Tencent's Plans for Indonesia Herald Wave of Asia Data Centers

Featured stories include: Digitalization or Bust: The Key Decision Facing Indonesia’s SMEs; Philippines’ ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Startup Plentina Raises $2.2M Seed Round; and Grab Philippines Co-Founder Joins $1.5M Round in Cloud Kitchen Company.

Tencent's Plans for Indonesia Herald Wave of Asia Data Centers

Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings is raising the stakes in the race against global companies for the booming cloud services market in Asia, with a plan to open two data centers in Indonesia by the end of this year.

Tencent operates 20 data centers outside China, with the first batch launched in Europe and the U.S. But amid growing political tensions between China and Western countries; Poshu Yeung- Tencent Cloud International's Senior Vice President- said the company plans to add 30 - 50% more data centers by the end of this year mostly in the Asian region.

Among Asian countries, Indonesia is one of the hottest battlegrounds for cloud services. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook have announced plans to build their first data centers in the country, the world's fourth largest with a population of 270 million. Alibaba also has opened two data centers in Indonesia, and plans to add a third.

"I think Indonesia is actually one of the fastest-growing cloud-business markets in Southeast Asia," Yeung said. "This is the first time we are launching two data centers in the same year in the same market. It shows how committed we are and how much we value the local market."

The new data center, located in Jakarta's central business district, will support a wide range of industries, including financial services, e-commerce, entertainment, gaming and education. Local cloud infrastructure bases help reduce delays in data processing, enabling companies to launch more competitive services compared with those using overseas cloud facilities.

By building its own data centers, Tencent also is looking to accelerate the overseas expansion of the other services under the group, including music app Joox and video-streaming platform WeTV in emerging Asian markets.

"The fact that we have a lot of our own businesses and also invest [in] companies around the world targeting or doing businesses in Indonesia, it makes a lot of sense for us to have our own data centers," Yeung said.

Digitalization or Bust: The Key Decision Facing Indonesia’s SMEs

Indonesia’s two-decade run of consistent economic expansion came to an end in 2020, all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consecutive negative growth in Q2 and Q3 confirmed the country’s first recession since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

The country’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)- which account for 60% of the country’s gross domestic product and 97% of its domestic working population- have been hit hard as the spread of the virus has caused around half of these businesses to temporarily close down, mostly due to sharp drops in demand and disruptions to supply chains. The financial vulnerability of these small firms is a core issue.

“One of the most common pain points that SMEs face lies in accurate revenue forecasting and predicting the direction of the business,” says Angela Thenaria, Head of Institutional Banking at DBS Indonesia

Increasing productivity and efficiency are now more important for small businesses, and outsourcing certain functions might make more sense for their long-term business viability, says Thenaria. 

Tech in Asia reports that the use of digital banking services can also help businesses save money and time, which can instead be put into developing the company. In order to survive, turning to digital solutions is an essential step. According to a study by the Mandiri Institute in May 2020, going digital increases the resilience of a company, as it gives the firm the ability to continue operations even as offline shop fronts are forced to shutter. Shifting more businesses online could even help Indonesia reduce 1.5% of the pandemic-induced economic burden on its GDP. 

Philippines’ ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Startup Plentina Raises $2.2M Seed Round

Fintech startup Plentina is capitalizing on the rapidly growing popularity of e-wallets with buy now, pay later (BNPL) installment loans that can be used and repaid through mobile devices. 

The company announced it has closed a $2.2 million seed round, co-led by former Tableau executive and ClearGraph Chief Executive Officer Andrew Vigneault, Unpopular Ventures and DV Collective. Other participants included JG Digital Equity Ventures (JGDEV), Amino Capital, Canaan Partners Scout Fund and Ignite Impact Fund.

Launched in the Philippines in October 2020, Plentina has more than 30,000 downloads. Its merchant partners include 7-Eleven Philippines and Smart Communications, a telecom provider with more than 70 million prepaid subscribers. The company will use its seed round to onboard more merchant partners in the Philippines before expanding in Southeast Asia and other regions.

Plentina has generated 10 million credit scores from alternative data sources, including mobile data obtained with user permission and retail loyalty programs, and will continue to develop its models as its merchant partnerships and customer base grows. Customers who build good credit scores with Plentina can increase their credit limits and unlock more offers.

Loans have a flat 5% service fee, with no interest. 7-Eleven and Smart Communications both offer 14-day loans, and Plentina will introduce more dynamic loan terms in the future, Valencia said. Loans can be used to purchase goods at all of 7-Eleven’s 3,000 stores in the Philippines and prepaid mobile airtime with Smart Communications.

Grab Philippines Co-Founder Joins $1.5M Round in Cloud Kitchen Company

Kraver’s Canteen, a cloud kitchen company based in the Philippines, has raised US$1.5 million in a funding round led by Foxmont Capital. Other investors include Lance Gokongwei, President and CEO of JG Summit Holdings; Brian Cu, Co-founder of Grab Philippines; Paulo Campos III, Co-founder of Zalora Philippines; and Christopher Po, Chairman of Century Pacific.

Launched in 2020, Kraver’s Canteen builds cloud kitchens in the Philippines, where each site can serve about 10 to 30 brand concepts. The company works with brands including Tiger Sugar, Yogost, and Tonkatsu Maisen.

“The Philippines is at the precipice of a major digital evolution. A big part of that will be a change in the way that Filipinos consume food,” said Franco Varona, Managing Partner at Foxmont Capital Partners. “Cloud kitchens will soon be part of the natural fabric of the food and beverage industry.

Tech in Asia reports that Kraver’s Canteen aims to build 100 kitchens across the Philippines, and it’s investing heavily in regional metro hubs like Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Davao. It will also develop smart kitchen technology and streamline kitchen operations to maximize output and reduce customer wait time.

The foodtech firm also works with chefs who have lost their jobs or day workers who have built a food business because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It expects recovery from the pandemic to begin as early as the fourth quarter of 2021, which could continue throughout 2022. 

Over the coming months, the company is looking to roll out household brands including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, Hawker Chan, Highlands Coffee, among 20 others.

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