The funding which was announced yesterday, marks the first investment by INTOUCH. INTOUCH is one of the largest conglomerates in Thailand, and they own Thailand’s largest mobile operator, AIS. The investment is done through its venture capital arm, the INVENT program, which is the equivalent of SingTel Innov8 in Singapore.
What is Ookbee
Stay in Thailand long enough, you will definitely chance upon Ookbee, Thailand’s biggest ebook store on iOS and Android platform with more than 85 percent market shares of the local ebook market. Based in Bangkok, Ookbee is a mobile only startup which provides the authoring tools for local publishers to publish interactive e magazine. While Ookbee is a mobile only startup, it currently serves more than 1.5 million users in less than two years. They are growing at 5000 new users per day.
Ookbee offers a new way for consumers to read their favorite publications by bringing them to both tablets and smartphones, and at the same time, making it cheaper and friendlier to use. Other than that, the Ookbee platform offers a complete end-to-end solution ranging from content preparation, storage, delivery, a billing and payment system.
Besides the impressive growth rate, Ookbee has also partnered with AIS, the largest local telco, and B2S, Thailand’s leading physical bookstore and Central Group , one of the biggest group of department store chains in Thailand, to offer e-book, magazine, newspaper to local readers.
Founding story of Ookbee
Ookbee was founded in Mid 2010 by Moo Natavudh, Charn Polapat , Joe Sangboon, and Tia Pakpoom. Moo is the CEO of the company while Tia takes up the role of the CTO. The inspiration of the company came about two years ago, when the first tablet entered the market.
“We thought it would be nice if we could read all these local books and magazines on these tablets so we don’t have to carry them around. We also want them to be more than just plain old text and picture. In that time, there is no local e-magazine and ebook in the market, so we built Ookbee to make the wish come true! 8 months later we shiped our first version to the market. Today, we are Thailand’s number one Digital newsstand and e-book store in terms of revenue, number of users and market shares.”
While the team started with only a team of five in Bangkok, the team size have since grown to more than 30 with physical presence in Thailand, Vietnam and most recently Malaysia.
Competition and competitive advantage
When asked about the competition, Moo shared that digital publishing is a very competitive space.
“At this point, there are many local competitors, including those from big publishers and big bookstores (Se-ed, Naiin, Asiabook etc). In terms of global players like kindle, Kobo, Nook they are not here yet. What make us different is the broad range of local books and magazine we are offering. The most important thing for us is the speed to the markets. As we enjoy a first mover advantage, Ookbee now take up to 85 percent market shares, millions of users and sealed most of the deal with local publishers in Thailand. For most of them, we have an exclusive contracts.”
Moo also explained their business model to e27.
“Unlike the US market, most of the e-books and magazine here are primary contents. It means that most of the time for these contents, there are no e-book version of these content before ours. We are pretty much converting all ebook from paper and source file one by one and creating the whole market here.”
Funding usage and regional expansion
The new US$2 million in funding will be used for offering the new products to its existing customer base as well as for regional expansion. Ookbee has just expanded regionally to Vietnam and most recently to Malaysia. Moo shared that these two countries are the closest neighbours and they have good publishers contacts there, so it was a natural choice for its first regional expansion to Vietnam, followed by Malaysia. The market in both countries also fit into their business model as well.
The funding of Ookbee means a lot to the startup ecosystem and it definitely shows that there are quality startups in Thailand, and that there are funding opportunities there as well.