This year, we saw numerous founders and entrepreneurs address the challenges of various industries through their startups. Numerous startups managed to secure funding for their ideas while others took a step back, to observe the market better and to pivot.
This year, we even saw a small number of startups attain “unicorn” status. Overall, it’s been a fruitful year for the startup ecosystem in Malaysia.
But what can we expect from the Malaysian startup ecosystem in 2016? Here’s what I think.
1. Influx Of Property-Based Portals
A common maxim that I often hear people quote is that property is where all the “real” money lies. While it’s obviously a biased maxim that property agents, realtors, and founders or evangelists of property-based platforms often quote, it could be one that stands true for the upcoming year.
This year, we saw new property based platforms like PropHunter enter this space while platforms like PropSocial among others, continued to grow in size. Meanwhile platforms like Speedrent were also constantly innovating and coming up with disruptive solutions within the same space.
While this space continues to experience a great deal of innovation, it also received a healthy nod of approval in the form of an acquisition. In fact, the REA Group acquired the Malaysian property-based platform, iProperty this year for a whopping A$751M (RM2.30B) making it one of the largest acquisitions of this year.
This, I believe, will continue to spur the efforts of existing property-based platforms, and it will motivate other entrepreneurs to take a leap of faith in the same space.
2. Same Day Logistics Might Just Be A Reality
Startups like Neon Runner have spent a good portion of the year trying to figure out the necessary components to make the concept of same day delivery a reality in Malaysia. Be Malas also opened up an e-commerce store for the purpose of getting select goods to their customers on the same day.
The idea that you can order something online and have it delivered to you on the same day happens to be the holy grail of logistics and e-commerce at large. Startups that look to make this a reality will be moving away from the traditional spoke-hub model to something more flexible. Their focus will be more on delivering products on demand and on the same day.
3. Better Use Of Personal Concierge Services
The idea that you can delegate tasks from your to-do list to a third-party while you either laze around or focus on the more important tasks of the day is one that really caught on this year. Helpr, Be Malas, Go Get and SupaHands, are just a few of the services that provide such services to customers. Some of these services also help you conduct any necessary research you need for free.
Although these services exist and cater to a good number of people, they still need to educate the market as a whole, about the way they work and why people should use them.
Once they do, I believe that they will see a significant surge in demand and it might even provide an incentive for new startups to enter this space in 2016. The presence of new entrants might also mean that you don’t have to end up paying high service charges to get simple things done.
4. On-Demand Healthcare Services Might Burn Out
The Uber model of business has inspired many to apply a similar concept to different industries. Services like Door2DoorDoctor and Doctor2u.my offer an Uber-esque service whereby you can book a doctor and the doctor will be present at your doorstep within a specific period of time.
These on-demand doctors don’t replace the hospitals’ emergency wards but they mostly treat common ailments that aren’t life threatening. For each request, Door2DoorDoctor charges between RM350–RM500 and Doctor2U charges a flat rate of RM250 for visits between (8am-8pm) and RM420 (8pm-8am).
Given the steep price tag and the luxurious nature of such services, I’m not convinced that on-demand healthcare would be able to gain the required critical mass to be considered a success.
5. Increased Number Of Healthy-Food Delivery Platforms/Services
I categorise healthy-food delivery platforms into two groups, ones that deliver cooked meals and ones that deliver a pre-packaged set of ingredients along with instructions that you can use to cook up a meal. Epic Fit Meals is a good example of the first group while Urban Stove and Fooddit are good examples of the latter. While both groups of services significantly differ in what they offer, they do target the same consumer group—the everyday working adult that’s looking for a healthy meal option.
While there’s no doubt in my mind that there are going to be many new players in this space, I often wonder if any of them would truly address the challenges of that this industry faces. I find that healthy-food delivery services are often pricier than their unhealthy counterparts; they only tend to deliver to exclusive locations, and I’m almost always alienated by the services that expect me to cook after a hard day of labour.
Frankly, I don’t think such services will have any significant effect unless they become cheaper and more accessible.
6. Online Grocery Delivery Sites Will Become More Efficient
Online grocery delivery platforms like HappyFresh and Zero.com.my have had to address quite a number of kinks in their service over the year to ensure that they’re of value to consumers. They’ve had to address challenges like displaying the right items, tracking inventory, building key partnerships, selecting the right products based on quality (especially fresh produce), and delivering them to the right customers in time.
Given that startups in this industry are continually innovating and improving both their service and their platforms, I believe that they will be able to attract attention from key venture capitalists, retail giants and key logistics firms. If they become more efficient in the coming year, they will also benefit SMEs that rely on groceries and other fresh produce. They can simply order online and focus more of their efforts on their core services.
7 .The War On Ride-Sharing Services Will Continue On
Since government agencies are thinking of new ways to regulate ride-sharing services like Uber and Grabcar in Malaysia, I can gladly say that they can continue to flourish in the coming year.
However, government agencies still need to address the discontent within the local taxi industry by introducing new reforms and innovation. While we can all take the easy route and ostracise cab drivers because of their inability to compete, we need to take a step back and realise that the game is rigged against them.
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Grabcar have easy access to unlimited funds, technical expertise, and their drivers are from far better socio-economic backgrounds (explains why they act better), they can easily invest in training, and the pool of private cars will almost outnumber the pool of cabs. What makes it even worse is that they don’t operate under the same regulations that cab drivers have to operate under.
Even though this will definitely spur the discontent among cab drivers, startups like Tumpang make use of cabs for their service, and that could be one of the many ways the industry can be revived.