Trans-Cab Partners Gojek Singapore In the Midst of Competition Against Private Hires

Trans-Cab Services, Singapore’s second-largest taxi company and Gojek Singapore  announced partnership to allow more than 3000 Trans-Cab drivers to gain access to bookings made via the Gojek platform, and will be able to fulfill private-hire trips on a flat-fare basis from December 2019.

Within a short 1 year span, Gojek claimed to have clocked 30 million completed trips in Singapore. Singapore is now Gojek’s second-largest transport market after Indonesia in terms of transaction value, a testament to customer trust and value in Gojek’s offering.

Trans-Cab chief executive officer Teo Kiang Ang said: “This collaboration with Gojek is fantastic. It will enable our drivers to access on-demand bookings via the Gojek app, while they continue to be able to take on street-hail jobs. Our drivers will greatly benefit from this flexibility and increased earning opportunity.

In fact, Gojek is not the only ride-hailing services provider that Trans-Cab is working with. In September this year, Trans-Cab has inked a partnership with another small local company Ryde.

It is inevitable for Trans-Cab to venture into private hires ever since private hire like Uber and Grab entered Singapore. In less than 10 years,  the number of taxis in Singapore has dropped drastically from 28,000 to under 20,000. To overcome the technological barrier, it may be better for taxi operator like Trans-Cab to partner, instead of going head-on, with car hailing service providers like Gojek and Ryde.

Currently, Trans-cab has a fleet of close to 3,000 taxi which is very far behind market leader ComfortDelGro Corp.’s 11,000 vehicles under its Comfort and CityCab brands, data from the Land Transport Authority showed.

In early September this year, Trans-Cab announced intention for listing in Singapore stock exchange with a valuation of SGD 200 million.

Opensignal: Singapore is one of the six countries outside Europe to gain a ‘Good’ rating for over-the-top (OTT) voice services.

Voice apps are changing the way we communicate. The insatiable growth in smartphone use along with the increasing ubiquity of data connections means that apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and many other VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service providers are offering an entirely new platform for users to talk to each other.

Opensignal, an independent mobile analytics firm, has just released a report that measures the quality of over-the-top (OTT) voice services experienced by consumers across 80 countries, including Singapore. This marks the industry’s largest, independent survey of user experience of OTT services.

Singapore is The Only Asia country Emerges the Top 10.

Of the 80 countries analysed for overall Voice App Experience, almost 25% (19) achieved a ‘Good’ rating — meaning many users in these countries were satisfied and experienced minor quality impairments while using Voice Apps to communicate.

Singapore scores 81.7 trailing closely behind Switzerland (81.9) securing 8th position among 80 countries surveyed. No country globally attained an ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’ rating.

Only six were from outside Europe, which are Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand get “Good” rating.

Voice App Experience on 4G networks is most often ‘Good’

The 3G Voice App Experience scores are consistently lower in every country compared with their 4G equivalents, including Singapore. In this region, Singapore and Hong Kong were the only countries who had a difference of less than 5 points between their 3G and 4G Voice App Experience score — an indicator of what the mobile experience will be in future for highly matured markets where 4G Availability is rising and is replacing 3G as operators enhance their networks for smoother transitions. 

To read more about the survey results, you may access the report here

PwC Singapore commits about S$10 million to developing its people in Singapore

  • In Singapore, PwC pledges close to S$10 million to digitally upskill its people in line with its global ‘New World. New Skills.’ commitment
  • PwC’s global revenues up 7% to US$42.4 billion
  • Focus on our purpose drives good revenue growth in all major markets and areas of business
  • 25,000 new jobs created, increasing the workforce to 276,000
  • US$3bn investment in upskilling PwC people, and developing and sharing technologies to support clients and communities

Singapore; Tuesday 1st October, 2019 – For the 12 months ending 30 June 2019, PwC firms around the world had gross revenues of US$42.4 billion – up 7% in local currency and 4% in US dollars. Revenues grew across all lines of business and major markets, boosted by the power of the PwC brand and continued significant investments in quality, technology and people.

As our clients face increasing challenges and opportunities driven by technological advances, stakeholder expectations and other changes, they require us to work together across the broad range of our operations helping them to deal with issues such as cyber security, trust, regulation and strategic workforce planning. And as a result, our business is growing rapidly in these areas to meet increased client demand.

“Over the past year, we’ve continued to focus on delivering value to our stakeholders, working hard to build trust and help our clients solve their most complex problems. As a result, PwC businesses grew in all major markets around the world. Our strong growth in revenues has enabled us to continue to invest in our businesses and our people. Investments in technology are making our services more relevant and enhancing the quality of our work.

“PwC firms now employ 276,000 people worldwide and are investing heavily in learning and development to ensure our people can build rewarding careers and are prepared for the future world of work,” said Bob Moritz, PwC’s Global Chairman.

New world. New skills.

It’s become increasingly apparent that one of the world’s most pressing challenges – and one faced by business – is the growing mismatch between the skills people have and those needed for the digital world. There is an urgent need for organisations, governments and educators to come together to fix this growing problem and business has an important role to play. Over the next four years, we are committing $3bn in upskilling globally – primarily in training our people but also in developing and sharing technologies to support clients and communities.

Closer to home, PwC’s recently launched Upskilling Hopes and Fears report found that about one in three (31%) Singaporeans felt that they were not well-equipped for new workplace technologies. In order to ensure that our people in PwC Singapore don’t fall into this 31%, the Singapore firm is committing close to S$10 million over the next two years to developing their digital skills.

“We are kick-starting this with a two-year comprehensive multi-platform programme designed to digitally upskill our people. The programme is intended to drive a culture of innovation where each staff and partner is empowered with the right mindset and capabilities in data and automation to determine the path they want to take, and even play a part in shaping the profession of the future,” said Yeoh Oon Jin, Executive Chairman at PwC Singapore. He continued, “The advances in technology also means that there are some who may be left behind. So, as part of our corporate responsibility effort, we are also working with our clients, government agencies and engaging with communities to help close the skills gap in today’s digital world.”

PwC Singapore’s programme will see the digital upskilling of over 3,500 of our people systematically through:

  • Curated classroom and virtual trainings on the basics of data visualisation, data analytics and automation that are customised to various business units unique needs. These trainings will see our people go through more than 80,000 training hours.
  • The continuous development of our people’s digital fitness through our Digital Fitness Assessment app which measures users’ Digital Fitness Score and recommends customised on-the-go upskilling plans and materials to help improve their score. This mobile app is also available for clients.
  • Enabling continuous self-learning outside of the classroom via our easy-to-access internal e-learning platforms and materials.
  • Enabling solution-sharing and innovation through our centralised solutions repository and technology collaboration platform.
  • Committing headcount (individuals with advanced digital skills) to help teams utilise insights, automate processes, develop solutions and improve user experience to accelerate digitalisation across the firm

The programme in Singapore is in line with PwC’s upskilling commitment across the network. Globally, ‘New World. New Skills.’ focuses on four key areas:

●Upskilling all of PwC’s 276,000 people. We will roll out different programmes that meet their particular needs, from skills academies to digital fitness apps to leadership development. A proportion of our workforce will develop specialist skills in areas including data analytics, robotics process automation and artificial intelligence for use in their work. For others, it’s about understanding the potential of new technologies so they can advise clients, communities, and other stakeholders.

●We are also advising our clients on the challenges posed by rapid technological change and automation. This includes identifying skills gaps and mismatches against likely future needs, workforce planning, upskilling programmes and cultural change.

●We will work with governments and institutions to reach a much broader group of people. For example, PwC in Luxembourg helped develop the Luxembourg Skills Bridge which brings together trade unions, associations and businesses to build digital industries and develop digital skills, including among those populations most ‘at risk’.

●We will help millions of people improve their skills and knowledge for the digital world by making upskilling a focus of our not-for-profit initiatives. This includes working with students and teachers, which will help ensure opportunities are more evenly spread and we reach people who may otherwise be left behind. Learn more about PwC’s New world. New skills.

A good performance across the world

In the Americas, revenues were up by 5% compared with 4% the prior year, with a particularly strong performance from operations in the United States and Canada, offset by some challenging economic conditions in Brazil where revenue rose by 2%. Growth in Western Europe was up by 7%. In Central and Eastern Europe, revenues continued to grow strongly – up 10% – marking the fourth consecutive year of double digit growth.

Revenue growth from the Middle East and Africa was also strong, despite some challenging market conditions, increasing by 9%. Across Asia, revenues grew by 9% while in Australasia and the Pacific, PwC enjoyed another strong year with revenues rising by 10%.

Assurance: Despite very mature and highly competitive markets, revenues from PwC Assurance operations grew by 5% to US$17.4 billion. With 115,000 people across the world, we continue to manage the challenges of mandatory firm rotation in many markets and attract new clients with the introduction of cutting-edge solutions and emerging technologies for the audit. In addition, demand for our broader assurance services continues in established areas such as internal audit, risk and compliance, as well as emerging areas such as data and analytics, crypto currency and blockchain.

Advisory: PwC Advisory operations grew by 10% to US$14.4 billion. We have in recent years established a strong reputation for delivering value for clients from strategy to execution. This is driving high demand, particularly relating to deals, value creation and business transformation. PwC Advisory operations now employ 68,000 people. We engage a broad range of talents, bringing not only the more traditional management or strategy consultants, but also data scientists, AI experts, systems engineers, designers, communications experts and others, to address our clients’ most pressing business issues and opportunities. We also have alliances with many of the world’s leading technology companies to create cutting-edge solutions for clients.

Tax & Legal Services: PwC Tax & Legal revenues grew by 6% to US$10.7 billion, driven by continued complexity and change in many local tax systems, as well as the state of flux in the global regulatory and economic landscape. The 55,000 professionals in our Tax and Legal Services practices use the latest technologies to help businesses navigate complexity and risk, build their people networks, and solve legal challenges while meeting their tax and other responsibilities. Demand was particularly high for People & Organisation services, Legal services, and Tax Reporting & Strategy services.

Striving for the highest quality

The quality of our work is at the heart of our organisation and we invest significant and increasing resources in its continuous enhancement across all of our businesses. This investment is targeted into many different areas, including training (technical, ethical and behavioural), methodologies, adding resources in key areas and exploring new ways of delivering our work. We are also investing heavily in new technology to drive continuous improvements in the quality, capabilities and effectiveness of all of our services. As part of our journey to be one of the most cloud enabled organisations in the world, we are investing over US$1 billion in solutions and supporting programmes to create a connected ecosystem and drive innovation and quality.

“The quality of our work across the full range of our services is incredibly important. While we are proud to have been the first of the global professional services networks to have published its internal audit quality inspection results, we know we have more to do and are operating with a continuous improvement mindset. Both in terms of how we test, measure and enhance quality and also in the levels of investment we need to make to ensure our quality is as high as possible. We have added more detail in our Global Annual Review on audit quality and aim to increase transparency in the future,” said Bob Moritz.

The results of our audit quality testing improved in FY19. We know that we have more to do and we need to reduce the level of non-compliant audits further. In FY19, of the 1,768 audits we reviewed, 94.9% (up from 92.2% in 2018) were deemed compliant. Learn more.

Telstra Cleared To Invest in Southern Cross Cable

Last December, Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN) and its shareholders, Spark New Zealand, Singtel and Verizon Business, announced that Telstra has entered into agreed terms to purchase a 25 per cent stake in SCCN and substantial capacity on both the existing network and the new Southern Cross NEXT subsea cable.

It is now confirmed that regulatory approval has been given for Telstra to become 25% stakeholder for SCCN and the construction of subsea cable will soon commerce.

The shareholders have agreed to commit the necessary equity funding to enable Southern Cross NEXT to proceed with additional funding raised from debt and SCCN cash reserves. Although the transaction is still subject to some conditions, these are procedural in nature and are expected to be satisfied within the next few days.   

Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) has also been granted CIF to build the new high capacity express route which, once complete, will be the lowest latency path from Australia and New Zealand to the United States, based on its design and route.

Southern Cross NEXT will provide data connectivity between Sydney, Auckland, and Los Angeles and is scheduled for completion by January 2022. The new route will also provide critical international cable connectivity to the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati.

The new 13,483 kilometre cable system has been developed as an extension of the existing

Southern Cross two cable eco-system. It will allow customers to leverage Southern Cross’ extensive point-of-presence network and access infrastructure already in place. It will also allow Southern Cross NEXT customers to flexibly assign new and existing capacity across the three routes across the Pacific, connecting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the United States, maximising diversity and resiliency. 

Southern Cross NEXT represents a network investment of around US$300 million by Southern Cross and is designed to carry 72 Terabits per second of traffic, the equivalent of simultaneously streaming 4.6 million ultra-high definition movies, ensuring Southern Cross can cater for its customers’ growing data requirements well into the future. Services offered on the new system will be an extension and integration of the services offered across the current Southern Cross platform. The construction is being funded by a combination of capacity payments, equity contributions and financing.

Singtel Vice President, Carrier Services, Group Enterprise Mr Ooi Seng Keat said: “Our investment in the Southern Cross NEXT cable is a timely reinforcement of our global network infrastructure. Together with the newly completed INDIGO submarine cable system, the enhanced Southern Cross cable ecosystem will be a new data superhighway connecting Southeast Asia to the United States, providing greater network diversity. The new cable system will enable Singtel and Optus to accelerate the roll-out of next-generation technologies that rely on low latency and high-bandwidth connectivity, reinforcing our position as one of the leading providers of international data services in the region.” 

Telstra Enterprise Group Executive, Mr Michael Ebeid, said Telstra’s investment in the NEXT cable will deliver benefits to all its customers – from enterprise to wholesale and consumer.

“With 80 per cent of all the internet traffic to Australia coming from the US, a high speed, low latency direct route to North America is a very important investment for our business and our customers,” Mr Ebeid said.

“Southern Cross builds on our existing footprint across Asia Pacific where we carry 30 per cent of the region’s active capacity. We are now even better placed to meet our customers’ future data requirements right across Asia Pacific.”

Spark Chief Financial Officer Mr David Chalmers welcomed Telstra as a shareholder in Southern Cross: “The Southern Cross network provides critical connectivity between New Zealand and Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the USA.  Southern Cross NEXT will ensure this network Cross can continue to provide that connectivity for the region, and meet our customers’ increasing data demands, for decades to come.”

Southern Cross’ President and CEO Mr Laurie Miller said: “The achievement of CIF is the result of a massive amount of effort by Southern Cross and the Sponsor teams over many months on the project. The addition of the new Southern Cross NEXT route to the existing platform will provide existing and future customers with further resiliency and connectivity options between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. We are delighted to have successfully achieved this key milestone, and all focus will now turn to the timely implementation of the new system, and the continued development of product enhancements to meet our customers growing and changing requirements.”

With significant work already completed including pre-sales, marine survey, landing arrangements, Pacific Island agreements, detail design and the cable RFT, the Southern Cross NEXT project is well positioned to meet its target completion date of January 2022.

PwC study finds Singaporeans are second most anxious about the future impact of technology on their jobs

Source: PwC Singapore

September 2019, Singapore – Technology is changing the way people work and two in five Singaporeans (18%) are scared or nervous about the future impact of technology on their job. The city-state’s workforce as second most nervous or scared globally, just behind French workers (20%) and tied with the British (18%).

These findings are from a new PwC report, Upskilling Hopes & Fears, which surveyed 22,000 adults across 11 countries worldwide, and build on PwC’s economic analysis on the impact of automation on jobs.

Singaporeans are starting to see the impact of technology on work and jobs. As a smart-nation, the pace of technological advancements is expected to be faster than neighbouring countries in South-East Asia, and both government and the private sector are adopting technology quickly which could potentially accelerate the impact on jobs. This makes Singapore jobs more susceptible to the impact of technological advancements.

When Singaporean workers were asked why they had felt nervous or scared about the impact of technology on their jobs, 58% were worried that technology would make their role redundant and 36% were worried that they wouldn’t have the right skills.

On top of that, about half the Singaporeans (54%) surveyed believe automation will significantly change or make their job obsolete within the next ten years. While most admit that technology would change their jobs significantly, 4% still believe that technology would not affect their day-to-day work.

Despite the uncertainty, there is also a sense of optimism. The report found that 53% of respondents indicated that they felt technology would bring about more opportunities than risks in the workplace and 85% felt that technology will change their work for the better.

Fang Eu-Lin, Leader of PwC’s Academy in Singapore says:

“With technology, roles that are more process-driven are more at risk of being displaced and individuals doing these roles must prepare for their “version 2.0” role. For example, robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming more commonplace, driving greater efficiency in highly repetitive tasks. In the short term, this change will require employees to understand how to work with the technology. In the longer term, individuals with the skills to maximise these new opportunities will be the ones who thrive in the marketplace.”

Time to upskill

While employees seem to understand how the technology can be embedded into the workplace, they are concerned that they may not have the right skills to remain relevant as the business landscape changes. Given the clear recognition of the change that technology will bring, it is unsurprising that 81% of respondents in Singapore were already learning new skills to better understand or use technology.

Even if they weren’t already pursuing opportunities, 92% in Singapore said that they would take the opportunity to better understand or use technology if it were available to them. If their jobs were at risk, 85% of Singaporeans would learn new skills now or completely re-train in order to improve their future employability.

This is a clear reflection that individuals are aware of the necessity of upskilling. This is potentially due to the increase in efforts by both the public and private sector. For example, Singapore has put in place safeguards, such as the establishment of SkillsFuture to inspire an attitude of life-long learning amongst its citizens. Initiatives such as Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP), Industry Transformation Maps and SkillsFuture Frameworks serve as good and tailored guidance for organisations and individuals to prepare for their job in the future.

With the strong national push for upskilling there are many more opportunities in the market for Singaporeans to upskill, but ultimately it’s up to each worker to take the step. However, less than half of Singaporeans (44%) recognised that it is their own responsibility to upskill. 32% felt that upskilling was the government’s responsibility higher than the global average of 22%.

Although, only one in five (19%) felt that employers were responsible for upskilling their workforce, a majority of employers have already begun to play their part in championing the agenda. In Singapore, 76% of workers said that their current employer was giving them the opportunity to improve their digital skills outside of their normal duties, although only 31% of respondents indicated that they are currently upskilling through their employers. This seems to indicate that there is a need for some reconciliation between the skills employees need and what is being offered to them.

Martijn Schouten, Singapore People & Organisation Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting says:

“Employers are faced with a lot of complexity in understanding, managing and mitigating the impact of technology on the world of work. It’s the type of wicked problem that requires a wide variety of perspectives; deeper insight in the demand and supply for job roles; the capability to redesign structures and roles; an understanding of the skills and capabilities required to fulfil new and changing roles; and the ability to coach and motivate people to embrace learning and upskilling. A challenging, yet very important problem to solve.”

Country comparisons

Singaporeans emerged the most likely to be learning new skills through their employer, tied with the Dutch at 35%. As compared to the other countries surveyed, Singaporean workers were also the most likely to accept a lower level position in another company or industry if they believed their job was at risk of automation (60%, global 47%).

Looking across the markets surveyed, workers in China and India are by far the most upbeat about the impact of technology (even after adjusting for cultural bias), despite being the most likely to believe their jobs will change significantly. Workers in these regions are getting more opportunities to upskill: 97% and 95% respectively are being given these opportunities by their employers. On the other hand, workers in the UK and Australia say they are given the least opportunity to learn new skills. They also tend to be less positive about the impact of technology.

Despite Chinese workers being more positive about the impact of technology, it’s interesting to note that Singaporeans are taking more responsibility for their own upskilling as compared to their Chinese counterparts. Only 26% of Chinese workers reflected that it was the individual’s responsibility to upskill (as compared to 44% of Singapore workers), while 40% and 31% of them said the responsibility lies with the government and the businesses respectively.

Although Singaporean workers are ahead of the average worker when it comes to learning new skills (81% in Singapore, 77% globally), our population is still behind emerging countries such as India (96%) & China (96%).

Fang Eu-Lin, Leader of PwC’s Academy in Singapore concludes:

“The world of work in changing rapidly. For Singapore to remain relevant on the world stage, every player must do their part to keep the momentum of digital upskilling going. Employers, industries and government play a significant role in this by partnering and creating opportunities for upskilling, supporting and encouraging Singaporeans to upskill in an effective way.”

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – MAPFRE, China Re Signs MoU

MAPFRE (Stock: MAP.BMAD) and China Re (Stock: 1508.HK)have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on insuring investments related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure plan launched by the Chinese government in 2013 to connect China with the world’s major economies.

Source: MAPFRE

As part of the agreement signed between the two companies, MAPFRE will offer insurance and reinsurance support to Chinese interests in Latin American and European countries where it has a local presence. MAPFRE will also act as cedant for China Re on projects of interest to both parties.

China Re is the largest reinsurer in China and Asia, and the owner of China Continent, one of the five largest insurers in the Chinese market. MAPFRE and China Re have been collaborating for a number of years, in both reinsurance transactions between both, and in roadside assistance, through their respective subsidiaries, Road China Assistance and China Continent.

The BRI is a long-term intercontinental project that includes the construction of roads, railways, ports, airports, oil and gas pipelines and power plants, but also includes other projects, such as educational programs and the construction and development of special economic zones. China and 131 other countries are currently BRI members, together accounting for 30% of global GDP, 62% of the world’s population and 75% of known energy reserves.

Should You Still Buy Huawei Phones?

Despite the assurance from Android that Google Services will still work on the existing Huawei phones in the market, consumers are still fearful to put Huawei phone into their shopping cart. Bloomberg has reported that Huawei is preparing for a drop in international smartphone shipments of 40 million to 60 million during this trade war.   

Thing isn’t pretty in Singapore. Mobile phone shops are lowering the price to attract more sales. In the secondary market, it is not hard to find Huawei smartphones selling at huge discount on the Popular consumer-to-consumer marketplace Carousell. A quick check – it is not hard to find Huawei P30 Pro selling at about SGD 600 (approx. USD 440). 

Sound like a good time to snap the good deal if you are considering buying a new phone huh. Is it? Weeks ago, I gave my opinion during a Chinese TV interview about US boycott on Huawei. Although there are new developments since then, I believe whatever I have said still hold till now. I understand that some of my international readers may not understand so I am providing a translated transcript here. I have also embedded the video below. 

Q1. Google is not going to support Android update for Huawei phones. To a Huawei phone owner, does that mean the phone is not longer “usable”?

My answer: Android is an open system i.e. to say, it is available to all phone manufacturers including Huawei. The situation arises when Google is not providing any technical supports to Huawei for the future Android updates of its phones. Huawei will have to provide the updates by its own but that does not mean the phone becomes “un-usable”. Current Huawei phone owners could still use their phones without the latest Android version.

Q2. What will happen to Google Services Application without those updates?  

My answer: Google has been clear that future Huawei phones will not come with Google Services including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail and etc. However, Android has commented that this will not affect the current Huawei phone models in the market. In other words, current Huawei owners could still enjoy their YouTube video even though the YouTube app is not running the latest version.

Q3. Will the security be compromised for Huawei phone owners?

My answer: Indeed, it is a risk for the Huawei users. Huawei is offering another solution – to release its own proprietary operating system. However, it is still too early to tell. 

Q4. What’s the challenge that Huawei faces in developing their new OS?

My answer: Developing its own OS makes strategic senses. However, to build an entirely new ecosystem that could be as good as Android’s, I believe it is going to take a couple of years.

Back to the discussion, should you still buy a Huawei phone? Huawei has been very clear in their positioning – camera. Indeed, the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro have received very good critique (for the camera). If you are a camera-person, I believe you should take the advantage to buy the Huawei P30 or Mate 20 at a discount (Just make sure the one you bought from the e-commerce sites is 100% original and comes with local warranty).

A few days ago, Huawei Singapore has also rolled up EMUI 9.1 update for its Mate, P and NOVA series. I believe that gives more assurance to the current Huawei phone owners. Local electronic giant retailer Challenger has also shown their support to Huawei by giving 100% money-back warranty if you buy Huawei’s devices from Challenger from now till 31st August 2019. The warranty which is not given by Huawei Singapore guarantee Huawei users of 2 year protection of Google Apps.

To end off, I just want to tell current Huawei phone owners that they need not have to worry that much. To potential Huawei consumers out there, you might have been over-reacting. A good smartphone should be able to last you for the next 2 years. By the time is up, you probably would want to get a new one. Personally, I am still using an old Xiaomi phone (as a spare phone in the office) that goes without updates for the last 2 years! By the way, it is still functioning!

The future of Huawei phones that come after the P30 series is very unpredictable. However, the ones you see in the market now should be still “use-able” in the next 1 ½ year.

Why YouTrip Mastercard is a hype?

In the hope of maintaining Singapore as the regional financial hub, the government has been encouraging Singapore banks to adopt technology in improving business operations. Ever since Singapore Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong highlighted that banks should adopt blockchain technology in bank settlements in 2015, fintech  start-ups from all around the world flew into Singapore. In 2018, YouTrip, an e-wallet start-up, left its home ground – Hong Kong – one of the world’s largest financial hubs to launch their venture in Singapore.

YouTrip positioned itself as a multicurrency e-wallet for travellers. It has developed technical infrastructure for multicurrency exchanges with a network of FX providers. The uniqueness of its technology is to offer FX exchanges to individual at a competitive rate that banks cannot provide. However, that itself is not going to give YouTrip an edge against the traditional money changers as their rates are almost the same. Furthermore, storing money digitally in the e-wallet is useless if travellers can’t use that to make payment in stores.

As such, YouTrip partners Mastercard (stock quote:MA) . Intuitively, this makes the YouTrip card more “useable” as users could make their payment if the respective merchants accept Mastercard. The strategy works. Months after their launch, number of users has surpassed 50,000. That caught investors’ attention. In May 2019, YouTrip raised USD 25.5M in Pre-Series A funding which is quite impressive for a Singapore-based company that is barely a year old.

YouTrip is a Bank Disruptor?  

The recent capital injection is useful in helping YouTrip to improve their technology infrastructure which is the backbone for all financial institutions. In fact, this is the challenge that YouTrip must overcome. Normal people deposit money digitally in their saving accounts with the belief that the bank’s technology could safeguard their savings. Let’s extend the idea further. When we top up money in YouTrip e-wallet, can we expect from them the same security level that bank is offering? If you have read my earlier blog post, YouTrip is trying to assure the public that they have the same level of technology that bank has in terms of risk management and anti-money laundering capability. However, building up the infrastructure equates to building faith among users which takes time. By and large, YouTrip, as a company, is still too young for the public to put their trust (saving) with them.

To succeed in the fintech space, a fintech start-up has to offer the same level of services (or even better) that the bank is offering. As a matter of fact, that’s the value that fintech start-up is offering to the market. YouTrip has identified that digitalizing the existing business model of money changer is the way to enter the market which undeniably, they have succeeded and even convince major payment solution company like Mastercard and locally, Ezlink to participate in their growth stories.

They have great partners and now, it is for them to shape the market behaviour.  

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Friends have been asking me about @youtripsg MasterCard. My reply is always the same it is a good for travel. You get better exchange rate and for some major currencies, you could even buy and keep them in the E-wallet and that’s good for traveller who like to plan their trip ahead to capture the best possible rates. Travellers should give this a try. Now you could even get an additional $10 if you sign up and do your first top up via my referral link http://bit.do/youtrip-weewu P.s. it is also a #ezlink card if that matters to you. #instatravel #travelphotography #travelgram #instalifestyle #mastercard #youtrip #instafinance #discountcodes #discount #referralcode #reward #instareward #singapore #fintech #startup #ewallet

A post shared by Neo Wee Wu 梁威武 (@weewu) on

E-wallet business – More Than Just a Debit Card

E-wallet, as the name suggested, should work like a WALLET. It should be able to keep fiat currencies, credit cards and reward cards etc.  YouTrip positioned themselves as a wallet for travellers only provides the entry to the market but personally, I don’t think it is going to be sustainable. Singaporeans love travels but their time are mostly spent in Singapore. Although YouTrip card holders could use their cards to pay for public transports, there are other players rolling up similar services that gives better discounts. In short, the YouTrip card has not much use in Singapore given so many other options available.

There must be strong enough reasons for users to continue keeping YouTrip card in their wallet

Where are the merchants?

Banks refuses to lower rates as it hurts profitability. Offering low fees is a good penetration strategy but that is not going to be the barrier for new entrants. YouTrip needs to bring in more partners into their ecosystem. For a start, they should just be focusing on bringing more values to travellers. For instance, a reward system in the form of discount for travel insurance or hotel booking for heavy YouTrip users (frequent travellers) that will encourage card usage.

Basically, virtual money is only useful in 2 ways – One, I can use that to buy into services or products at greater discount. Two, I can grow it so that I could use that in the future. In principle, any fintech company that can achieve both can basically be called a bank. ANT Financial is one classic example. However, most fintech start-ups are only able to deliver services or products at greater discount than credit cards companies (which is exactly what YouTrip is trying to do!). However, keeping up with this in a longer term costs money and it may not be sustainable. YouTrip has to “engineer” a new form users’ reliance to your services to keep themselves afloat in the competitive fintech business. In my opinion, better forex rate?Nah!

Grab, a South-East Asian fintech and transport services company, has established a strong network of merchants in the region. Grab Pay, e-wallet services by Grab, can be used to pay for any goods in their marketplace and delivered to users’ doorsteps. Outside Singapore, you could even use Grab to pay off your transportation in other South East Asia countries. Grab is also following footsteps of ANT Financial. They are hiring consultant and it is rumoured that they are preparing to be a virtual bank in the event that Singapore is issuing virtual bank license like what Hong Kong did

Getting merchants into ecosystem is crucial in developing use cases and I am sure there are a lot more to be explored. Grab’s way of linking transportation and merchant seems to be working in South East Asia market. YouTrip is not Grab. They have to offer use cases that are different from what their counterparts are offering. They could study what their closest competitor, Singtel Dash is doing. For a start, why not just tap on existing e-commerce players? That might be faster for YouTrip.

In short, YouTrip has a good start but it is still a hype that I am doubtful it could sustain as a travel card. As of now, I am keeping my YouTrip card in my drawer.

Singapore IoT Startup KaHa Raised USD 6.2M in Series B

KaHa, a Singapore-based end-to-end IoT platform startup for smart wearables, has raised US$6.2 million in Series B funding to accelerate its growth in Asia. The funding round was led by ICT Fund, a specialized deep-tech venture capital fund and an existing strategic investor from Europe.

KaHa will be expanding its presence in Singapore as well as play a more significant role in the country’s IoT ecosystem. For instance, KaHa collaborates with Tex Line and A*STAR SIMTech to create the first made-in-Singapore Smart Fitness T-shirt. The smart-T, which was tested at the one-north Run 2018, monitors live ECG, live heart rate, heart rate variance, V02 Max and other health parameters.

Beyond smart wearables, KaHa, together with A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics or IME, developed an extravasation detection proof of concept designed to detect the degrees of swelling during infusions. Being able to detect varying degrees of swelling, the sensor patch and monitoring system will help improve patient safety by assisting in the early detection of complication to ensure immediate care be given to patients, particularly babies and children.

“As a company with a mission to create a better and safer environment, it is important to us to bring innovative and relevant technologies into a consumer’s everyday life. Apart from helping us expand our product line, this new round of funding will allow KaHa to discover more breakthrough products that can support the health and wellness, sports and fitness, safety and digital payments needs, as well as increase the COVE platform’s availability internationally and improve our accessibility and affordability,” said Pawan Gandhi, founder and CEO of KaHa.  “With the continued support of our existing strategic investor and new partner ICT Fund, we are strategically positioned to make our mission possible.”

Brijesh Pande, founder and managing partner of ICT Fund said: “We are delighted to partner with KaHa, which is well placed to capitalize on the fast-growing market opportunity in smart wearables. Consumer product brands will increasingly need to offer ‘smart’ products to maintain leadership and KaHa, with its innovative end-to-end platform, is a perfect partner for global brands.”

“We are very pleased with KaHa’s progress and track record and it’s been clear that its platform can be scaled across various brands.  We are excited about increasing our investment in KaHa on this next phase as it continues to drive scale and growth in the wearable tech and IoT space,” said Andy Raswork, board member of existing strategic investor.

KaHa expects the number of devices powered by its platform to exceed two million by the end of 2019.  The company also aims to increase manpower in its Singapore headquarters and offices in China, India and Switzerland within the next two years, as part of the expansion plans.

Singapore-based Multi-Currency E-Wallet Platform Raised USD 25.5M In Pre-Series A

  • YouTrip is Singapore’s first multi-currency mobile wallet with a prepaid Mastercard® that offers zero transaction fees across 150+ currencies at wholesale exchange rates
  • US$25.5m raised from major Asian family offices and venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners, the largest pre-Series A fintech funding round in Southeast Asia
  • Over 200,000 downloads and 1 million transactions processed 10 months since launch
  • Funding will drive development of YouTrip’s technical payment infrastructure, launch of new product features and its regional expansion plans in Southeast Asia 

SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 16 May 2019 – YouTrip, Singapore’s first multi-currency mobile wallet with a prepaid Mastercard ®, has successfully raised US$25.5m in a pre-Series A fundraised. Participating investors include major Asian family offices and venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners, founded by ex-Sequoia Partner Yinglan Tan. This marks the largest pre-Series A funding round for a fintech startup operating in Southeast Asia.

YouTrip co-founders, Arthur Mak and Caecilia Chu

Launched in August 2018, YouTrip is a multi-currency mobile wallet s pecially designed with travellers in mind, allow ing users to pay in over 150 currencies with no hidden fees and at wholesale exchange rates . The mobile app also allows for the exchange and storage of 10 selected currencies in advance through the in-app exchange feature. The YouTrip mobile application works with a linked pre-paid Mastercard ® — issued by EZ-Link — and can be used to make payments at more than 30 million Mastercard accepting merchants worldwide.

Fuelled by growing purchasing power and more affordable travel options , Southeast Asia’s population of over 650 million people represents one of the largest and fastest growing outbound travellers market globally – it is expected to total US$80 billion in outbound travel expenditure by 2020, up from US$67 billion in 2018 or a 10% CAGR. Singapore is the biggest contributor to this region, with Singaporeans being one of the most frequent travellers and biggest travel spenders globally.

Caecilia Chu, co- f ounder and CEO of YouTrip said, “As a frequent traveller, I was surprised with how much banks mark up on overseas transactions – this was among the many reasons why I started YouTrip with Arthur Mak, who is also Chairman of YouTrip . As the regional travel industry continues to post robust growth, YouTrip recognises the pain points of travellers and equally, the immense opportunity to better serve their financial needs. We are dedicated to creating the best mobile financial services for travellers by simplifying overseas spending and creating a fuss-free travel experience.”

Pachara Lawjindakul, Principal at Insignia Ventures Partners added, “The fintech space in Southeast Asia is developing at a relentless pace to meet evolving consumer expectations and the travel industry represents an immense untapped market at the intersection of this growth. YouTrip is led by an experienced team of founders and executive team who are perfectly positioned to capitalise on this opportunity. The success of the initial launch in Singapore provides a great foundation to develop a strong roadmap for growing the multi-currency and cross-border payments ecosystem in Southeast Asia.”

Bank-issued credit and debit cards typically carry an overseas transaction fee that can be as high as 3.5%. O verseas purchases made with credit cards also usually entail a Dynamic Currency Conversion markup, sometimes going as high as 5% or more. YouTrip does not charge any overseas transaction fees nor markup on foreign exchange conversion .  

With the injection of funds, YouTrip is looking to invest heavily in technology innovation to further develop its technical payment infrastructure and roll out new product features. Having established a foothold in Singapore, it has also set its sights on further expansion in Southeast Asia and developing localised solutions for the region’s growing class of travellers.

Since its launch in August 2018, the YouTrip mobile application has achieved over 20 0,000 downloads, processed over 1 million transactions, and has grown its team to 70 people in Singapore and Hong Kong. Users may sign up for a YouTrip account by downloading its app from the App Store or Google Play. No minimum account balance is required and registration is free. Any credit or debit card c an be used to top up the e-wallet, which has a maximum stored value of S$3,000. All registered users receive a physical prepaid Mastercard, free of charge.