Going Digital

Thai start-ups get a boost with dtac Accelerate

After four months in an intensive workshop, local start-ups showed their innovative talents, pitching ideas that can solve business pains to judges and top venture capitalists from around the world at last week's dtac Accelerate Batch 3.

Three teams won the Digital Winners Award at dtac Accelerate Batch 3.

Three of the six finalist teams won the Digital Winners Award. Skootar, a motorbike messenger booking system for SMEs, won a trip to Silicon Valley in the US. The other two teams, Giztix and Len-Nam, will have an opportunity to compete with other start-ups from Telenor Group at the Digital Winners Award in Oslo, Norway, tomorrow.

Suwatt Pathompakawan, Skootar co-founder, used to run four small businesses and often experienced inefficient messenger services. He found that a lot of messengers waiting for orders meant a waste of time and money.

"There are some 600,000 SMEs in Bangkok and almost every business has relied on the service of messengers for document delivery, cheque clearing or invoice handling," he said.

In February, Suwatt created the website and mobile application Skootar. Skootar services include delivering and picking up documents, invoices and cheques, goods, food, postal document and any kinds of billing payment.

Skootar boasts of the ability to match a customer with a messenger in less than 15 seconds, with notification to customers. At the end of the month, the service will send emails informing customers of the total cost. Each service costs about 200 baht (starting price is 70 baht and then 10 baht per kilometre).

Today, there are some 400 professional messengers working under Skootar, all trained by the company and by next year, 6,000 messengers are expected to join. Skootar has roughly 80 customers a day.

"We are thinking of expanding services to Vietnam, the Philippines and the Middle East," said Suwatt, adding that the company is also exploring the Scandinavian market, where bicycle services are popular.

Also winning an award from dtac Accelerate was Giztix.com, an e-marketplace for worldwide logistics services which covers pickups, trucks, freight and customs clearance.

Giztix.com CEO and co-founder Sittisak Wongsomnuk, whose family business is freight forwarding, found a lot of difficulties in customs clearance transactions, wasted time and fuel with backhaul services, and different rates of transportation service costs. He therefore developed new logistics and transportation services for shippers and transporters. 

"I developed the ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] software to serve logistics companies, which basically saves cost, but I had an idea to scale up the market, scale the software and help those logistics companies sell and manage their businesses online," he said, adding that the ERP software is been used by 10 transportation companies and it improved their productivity fivefold and saved operating costs by 30%.

The website matches shippers with transporters, and they can post transportation sales on the website. There is no start-up cost for transporters, but once they can sell the service, they pay commission to the website.

Giztix has partnered with Shipping Association, and now there are some 1,500 transporters, and in total there are 18,000 logistics companies registered in Thailand.

"We are like Uber for logistics. Our platform will change the paradigm of freight forward operation as it enables shippers to compare and get the best prices from transporters and book or track logistics services, and also helps transporters to get more customers by posting their services on the website," said the co-founder, adding that Giztix is now being used in 10 countries. Another award-winning start-up was Len-Nam, a water monitoring device for fish and shrimp farm owners who want to reduce the risk from uncertain water quality with real-time data and proper solutions. It can track the data for 24 hours and also has a real-time notification to alert users if something goes wrong.

Available as an all-in-one device, Len-Nam can detect the pH scale and temperature of water, fish and shrimp are sensitive to. In the near future, the team will enhance the efficiency of the device by measuring salinity, oxygen level of water, feeding system and temperature control.

For the last three years, dtac Accelerate has provided Thai start-ups with intensive training and opportunities to work closely with mentors who help push the teams to build and grow their business.

"This year we have received overwhelming interest from new start-ups and SME entrepreneurs in various industries who look to use mobile technology to improve their product development and service and help their business respond to customers' needs faster and easier, while being able to scale for international growth with a small investment in a short time," said Andrew Kvalseth, dtac senior vice-president, head of corporate strategy and innovation.

Sompoat Chansomboon, dtac director of business innovation and dtac Accelerate, said Thai start-ups are filled with energy and want to fulfil their dreams and change the way modern people live. Over the past three years, 11 start-up teams have raised more than 100 million baht in total. In addition to financial support, dtac Accelerate has also provided co-working space for all the teams to work and marketing support worth more than 20 million baht annually.

"Thailand aims to create a digital economy for the competitive future. And this requires collaboration from both the government and private sectors to build a dynamic ecosystem for innovation," said Sompoat. "Dtac Accelerate plays an important role in setting and raising the standard and benchmark for Thai start-ups to support the country's digital economy. We aim to help more Thai start-ups to scale for regional and global markets with total funds growing five times in the next two to three years."

About the author

Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Writer for the Life section