Entrepreneur

He Built The First Central American Super App, Now Bringing Electric Moped Sharing To S'pore

Singaporeans are no stranger to super apps such as WeChat in China, Go-Jek in Indonesia and Grab in Singapore.

These super apps are all-encompassing, and allow users to access a host of different services on the same platform.

They incorporate many functions and features, from e-commerce to ride-hailing to food delivery and financial services.

Though super apps have surged in popularity in regions like Southeast Asia and China, they are still an unfamiliar concept in areas like Central America and the Caribbean (CAC).   

A Golden Opportunity For A Serial Entrepreneur

CAC has a total population of 95.5 million, and is ranked as the 19th largest economy globally. According to OMNi founder and APAC CEO Erik Cheong, the region is an “untapped market”.

As it is a cash-reliant economy with a high internet penetration, the region is also “full of opportunity for a digital revolution”.

This opportunity was further accelerated by Covid-19, which hastened the transition to digitalisation in the CAC region.

OMNi was launched in 2019, and is positioned as the CAC region’s first super app. It provides a “seamless, digitally integrated, and highly localised network of everyday services.”

Despite OMNi being pioneered in Central America, 31-year-old Erik is a Singaporean.

Erik shared that he is an “ambitious and aspirant” individual who has always wanted to started something of his own.

Last year, he was awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology.

The serial entrepreneur has also been awarded EDGE National Youth Entrepreneurship Award in 2018 by Quest Ventures, is an active member of the eFounder Fellowship by Alibaba Global Initiatives, and also a TRIVE Next50 Mentor.

Four Verticals And A Whole Lot Of Users

Just a year after OMNi’s launch in 2019, it has already risen the ranks to becoming the most downloaded app in Costa Rica’s Google Playstore with 500,000 downloads.

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Awardee told Vulcan Post that OMNi focuses on four verticals: mobility, financial technology (fintech), lifestyle and healthcare.

omni super app by singaporean
OMNi’s four verticals / Image Credit: OMNi

Three of the verticals have already been launched, with the healthcare aspect slated to be launched in the first quarter of 2021.

Erik shared that OMNi started out with the micro-mobility vertical, which served as a “Trojan Horse” to acquire a large user-base.

omni bike sharing
Image Credit: OMNi

In Central America, bike sharing was not common although affordable transportation is an essential service.

Thus, the micro mobility vertical served as an opportunity to “convert analog elements of regional transportation offerings into digital channels.”

The company now has 3,700 e-bicycles and 1,000 scooters on its sharing platform. It also has a fleet of taxis and EV (Electric Vehicle) Mopods, and has managed to integrate its services with the local bus and train platforms.

As part of its fintech vertical, the startup partnered with Coopenae Bank, the largest financial co-op in Central America and third largest in Latin America, with a total asset of US$1.6B (S$2.19B).

omni debit card
OMNi debit card / Image Credit: TechCrunch

It has also launched an e-wallet and issues OMNi debit cards by partnering with Mastercard.

According to Erik, the company has issued 250,000 OMNi debit cards, with more than 200 debit card requests daily.

The startup also delivers up to 2,000 packages a day via its delivery services.

It has also ventured into entertainment and reward programmes, with a network of 15,000 merchants awarding services to users.

Bringing Moped Sharing To Singapore

OMNi has set up its Asian headquarters in Singapore, and is preparing to roll out its first service on the island later this year.

omnigo ev scooter
OMNiGO Scooter / Image Credit: OMNi

Erik told Vulcan Post that OMNi recently signed a memorandum of understanding with one of the largest EV scooter makers in the Asia region to launch OMNiGo.

OMNiGo will be the first green mobility service leveraging on EV moped sharing in Costa Rica and Singapore.

This is also in line with the Singapore government’s Go Green Initiative which allows for high-powered electric motorcycles to be used on our roads to encourage the adoption of cleaner vehicles.

Mopeds have both a motorcycle-like engine and bicycle pedals, but still require a motorcycle license to operate.

This is also a space that the super apps — Grab and Go-jek — have not dominated yet.

According to Technode, OMNi will charge corporate users a monthly subscription, whereas regular riders will use the pay-per-ride system –similar to bike-sharing.

Does SEA Have Room For Another Super App?

Besides being a mass-adopted app in the Central American region, Erik said that the company has similar plans to become a super app in Southeast Asia.

Like the move to introduce EV moped sharing, OMNi will avoid competing with Grab and Go-jek in sectors they already have a foothold in, such as ride-hailing.

Despite these, super apps like Grab have managed to deeply entrench itself into the lives of Singaporeans, and OMNi will have to ensure that it is able to find a niche where it can be the first mover.

The startup has onboarded Lim How Teck, Chairman of Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, as its strategic advisor.

It has also been shortlisted for the TRIBE Accelerator Program, which will propel it forward in its endeavours to become Southeast Asia’s next super app.

To address these disruptive opportunities, OMNi is seeking to raise a US$250 million mega round by the first quarter of 2021.

In the long term, OMNi aims to file for an US Initial Public Offering and get listed on New York Stock Exchange — a route taken by Singaporean company SEA.

Featured Image Credit: OMNi

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