SUNDAY, April 14, 2024

Line Man Wongnai riding high on Thailand’s surging e-commerce wave

Line Man Wongnai riding high on Thailand’s surging e-commerce wave

Line-backed food delivery platform is first Thai start-up to get funding from Singapore’s GIC

As Covid-19 recedes, South Korea’s food delivery platforms are losing growth momentum – but Thailand is rising fast as a market filled with opportunities for e-commerce start-ups.

One of the leading players in Thailand is Line Man Wongnai, the popular food delivery platform operated under Line Corp.

“The fact that it took only five years for Thailand to form a food e-commerce market is notable considering it took 10 years for South Korea," said Chung In-young, chief financial officer of Line Man Wongnai, in a recent interview with the Korea Herald.

Chung attributed the speedy transition to platform-based business to a “mobile-first” strategy within Thailand that leapfrogged web and PC internet channels.

Yet to be fully infiltrated by global franchises, the country also has a wide range of mom-and-pop food stores offering various meal options for consumers. Another plus for Thailand is the absence of delivery-rider shortages because the vast majority of the population uses scooters for personal transportation.

Chung said Line Man Wongnai has been more successful in localising its services in Thailand than Uber Eats and other global behemoths.

“Having respect for the mom-and-pop food stores and supermarkets here, we are cooperating with the government to ensure fair treatment for riders and shop owners. The company has also improved user convenience by offering grocery deliveries and taxi-hailing services that are showing burgeoning demand.”

Line Man’s merger with Wongnai, a local restaurant review app operator in Thailand, in 2020 was one of the company’s hyper-localisation strategies to ease its way into the Thai market. Line Man started as a delivery platform there in 2016.

“Our goal is to become the number one ‘local champion’ in the e-commerce market in Thailand, creating values for our local users and business partners – similar to [South Korean platform] Naver,” Chung said. “But Naver only provides an online restaurant review service, not food delivery.”

Chung stressed that unlike Naver or other e-commerce platforms, Line Man Wongnai is also pushing offline business in a move to create a complete ecosystem for stakeholders.

For instance, the company runs a retail Point of Sale machine business, offering restaurants a way to keep track of their sales.

The company is also planning to launch a low-interest loan service for small and medium-sized stores.

With its business expansion, Line Man Wongnai is gearing up for its stock market debut in Thailand.

“IPO markets worldwide remain mostly frozen, but situation is different for Thailand,” said Chung. “The country is one of the emerging markets in Southeast Asia with high economic growth rates that are far from geopolitical risks [like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine].”

Backed by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), a wealth fund that manages the city-state’s foreign assets, the company raised a total of $375 million (about 13.4 billion baht) in investment including the latest series B funding. Chung said it was the first time GIC had invested in a start-up in Thailand.

The company has 10 million monthly active users and aims to expand its consumer base with Line, the largest shareholder of Line Man Wongnai, whose mobile messaging service is used by most of the country’s 50 million smartphone users.

After joining Line Corp in 2018, Chung has served as CFO at Line Man Wongnai since 2020. Chung spearheaded the merger between Line Man and Wongnai as the Thailand lead of Global Investment at Line Corp.

The Korea Herald

Asia News Network