Time flies – before many of our colleagues at Momentum Works could start working on their personal goals in their 2019 resolution, we have already sailed to the second half of the year. 

As usual, it is time for us to review the 2019 predictions we made about key emerging markets, which we made in 2018. Let’s see how many hit the bull’s eye, how many miss the mark, and how many remain unclear. 

Let’s start with Southeast Asia

To make it easier to read, we highlighted those we predicted accurately in green, those we got wrong in red, and those which are yet to be clear in blue.

  1. Go-Jek’s traction outside Indonesia slow

Go-Jek had to expand regionally to justify its valuation. We predicted the challenges because of the following reasons: 1) Strong and well-funded incumbent (Grab), and the difficulties to catch up on market share via a price war; 2) The strong Indonesia DNA would make it a challenge for the leadership to balance local teams; 3) how to quickly and seamlessly localize the Indonesia-focused product; and 4) the payment challenges. 

As we had expected, the traction is slow. The company has been denied operating license twice in the Philippines; its Vietnam operations saw the departure of key executives; in Singapore, it was struggling to catch up with market share. 

At the same time, Grab has restocked its warchest, with significant (or ‘unlimited’) commitment from Softbank. To fight on, Go-Jek would need to count on many new and existing strategic investors who do not want to see Grab dominate the market.  

  1. Payment remains fragmented, with central banks exercising more control over settlement

The payment landscape in Indonesia is ever-evolving – and now it seems the four are leading the race: Lippo-initiated OVO, LinkAja launched by a coalition of SOEs, Go-Jek’s GoPay, and Emtek-Ant Financial Joint Venture Dana. 

cashback for the same consumers

Grab, through its significant stake in OVO, has bypassed the issue of payment license in Indonesia. 

Meanwhile, Thailand’s elections have settled down, which might mean a renewed push for PromptPay. And in Singapore PayNow is progressing well according to government plans.  

  1. Ecommerce giants, including Tokopedia, move more aggressively offline for growth

We wrote: 

“The future of online e-commerce is…offline…. …

E-retailers across SEA have been seeing a saturation in online marketing channels, infrastructure bottlenecks, and fierce competition for a limited pool of digital consumers (only about half the population has access to the internet in SEA’s largest economy). All these contribute to a (fast) growth ceiling. To forge ahead quickly, they will push for more aggressive offline.”

Within a month after the prediction, Warung Pintar, an offline stall network in Indonesia, raised US$27 million. Tokopedia also pushed aggressively offline, as predicted. 

A real toko in Jogja


  1. More money in revamping the region’s logistics network

Well, the recent large funding rounds of Ritase and Waresix are already telling, not to mention the highly (some say over) valued logistics startups in Vietnam that have all recently closed new rounds. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong based Lalamove is progressing well in Southeast Asia. 

  1. Chinese cross-border ecommerce competition intensifies

We actually made this prediction for 2018, but it somehow did not materialize, at least not to the extent we had expected. Friends who work in customs clearance told us that the volume was growing – thanks largely to Shopee and Lazada – but not in a significant manner that would excite them. 

The momentum is building up this year, although we do not yet see brands and large independent sellers make big inroads. A few of them are actively studying the market, though. 

  1. Fintech still growing – survival of the fittest, not the fastest

We predicted the payday loan bubble in Southeast Asia would burst in 2018 – and that’s exactly what happened in the 2nd half of the year.

We said at the end of 2018 that many of the current top players will fall on the way forward in 2019 – this has happened to at least three of such players. 

However, with the credit gap still large and apparent, the opportunity is still there. We now start to see a diverse group of fintech players targeting different communities. These might not seem as big as the general population of a country – but they make much easier markets to get into, and also with much better creditworthiness. 

Momentum Works has hosted a successful China-Indonesia Fintech Summit in Shanghai, and those of you who are interested in knowing in-depth about fintech in Indonesia can read the Momentum Works Fintech Indonesia Report 2019

Meanwhile, illegal players from China are still aggressive in Vietnam and the Philippines. 

  1. Many AI and robo-advisory startups in Singapore fail, and the country finds a better niche

I think all of you know what is happening with B2B robo-advisors, and the remaining B2C ones need to ramp up their AUM quickly to make themselves a good acquisition target. 

While there is a debate on whether Trax, the newly minted unicorn, is a Singapore company,  the good news is that some AI companies have persevered and broke even. 

There are a few areas which are better niches for Singapore – and we will have to wait to see whether they materialize before the end of the year. 

  1. VCs with different country backgrounds are finally effectively talking to each other; and nobody talks about Series B crunch anymore

This is happening, though not yet to the extent we had expected. We still have half a year to prove ourselves right (or wrong). 

One example
  1. FA for VC investments as an industry gains traction

We are seeing a few boutique ‘investment banks’ appear in the market, as predicted. It takes time and good cases to build brand and trust in this market, though. 

  1. E-scooter fails to take off in the region

The viability of this market pretty much depends on what Grab does with its own venture – GrabWheels. 

Only wheels


Not bad as of now – we got most right. We enjoy the process of coming out with predictions – that put the team together and debate on what are the most interesting trends, opportunities, and fads in the market. 

We also hope that this becomes a starting point to a healthy, in-depth and smart debate amongst our friends and other industry practitioners. 

Join us by telling us your thoughts!

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].