Online cashback platform spreads wings early

Geographical boundaries are less meaningful in today's digital economy, said ShopBack CEO Mr Chan.
Geographical boundaries are less meaningful in today's digital economy, said ShopBack CEO Mr Chan.

Running away from the hard work of internationalisation has never been an option for local start-up ShopBack.

Its chief executive and co-founder Henry Chan said yesterday that the company's long-term survival rests on its ability and willingness to chance its arm overseas.

"In today's digital economy, geographical boundaries have become less meaningful, which means it is difficult to stay put in just one market if we want to grow," he said. "So right from the beginning, we knew we had to think about growing beyond the Singapore shore, and that we have to do that quickly. This is very important for us in order to stay competitive."

The online cashback platform embarked overseas in February 2015, not long after it was set up in September 2014. Malaysia was its first overseas market, followed by the Philippines in June that same year. Early last year, ShopBack made its move into India, and then Indonesia and Taiwan.

The online platform generates over $22 million in monthly sales - of which 70 per cent comes from outside of Singapore, noted Mr Chan. It offers consumers cash back for their online shopping while directing shoppers to merchants through its site.

The company, which employs about 100 people across the region, is looking at opening in Thailand this year.

Still, challenges remain, including recruiting qualified staff, said Mr Chan. "The key thing is to find talent with strong culture fit. People with hunger to grow at a breakneck pace, together with the company. With the right talent, we can then scale further and deeper across South-east Asia and Asia-Pacific," he said.

Jacqueline Woo

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline Online cashback platform spreads wings early. Subscribe