Cross-industry partnerships are making waves in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) because they expand ecosystems and enhance creativity, thereby driving innovation. The region has a large population of over 600 million, which provides a broad market for companies looking to earn more. Also, there are many rising sectors, such as gambling, eCommerce, financial technology (fintech), educational technology (edtech), healthcare technology (healthtech), and more.

However, some new businesses deal with funding and cash flow issues, poor product development and service improvement policies, prohibitive sector regulations, global economic challenges, lack of market reach, and a failure to understand the target customer. They need help integrating state-of-the-art technology, scaling their businesses, or meeting data privacy and cybersecurity objectives. As such, they need alternative ways to overcome their problems to make their businesses successful.

Cross-industry and border startup collaboration can bring many benefits to founders, including fresh business perspectives, tech functionality improvement, platforms for brainstorming, opportunities for learning, company growth, and product innovation. New organisations can access markets in other industries and reach more customers. Plus, they can benefit from teaming up with larger establishments, which can provide expertise and resources for research and development (R&D).

Furthermore, aligning with the ideal partner can increase the startup’s credibility, gain a competitive advantage in the market, reduce costs by pooling resources, enhance customer service by bundling products, and mitigate risks by sharing business experiences. On the sustainability front, collaborating companies can do their part for the environment by establishing similar eco-friendly policies and using renewable resources in their operations.

Examples of cross-industry partnerships

Environment: FlyORO

An example of a partnership that enhances sustainability by using tech for good is Singapore-based FlyORO. It is a climate tech startup that works with airports to deliver a cleaner alternative to conventional jet fuel, ensuring clearer skies.

FinTech: GrabPay merchants

Superapp Grab offers a platform for merchants and a marketplace for customers to gather and purchase goods and services. The super app touches many sectors across Southeast Asia, including travel, deliveries, financial services, and others. 

Its partnerships with many businesses in different industries enable them to simplify their operations using Grab’s on-demand services suite, boost their productivity and efficiency, and save money. 

eCommerce: Lazada and Alibaba 

Online retailer Lazada Group announced in 2017 that its partnership with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd would extend the Taobao marketplace into other countries. At the time, Lazada’s platform only catered to Singapore and Malaysia but would be expanded into Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 

In June of that year, Alibaba increased its stake in Lazada to USD 83 billion by investing an additional USD 1 billion.

Logistics: Ninja Van and Shopee 

Singaporean logistics company Ninja Van, which offers last-mile transportation and package delivery, works with Shopee-supported logistics, which enables sellers to bring products to their buyers faster and reliably. The partnership highlights the processes of product deliveries and details items Ninja Van prohibits. 

Sellers can drop off their orders without having to pay any upfront money. Ninja Van delivers the packages to the customers and then bills Shopee for the shipping fee incurred. Shopee pays Ninja Van and then sends the balance of the order payment to the seller.

Fostering a startup collaboration culture 

Developing a startup collaboration culture requires a concerted effort among all stakeholders and across ASEAN. Governments can coordinate to allow business-supportive programmes, such as those offered by Huawei, to help companies unite and grow together. Moreover, there should be adequate financial and other support to enable new businesses to have enough value to partner with larger organisations.

Additionally, there should be a focus on localised solutions. For example, basing products and services on local languages, cross-border regulations and laws, and coordinated payment systems across Southeast Asia will assist growth. Encouraging businesses to collaborate can generate comprehensive, integrated solutions and foster a more productive ecosystem as opposed to the toxic and competitive industries that emerge. 

Strategic alliances can ensure that each startup grows sustainably because there will not be any withholding of vital information. Furthermore, they can each share and embrace cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, to boost their customer experience and generate more revenue.

The advancement of payment platforms and systems will bode well for ASEAN, as companies can transact seamlessly among themselves. They can also develop integrated tech solutions to automate procedures, process transactions, and provide analytics and reports. 

Businesses must be wary of losing customer trust, as any cross-industry partnerships leave them open to policies that may not align with their approaches. Companies might end up teaming up with startups that do not share their vision, for example, in protecting the environment through sustainable practices. 

Ultimately, leaders have a role to play in fostering innovation through work cultures that encourage product development and well-defined ESG (environmental, social, governance) policies.