Singapore-based fintech and retailtech startup Asenso Tech has received US$1.2 million investment from CARD MRI, a microfinance institution in the Philippines, and Talino Venture Labs, an enterprise venture accelerator targeting underserved markets.
Asenso Tech, a joint venture between CARD-MRI and Talino, is building an integrated platform leveraging new technologies that will provide micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) with access to fair capital, supply chain, marketplace, and loyalty and rewards systems. Its idea is to create a link and integrated supply chain between MSMEs — especially the local sari-sari stores (community-based ‘mom and pop’ stores) — and consumer packaged goods manufacturers.
The startup supports MSMEs across the supply chain and stimulates their growth through what it calls its four pillars: “Puhunan”, sustainable capital through low-cost, fair, and frictionless microfinancing; “Paninda”, an aggregated demand marketplace that lowers the cost of goods for MSMEs; “Suki”, a loyalty programme to reward frequent MSME customers; and “Likha”, a marketplace to help community entrepreneurs expand their reach.
Asenso’s products already incorporate credit scoring powered by Artificial Intelligence, chatbot-assisted loan applications, natural language processing (NLP) to support local languages, frictionless loan approvals, cashless e-wallets, and a data-driven online marketplace.
“In Southeast Asia, 64 million MSMEs account for 97.2 per cent of employment in the region. In the Philippines, MSMEs comprise 99.6 per cent of all registered businesses and provide 70 per cent of the nation’s employment. Operating independently, they have limited access to capital, no buying power, no leverage to negotiate with suppliers and manufacturers, and severely limited distribution and marketing reach,” said Winston Damarillo, Co-founder of Asenso and CEO of Talino Venture Labs.
“We are harnessing technology precisely to serve the broadest base of people. Our measures of success will be: lowering the cost to serve this market, levelling the playing field for micro players, and improving the lives and the economic stature of micro entrepreneurs,” added Damarillo.
“People assume that new technologies would alienate common folk and their humble enterprises. But Asenso, powered by the partnership of CARD MRI and Talino, are proving just the opposite. These same technologies will enable the lower-income sector, who are otherwise alienated by traditional banking structures, to be able to receive low-cost and fair financing, to have access to market and the supply chain, and to gain leverage that used to be available only to the big players,” said Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CARD MRI.
“Because CARD MRI is in the business of poverty eradication, it is important for us to offer fair credit that the masses can easily access. We know our clients by heart through over 30 years of grassroots development work, and it matters to us that they grow and succeed,” Alip pointed out.
Talino Venture Labs is an InclusionTech accelerator that serves underserved markets as the foundation for the next economy. It builds startups in partnership with large corporations, to address unmet needs with agility, scale, and cutting-edge technology. It is a subsidiary of Amihan Global Strategies, a market leader in digital transformation and a trusted partner of some of the largest corporations in the ASEAN.
Talino recently co-invested in a US$1.2 million seed round in insurtech company Saphron.