“Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.” ~Travis Bradberry (Co-Author and President at Talent Smart)

Due to Southeast Asia’s 53% rate of internet penetration, the region is being greatly impacted by disruption in many sectors–transportation, food delivery, financial services to name a few. Disruptive technologies–defined as innovations that radically change and challenge the way things are done–are redefining the market.

The impacts of technologies such as automation, virtual reality, AI, and cloud computing are already evident in Southeast Asia. Building on the success of the ‘using the internet for everything’ preference of consumers, entrepreneurs are using the internet economy to rapidly reshape industries across the board.

Industries that have been disrupted

Let’s quickly recap the industries that have already been overhauled to get an idea of what’s in store with the next wave of disruptions.  

 The Transportation Industry: Taxi Services

The introduction of ride-sharing companies transformed public transportation. Grab, a Singapore-based ride-hailing company for example now operates in 154 cities across eight countries in Southeast Asia. The convenience of an app to arrange a ride, coupled with the quick and easy payment methods saw ride-hailing take over taxi services and Grab has become a staple in the transportation industry.

person standing near parked taxi during daytime

In Indonesia, Go-Jek, capitalising on Grab’s success, created a ride-hailing bike company making it efficient for customers to combat extreme traffic congestion in their country. The company became Indonesia’s largest ride-hailing firm and continues to expand.

The Gastronomic Industry: Food Delivery Services

Marketing platforms, such as Singapore’s Food Panda, in partnership with multiple restaurants, focused on bringing food to the customer’s doorstep in the food industry’s first wave of disruption. The online food delivery business in Asia has been witnessing steady growth of about 15% a year.

Here are the top local food delivery startups in the region

However, the emergence of ride-hailing apps moving into the food-service and food-retail industries is causing the most disruption. Grab and Go-Jek launched their Grab Food and Go-Food services, allowing users to hire a motorcycle rider to purchase their food at a restaurant or pick up their groceries after prepayment. Convenience, timely service, and easy accessibility of riders have led to customers preferring these options to restaurants’ and food retailers’ delivery services.

The Financial Industry: Fintech Services

Consumers and businesses demanded faster and easier ways to access financial services, which was challenging in Southeast Asia, where only 47% of the population has a bank account. As a result, both Grab and Go-Jek tapped into the “unbanked” market by offering e-payment methods with Go-Jek’s Go-Pay quickly becoming the most active e-payment method in Indonesia. Recently, DHL introduced a new service that allows “the unbanked” in Southeast Asia to make online purchases with its Cross-Border Cash-on-Delivery (COD) service.  

woman beside the two girls standing beside auto-rickshaw

Small- and medium-sized enterprises requiring fast capital to meet the rapid rise in demand were also upended. First Circle, Southeast Asia’s first digital business financing company, uses data analytics to evaluate SME’s and their partnerships. The technology decreased the loan processing time to three days, allowing FirstCircle to securely underwrite thousands of loans for SMEs as well as those lacking a credit history.

For Southeast Asia’s 78 million small businesses, faster loan application processing and a new system of credit verification–to screen a large number of “unbanked” business owners–have revolutionised the traditional SME financing methods.

So which are the next industries to be disrupted?

The Agriculture Industry: Agritech

Global farming systems are experiencing a transformation with developments in agriculture technology, improving costs and outcomes using data analysis in crop monitoring systems. Agricultural Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia saw the rise of agritech startups like iGrow and eFishery.

iGrow’s premise allows customers to invest small amounts of money in customised crops planted by farmers from which the investor receives funds after the harvest is sold. The growth cycle of the crops vary and the expected return on investment (ROI) depends on the land size and the type of crop grown. iGrow, founded by Jim Oklahoma, Andreas Senjaya and Muhaimin Iqbal, has a just over 4,800 backers and works with 2,000 farmers on almost 1,200 hectares of land. The startup sees enormous growth opportunity for farming as there is roughly “16 million hectares of underutilised land in Indonesia,” according to Jim Oklahoma.

eFishery was launched in 2013 and provides IoT (Internet of things) solutions and a data platform geared toward fish and shrimp farming businesses. The objective is to assist farmers with monitoring and scheduling of feeding times so as to solve the issue of overfeeding–which decreases productivity–in the fish farming industry. eFishery is also using the data to tackle issues in the fishing sector like risk management, funding shortages, supply inefficiency, and market access difficulties. The startup’s service is already used in 16 provinces and 67 cities in Indonesia.

man holding potato

The Real Estate Industry: Proptech

The Asia-Pacific real estate market is forecast to have a value of $2,543.5 billion in 2022, according to GlobalData market analysts. In 2018 Proptech, technology in real estate is transforming the sector with new technologies such as blockchain. BitofProperty, a Singapore-based Proptech startup is making property investing simple and affordable. Customers can invest in small portions of property in a crowdfunding concept, and once the project’s target amount is achieved, the investor receives rental income. It also acts as a marketplace platform connecting property owners and developers with investors.

Karl from BitofProperty had a lot to share about property disruption

Ohmyhome, launched in 2016, is Singapore’s leading PropTech marketplace. The platform makes housing transactions affordable, easier and quicker. Named Singapore’s No.1 HDB (public housing) app in 2017, the platform assists with DIY transactions, linking customers to fixed-rate agent services and on-demand mortgage and legal services. Ohmyhome’s mobile application has over 200,000 downloads and an average of 52,000 monthly active users. Over 2,000 homes purchases were negotiated through Ohmyhome and it has saved customers a total of $20 million SGD in commission.

Human Resources Technology: People Analytics

People analytics is defined as “the science that uses quantitative and qualitative data from employees to enhance business performance.” Cited as a disruption in Human Resources for 2018, 69% of large companies now report having people analytics functions.

Pulsifi, a Singapore-based startup, sells data analytics for HR management. It converts staff-reported data regarding “competencies, experience, personality, interests, and values” into “predictions of behaviours, attitudes and performance at work, as well as the staff’s fit to the role, the team, and the culture.” Jay Huang, co-founder and CEO of Pulsifi, says: “Pulsifi’s vision is to help organisations truly understand their people, and help people better understand themselves.

Here’s what Pulsifi had to share about the talent challenge in the region

Engagerocket, another Singapore-based startup helps companies build better workplaces using people analytics. The company with over 27,000 users has data analytics services in 13 Asian-Pacific countries. This region, with almost 20% annual growth in the people analytics market, is estimated to reach $1.87 billion USD by 2025.

Find out what Dorothy Yiu from EngageRocket had to share about employee retention

Innovative entrepreneurs are challenging conventional methods and improving solutions for industries as they disrupt and transform them. As Jay Samit, Vice Chairman of Deloitte, said: “Disruptors don’t have to discover something new; they just have to discover a practical use for new discoveries.”