Thailand-based daily deals site Ensogo has revealed that its 2012 goals include maintaining its roughly 90 percent market share in Thailand and expanding its user-base in Southeast Asia beyond 3 million people. That’s what the company’s CEO and co-founder, Tom Srivorakul, told me recently.
The company plans to increase its partnerships with local vendors from 2,000 last year and work more closely with banks, mobile operators, and credit card companies to facilitate deal payment. Tom also wants to integrate hotel booking and restaurant reservation systems into the site, as hotel and restaurant deals are some of its most important and popular – something we see on group-buy sites across the region.
These goals will be made a whole lot easier by the infusion of the cold, hard cash Ensogo received when it was bought by American deals giant LivingSocial in July 2011. The financials of the acquisition were not disclosed, but were rumored to be in the tens of millions of US dollars. Tom says that LivingSocial won out against several competitors for Ensogo, including global deals giant Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN).
“LivingSocial matched up with our vision the best. They let us keep our mojo and keep innovating,” said Tom. Another advantage is that LivingSocial can act as a crystal ball to see what trends are happening and what works and what doesn’t in the more advanced market of the US. “We won’t make the same mistakes,” he said.
Ensogo’s rise in the last two years is the stuff of tech-geek-entrepreneur dreams. Tom and his brothers launched the company in June 2010 and quickly grew to dominate Thailand’s daily deals market. Tom estimated his company’s market share at around 90 percent. It then expanded to the Philippines, where it is now the market leader, and then into Indonesia through local subsidiary DealKeren (since rebranded to LivingSocial Indonesia). The big payout came when the Washington D.C.-based LivingSocial bought them last year.
Their success is no accident, though – these guys are successful serial entrepreneurs. In 2004, Tom and his brothers founded New Media, Thailand’s first digital agency, and then went on to found Admax Network, one of the biggest ad networks in Southeast Asia and Facebook’s local partner since April 2011.
Tom applied their background in ad research and trusting data to Ensogo:
We surveyed 4,000 people and asked if they would pre-purchase a deal in order to redeem later, if it was available at a tremendous value. A large percentage said ‘yes’. But what really stood out to use was that most people also said ‘Why do I have to wait for 100 people to purchase this deal before I get it?’
So Ensogo never incorporated the model of a certain number of people having to buy the deal before it’s activated.
Another thing they learned from their research is that Thai people are very hesitant to use credit cards online. “So we made sure every payment channel was available,” Tom said. “Counter service to credit cards to bank transfers.” In fact, customers can walk into their head office on Bangkok’s busy Rama IV street and pay cash for whatever they purchase.
They can also walk into Ensogo’s newly opened retail store in luxury mall Siam Center and pay there. Tom adds:
The real purpose of the store is to educate more and give consumers the trust that we have a physical location and they can come in and see us. People say ‘wow,’ because we were born online and we went offline.