Saleduck Goes to Asia, Interview with CTO Ben Rogmans

Ben_Rogmans_CTOSaleduck, an online coupon and deals platform formed in The Netherlands, is today present in 15 countries. The company recently launched in the Asian markets.

We have interviewed CTO Ben Rogmans about the company, the platform and its features. Ben also explained to use the opportunities and difficulties of going to Asia and said to us what’s hot over there right now.

FinSMEs: Hi Ben, first, can you tell us a bit more about you?
: My name is Ben Rogmans and I am the CTO and co-founder of Saleduck. I am based in Kuala Lumpur to initiate the expansion of Saleduck to Southeast Asia.

FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Saleduck Asia? Which market opportunity have you taken?
: Since we opened our office in February 2016, Saleduck Asia has launched in five countries. We are now providing customers to webshops in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. While the development of these digital markets has taken off several years later than Europe and the US, they are making up for it with spectacular promptness. This high paced evolution can be observed in giant markets like India and China as well but we are currently not interested in those markets because we feel like the bets are too high. In Southeast Asia we believe we can break-even this year, become market leader and maintain that position while the market is growing explosively.

saleduckFinSMEs: How does Saleduck work?
: On our online discount portals, we collect discounts and coupon codes from over 100 advertisers -both big and small. Some of these include names such as, Expedia, Alibaba and Sephora.
Consumers go to Saleduck when they already have a buying intention but want to find the service or product they are looking for at the cheapest price. People can browse through our websites to see what deals are available and then decide on using the deal most relevant to their needs.
Our platform also operates as an outlet for discovery. Take for example, someone who wants to go on holiday but don’t have a particular destination or online platform in mind to book the trip. When they visit our website and see a good deal from Expedia to Thailand, they might be interested and end up booking their holiday. Same goes for buying presents or wanting a new wardrobe, we give people an incentive to shop and indulge a little without having to break bank.
We receive a commission every time a visitor purchases something from our partner’s webshop. This commission is based on a CPA (cost per acquisition) model.

FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
: Although Saleduck launched only a few months ago, we are already serving thousands of people on a daily basis. Next year we will expand to other Southeast Asian countries.

FinSMEs: you have gone to Asia….a huge market for deals and coupons…Is it challenging doing business in Malaysia in particular and Asia in general? Which are the main difficulties?
Ben: We have been granted MSC status by the Malaysian government. The MSC Malaysia status is reserved for technology-driven businesses that bring innovation to services or products to Malaysia. This acts as a symbol of our company’s prestige and because of this, other parties are more eager to collaborate with us and it has led to many opportunities for us.
We’ve come to see Kuala Lumpur as a really modern city with great quality of living. It is also really easy to do business in the whole of Southeast Asia because other large cities such as Singapore and Jakarta are only about a 2-hour flight away.
Of course there have also been difficulties. It has not been easy finding local talent, especially for Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia and the hiring process did take quite a while.
Affiliate marketing specifically and online marketing in general isn’t as big in Southeast Asia as it is Europe yet, meaning there are also less people with relevant e-commerce experience. Not all parties see the full potential of affiliate marketing yet so sometimes it is harder to establish a working relationship.
Of course there are the language and cultural differences that we have to adapt to, but this has mostly been an interesting and fun experience.

FinSMEs: What do you recommend to entrepreneurs doing business over there?
: Be patient. A lot of times we have thought that some of our marketing campaigns were not working in Southeast Asia but in the end they proved to be an even bigger success here than in Europe, it just took longer for them to take off.
I would also recommend to reach out to people face-to-face as much as possible. Ideally, aim for the most important person in the company. They can refer ‘down’, but they usually don’t refer ‘up’. Of course it is faster to send out a few e-mails but there is a chance that you may not get a response from them as people really value the chance to meet you in person and trust you a lot more to do business once you have met.
Also, listen to your local employees. They have more knowledge about the market and in our case most of the time, they are able to foresee whether or not a campaign will succeed. We’ve come to learn that some things which may work in Europe, may not garner the same results here.
It is also good to meet and build relationships with other entrepreneurs active in the same regions. Even though you are not in the same business this can prove to be really helpful. In our case VISA application processes and other administrative HR related affairs went quite smooth because of friends who shared tips and tricks with us.
I would suggest to other entrepreneurs to implement flexible working hours. For most employees, this is a really important factor given the fact that during peak hours, the traffic jams can get really intense.

FinSMEs: Which tech trends do you personally see as particularly hot in Asia?
: Soon our world will get to a point where we use free energy from the sun. We will also be able to take our trash completely apart so we can convert it back to its raw materials. We are building robots that can do all our physical labour. 3D Printers that people have at home (or larger ones that people share) enable them to build products themselves.
Because of that, the value of goods is decreasing and will eventually reach zero. We will be able to build new products from our trash and it will not cost us exhaustive energy. The companies of the future will therefore not be providing us with goods, but with services.
We can notice this movement today by the rise of the service providers: transportation of people, transportation of goods (and food), accommodation facilitators, intermediaries for peer to peer transactions… You name it. This might be happening all over the world, but Asia shows how incredibly fast paced the adoption and implementation (of new ways of doing things) is.



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