Thailand-based Flash Group, which provides e-commerce logistics services, including delivery service Flash Express, has become the first Thai unicorn startup after recently raising US$150 million (4.6 billion baht) in Series D+ and E funding -- just three years into operations, according to the company's owner.
A unicorn is a startup company that is valued at more than $1 billion (around 31.2 billion baht).
The company has set out an ambitious plan to rank in the top three in the logistics business in Southeast Asia within the next five years, enabling Thailand to serve as a regional logistics hub.
SCB10X, the corporate venture capital of Siam Commercial Bank, led the Series D+ round, with additional investment from Thailand's Chanwanich Security Printing Company.
The Series E round was led by Singapore-based Founder's Fund Buer Capital, along with existing investors SCB10X, eWTP Capital, PTTOR, TCP Group's Durbell and Krungsri Finnovate.
FROM A POOR FAMILY
Flash, which handles a daily peak parcel volume of 2 million items, was founded by a young Thai businessman, Komsan Lee, 29, who was born into a poor family of Chinese descent in Doi Wawee in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
He started his first business in the first year of university when he oversaw a local grocery shop. Since then, he has gone on to work on various ventures, including a property sale agent, freight forwarder, and running a logistics firm that delivers to the US, Japan and China.
He started Flash Express in 2018 with 400 million baht.
"Regardless of how poor you are, which surname you have or where you graduated from, you can become a unicorn startup if you select the right industry where market size is big enough and find the right niche to work in, and have a good team," Mr Komsan, chief executive and founder of Flash Group, told the Bangkok Post.
"Flash began its business at the right time when the market was big enough to support the growth of e-commerce."
Flash forayed into the delivery segment with an aggressive price strategy with a starting delivery fee of 25 baht, undercutting existing players who charged 60 baht.
He said Thailand can have a more reasonable delivery cost with the help of technology.
According to Mr Komsan, besides selecting the right industry and being dedicated to your work, selecting a talented team also plays a key role in success.
He has 300 technical developers in China to help with the workload. However, success also requires investor support and the right employee mindset to make the company grow.
He said Flash offers free digital tools to online merchants so they can gain insight into their sales, which can help reduce inventory time and increase vendors' stickiness to the platform.
FINANCIAL SERVICE FORAY
Mr Komsan said that the company will step up efforts in rural areas by expanding service points to ensure deliveries can be made within one day instead of two.
By the end of this year, the number of its employees will rise to 40,000 from 30,000 with some 70% of all employees being deliverymen.
The company also provides a fulfilment service.
By the next quarter, the company will launch a financial service called "Flash Pay" for online payments and lending as well as open branches in petrol stations provided by PTTOR. It also has a plan to deliver heavy items, weighing up to 200 kilogrammes.
Flash, he said, aims to go beyond the domestic market worth over 500 billion baht. The company will pursue growth and initiate joint ventures as well as run its own operations in three Asean countries.
"We can replicate the success we have here. We need prepare to grow across borders and create more opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs]," Mr Komsan said.
An IPO is also in the pipeline after the company learns how to handle a full range of services in logistics and make an international foray, he said.
Within five years, Mr Komsan wants to make Flash a top-three firm in the e-commerce logistic business in the region by handling 10 million parcels per day. "We can grow five to 10 times from now," he said.
"Even we become a unicorn now, nothing will change as we still need to work hard and make active decisions in order to grow," Mr Komsan said.
Referring to his management style, he said leaders need to be brave in making decisions, be open-minded, and listen to opinions. They also need to stay calm when solving problems.