

Over the past few years, many East Asian cities have popped up to lead the way for start-ups. With access to growing markets, a skilled talent pool and lower living costs than the Valley, East Asian cities are starting to claim their piece of the pie and they are stepping up to attract entrepreneurs.

There are other factors, such as community availability of investment and access to local expertise - that have played a vital role to create an optimal environment for a start-up to grow.
Here are some of the cities leading the way for start-ups:
Beijing
Home to over 7,000 start-ups and, Beijing reigns supreme in the Asian start-up scene. Scattered with opportunity and talent, the Chinese city also houses more than 40 unicorns, which businesses with a valuation of more than $1 billion. Housing 300 coworking spaces, the tech hub of Zhongguancun is the Chinese equivalent to Silicon Valley. Haidan District, however, remains wider and houses some of the city's success stories, such as Xiaomi and Baidu.
Shanghai
Blessed with affordable living costs, Shanghai is a great place to start a business. Apart from the living costs, the city prides itself in its start-up scene and some districts encourage aspiring entrepreneurs by providing housing allowances or free rent if businesses choose to register there.
Housing around 3,000 start-ups, Shanghai falls behind Beijing in terms of the size of its scene. The city, however, boasts a higher success rate in terms of business' ability to expand internationally.
Shenzhen
What once was a small fishing village with a population of 175,000 30 years ago is now a metropolis of over 12.5 million inhabitants. The cosmic growth of the population has meant more business opportunities and has spawned a thriving start-up community. The city is the birthplace of global names like Tencent and OnePlus. The city is also famous for breeding hardware developers, attracting some of the largest volumes of research and development investment of anywhere in the country.
Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong has long been one of the world's leading financial centres, it has struggled to replicated that success in its infant scene. With the current changing landscape, Hong Kong has been able to turn things around over the past few years and it has been a boost in entrepreneurial activity. Today, the city houses more than 2,000 start-ups, 50 coworking spaces and one unicorn - van-hailing app GoGoVan.
Fukuoka (in photo)
Over the past few years, Fukuoka has grown its reputation as a start-up hub to such extent that it is now Japan's designated regulatory sandbox for start-ups. As such, it is authorised to provide local entrepreneurs with loans of up to $232,000 and is home to the country's first six-month start-up visa for foreigners, hence its growing expat community.
Tokyo
What was once was the centre of a thriving internet start-up scene has struggled to maintain its position in the past few years. Despite housing one o the world's largest investors, Softbank, investment in start-ups has been poor during this period.
Despite the recent trends, as the capital of the world's third-largest economy, Tokyo boasts numerous opportunities for start-ups that can provide solutions to the problems the country is facing, such as its rapidly aging population.
Seoul
Housing 3,500 start-ups and around 100 accelerators, Seoul is leading the start-up scene in South Korea. The city's prominent start-up scene is partly thanks to the South Korean government's investment to help entrepreneurs. Although it usually favours nationals, South Korea boasts the highest government backing per capita for start-ups.
Taipei
Despite being smaller than other Asian cities leading the way for start-ups, Taipei is a hub for hardware development and manufacturing. The Taiwanese capital also houses a notable network of engineering and design expertise.

 

High-tech hotels in Asia

  

Henn Na Hotel Tokyo

As the world becomes more technology dependant, it becomes imperative for hotels to offer guests more than a comfy bed to sleep in. On the contrary, hotels need to ride the wave of technology changes to attract the new generation of tech savvy travellers.

Colour TV and vibrating beds were once associated with high-tech hotels, but nowadays it takes more state-of-the-art amenities to attract guests. This new generation of travellers expect even more in the form convenience, accessibility and artistic design, which can be achieved through technology and innovation.
Asia - and Japan in particular - houses some of the most modern and high-tech hotels in the world, offering amenities at the cutting edge of technology. Here are some of the best high-tech hotels in the continent:
Henn Na Hotel Tokyo (in photo)
Innovation and technology are palpable in this Japanese hotel from the moment reach the front desk. There you will be greeted by three robots instead of staff. These human-like and dinosaur robots check guests in at the front desk and they are even capable of engaging in basic conversation in both English and Japanese.
Henn na - literally translated as Weird Hotel - does not only use these robots to impress guests or seem high tech, but to maximise efficiency. Indeed, Henn Na Hotel relies on both robotics and human workers to ensure guests are well looked after. Apart from checking guests in at the front desk, guest rooms feature a miniature robotic personal assistant capable of providing local dining and entertainment recommendations. Beyond the robots, guest rooms are not only equipped with typical tech amenities such as free Wi-Fi and touch screen HVAC control panels, but also with a facial recognition system that unlocks your room door and a “Radiant Panel” air conditioning system that adjusts the temperature according to your body heat. All of these features will keep you glancing around to see if you spot James Bond.
The Peninsula Tokyo
If you were to expect a Minority Report-type of accommodation, you'll probably expect it to be in Tokyo. Once more, Japan is pioneering the cutting edge of high-tech hotels with the luxurious The Peninsula Tokyo. Located in the high-end Marunouchi business district - only a few minutes away from the famous Tsukiji fish market - this ostentatious property is buzzing with modern and impressive features. All 314 guest rooms live and breathe luxury, featuring over 3,000 Internet radio stations, huge flat-screen TVs, customisable mood lighting, and Skype-capable wireless phones. As impressive as it sounds, the hotel also offer guests exclusive access to a number of luxury cars such as BMW 750s, a Tesla Model S, and two Rolls-Royce Phantoms. Apart from being a playground for adults, the hotel also offers children an interactive Pokemon treasure hunt, that is only to real thanks to augmented reality.
W Singapore at Sentosa Cove (Sentosa Island, Singapore)
W Singapore are popular for being the most modern hotels brand in the world and W Singapore at Sentosa Cove is no exception. There you will enjoy uber-high tech luxury amenities, like LED lighting pulsing throughout the hotel and creating a nightclub-esque atmosphere. Rooms are equipped with 40-inch flat-screen TVs, Bose speakers and iPod docks. That is, however, nothing compared to the $9,000-per-night Extreme WOW Suite, which features a private DJ booth. The hotel also boasts a beautiful pool with underwater speakers.
Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel (Shenzhen, China)
From the reception desk to the waitstaff to the doorman, the hotel relies entirely on robotics, from the reception desk to the waitstaff to the doorman. This is one of Shenzhen's most high-tech hotels, featuring a use of neon lighting, multiple computer banks and 17 capsule beds designed to mirror the hyperbaric sleep chambers from the film Alien. The design makes the hotel look futuristic. Beyond the design and robots, technology doesn't play a big role in the hotel as a whole and the number of amenities is low, but on the bright side, that means that the hotel is not that expensive and it's ideal for travellers on a budget who want to stay in the city.
Some other high-tech hotels worth mentioning are Aloft Bangkok - which uses technology in its design to optimize convenience for guests and W Taipei - which uses technology in a quirky way. Aloft Bangkok features robotic butlers and voice-activated rooms that can even run baths and set alarms that will make you feel like you are in a film. Meanwhile, W Taipei features typical high-tech amenities like LCD flat screen televisions and modern sound systems, but what makes it special is that it houses a wall with an interactive grid of OLED lights that will change based on your movements.

 

The most popular apps in Asia

  

gojek popular app in asia

Apple unveiled its list in 2017 of the most popular apps across the App Store, Apple Music and iTunes in the Southeast Asia region. Accordingly, 2017 was a tremendously successful year for entertainment, when lots of new content from indie artists and development community took prominence.

Some of the innovative trends in the year was the introduction of augmented reality (AR) apps and games, the rise of real-time competitive gaming, apps that focused on mental health and mindfulness, and apps that have transformed reading and storytelling.
Revolutionising AR technology apps like “My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR” has change the way stories are red. With just a few taps on your mobile device, the classic children's book characters come to life.
Some of the apps that are centred in mindfulness, mental health and stress reduction include meditation app Zen Studio and colouring book apps such as Bloom and Lake.
Ride Sharing
This ride hailing app tops the list of most downloaded apps in 2017. Despite Uber's millionaire investment to take over the Southeast Asian market, Grab or Gojek, the question is still there for who remains the favourite ride-sharing app amongst Southeast Asians. Although Grab tops the list, Gojek is also one of the downloaded apps in the region, securing a marketplace in Southeast Asia.
oBike secured its 8th position down the list, competing as a bike sharing app. Based in Singapore, oBike is a stationless bicycle-sharing system with operations in several countries. Thanks to a built-in Bluetooth lock, bikes can be left anywhere at the end of a journey, not necessarily at a docking station. The way that it works is that users use this oBike app to locate and hire bikes. Ever since it was launched in 2017, obike has expanded to 24 countries including Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France and Sweden.
Social
Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram remain at the top of the list of most downloaded apps in the region. Although Facebook retains a powerful position, it is closely followed by Instagram. Meanwhile, Snapchat occupies the 20th position on the list.
Communication
Whatsapp Messenger is Southeast Asia's favourite app to call and message each other. Other apps to communicate with one another, such as Messenger and WeChat, have also secured a good place on the list.
Streaming
YouTube remains the king app to watch and stream videos all across the region, as it was the fourth most downloaded app in 2017, according to results gathered by Apple Store.
e-Commerce
Occupying the 10th position down the list is Carousell, a mobile and online consumer to consumer marketplace for buying and selling new and secondhand goods. Although the app is based in Singapore, Carousell has expanded to Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.
Food Delivery
The most popular apps for food delivery are Foodpanda and UberEATS. Headquartered in Berlin, Foodpanda is a German mobile food delivery app that allows users to select from local restaurants place orders with just a few taps on the mobile device.
Launched in 2014 and headquartered in San Francisco, UberEATS is an American online food ordering and delivery platform launched by Uber back in 2014. You can order either on their website or with the app, and accordingly, you should get your delivery within 30 minutes.
Google
Google apps feature prominently on the list, with Gmail - email by Google - as the most downloaded app for email, and Google Chrome as the preferred web browser. Google translate is also amongst the 20 most downloaded apps in Southeast Asia. Google Maps remains the preferred app to get directions and get from point A to point B.
Healthy 365
Also one of the most downloaded apps in Southeast Asia, this app allows you track your daily steps count and calculate the corresponding calories burned as you move. Health 356 accepts data from tracking devices such as HealthKit and Apple Watch. Apart from tracking your steps, the app enables you track your daily food and drinks intake and the calories consumed. The app puts together the concept of caloric balance, providing an overview of your overall daily calories consumed and burned, thus helping you in your weight management journey for a healthier lifestyle.

 

Why Grab app is such a success

  

grab

Formerly known as GrabTaxi, Grab is a Singapore-based car-sharing technology company that operates in Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar. Through its app, Grab offers ride-hailing, ride sharing logistics services.

While Uber's founders were testing their app in San Francisco, two Harvard Business School classmates from Malaysia conceived a similar idea: Uber for Asia and that's how GrabTaxi started. They fist tested the app in 2012 when they launched the ride-sharing service with 40 drivers in Kuala Lumpur. Ever since, Grab has grown exponentially, overtaking the ride-sharing market in Southeast Asia, with 2.3 million drivers in 168 cities across eight countries. Today, Grab is the most valuable tech startup in Southeast Asia, amassing $2.5 from investors such as Softbank, the Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, and Hyundai, and as a result, now Grab is valued at $10 billion.
Although Uber has invested dramatically in the region, Grab remains the number one ride-sharing app in Southeast Asia. What Grab has mastered and Uber hasn't is a better knowledge of the region. Uber has spent years doing research on Western users, but these results can't be applied to Southeast Asian countries. Meanwhile, Grab has made the most of its cultural advantage, and has invested, instead, in trying to figure out how to make e-pay work in nations with poor financial infrastructure. Grab acquired Uber's Southeast Asia business in 2018 with Uber getting a percentage stake in Grab.
The company has recruited young coders - that include alumni of Facebook, Amazon and Google - to keep up with the fierce competition in the region. Ever since Uber launched in the region in 2013, the company has invested millions of dollars into recruiting riders and drivers. At the same time, local competitor Go-Jek has a strong market lead in Indonesia and has recently raised at least $13 billion in a funding round that involved Google as well as Chinese companies Tencent and JD.com and the Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek. Go-Jek recently closed $2 billion round at $9.5 billion valuation.
This millionaire investments and race to dominate the market stem from the fact that dominating ride-share in Southeast Asia leads significant economic opportunity. A report co-authored by Google stated that spending on ride-hailing apps in the region has more than doubled over the past two years to $5 billion. By 2025 it is expected to reach $20 billion.
Despite Uber's astronomical investments, local companies are still leading the market, which has prompted the Western company to try and match the discounts and promotions competitors are offering riders and drivers in the region. This initiative, however, has resulted in Uber losing money. During a New York Times Dealbook Conference in New York, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressed this issue and the company's performance in Southeast Asian, saying that the market was over-capitalized. “We're going in, and we're leaning forward,” he said. “But I'm not optimistic that market is going to be profitable any time soon.”
It is hard for Uber to catch up with Grab, which has prompted rumours that both companies might join forces. Uber cannot compete with Grab's cultural proximity and understanding of the needs of drivers and riders in countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. For instance, when Grab first launched, it held sessions every to weeks to train drivers how to use the app and even smartphones. Since most riders didn't have credit cards, Grab accepted case from the very start. Although Uber accepts cash in some parts of the region, it took it two years to adopt this strategy.
As people were already familiar with Grab, when smartphones started to become more popular, they already fest comfortable to use Grab's app to hail a car, a motorbike, a van ride or even a trike.
The best step for Grab was to enable riders to load money via into their app via credit cards, online banks, local ATMs and even convenience stores that take part in an over-the-counter digital wallet service called GrabPay. To this date, the company has been purchasing fintech startups and opening research and development centres dedicated to growing its payment service.
Grab has also enabled peer-to-peer payments and allowing other merchants to accept GrabPay. The way that it works is that you scan a merchant's QR code, key in an amount and then hit the “pay” button. This service was launched across restaurants and food stalls in downtown Singapore, and is now being spread out through the region.

 

Groundbreaking technology trends in Asia

  

Groundbreaking technology trends in Asia

Over the past few decades, Asia has undergone a colossal economic and technological growth.

Thanks to its middle class growing in prominence, technology adoption and information consumption has exponential grown within the last decades. What used to be a technological market that mirrored the West, Asian tech companies are fast becoming the leading players at the cutting edge of technology in the world.
Over 552 million consuming household living in urbanised areas - chiefly based in China, India and Indonesia, according to a 2015 McKinsey report for the Singapore Summit. This situation has fueled the rise of “disruptors” championed by tech companies across Asia, such as Alibaba, Tencent, Flipkart and Grab (photo), now well over $10 billion valuation. These tech companies are labelled as “disruptors” for operating within the realm of disruptive technologies and generating innovations that are drastically changing the rules of business and redefining the market.
According to Edward Tse - author of “China's Disruptors” and leading global strategy consultant who has spent over two decades working with senior Chinese executives - the market has changed rapidly as homegrown companies lead by innovative, competitive entrepreneurs have taken the place of more cumbersome government-linked organisations.
This has resulted in a new generation of Asian tech companies that rival those from the US and Europe. Here are some of the innovative technology trends across the region:
Online shopping and virtual payment
Internet has changed the we shop. With the technological revolution and a growing number of people buying their products online, companies operating in the retail industry has have to adapt to these changes. This change has become more dramatic with the smartphone as people can virtually buy anything from anywhere and anytime. That plus the fact that a growing number of people have internet access and a mobile device, the landscape has changed considerably within the last decades.
Alibaba - Asian's biggest player in the industry - understood the opportunities of online shopping and made the most of it in 2014 when it had an initial public offering worth US$21.8 billion. Founded by Jack Ma, the company started as a business-to-business (B2B) online marketplace and then launched Taobao as its consumer-to-consumer (C2C) arm, which made it a competitor up against one giant in the industry - eBay.
Since Alibaba knew the market, it didn't follow in the steps of eBay as it suspected that the low popularity of credit cards and the charging of transaction fees wouldn't be appealing to Chinese customers. Therefore, they came up with an easy-to-use free online payment system for Taobao, which drove its market share to 70% in 2006, and then there was no competition, the game was won.
The payment method they devised - known as Alipay - now dominates 50% of China's online payment and it has prompted other companies throughout the region to mirror this scheme. Ever since, Alibaba has widened its horizons and is expanding its dominance globally.
“The success of these endeavours resulted from their willingness to understand and adapt to previous e-commerce models to the local setting.”
Automated Stores
Although we have seen that online shopping is on the rise, there's still a market for physical stores. With technological changes, on the rise, however, physical stores has had to adapt. JD.com - a Beijing-based company - has devised automated stores where you walk into a shop with no cashiers and no retailers, only aisles of products. Then you walk up to an item, scan its QR code and automatically proceed to make a purchase. Founded by Liu Qiangdong, JD.com has taken it a step further and aims to create a fleet of automated drones to deliver your parcels.
App for Everything
Tencent's WeChat, a messaging app that has revolutionised the industry in China and has massad 980 million active users so far. This powerful app is a combination of WhatsApp with some features of Facebook, Instagram, Google, Spotify and even Uber. This all-powerful app allows you to share images and music with friends, make bookings for restaurants or spas, and even make online payments.
Ride Sharing
Just like Uber in the West, ride-sharing companies have revolutionised public transportation in Asia. Particularly Grab, which is a major player in Southeast Asia. This app dates back to 2011 when Anthony Tan pitched a taxi-booking app at the Harvard Business Plan Competition. The popular app allows users to hire rides from licensed partners, instead of flagging down a taxi. It became an effective way to combat peak-hour shortages of public transportation.
  
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