Week in Review: Durian sellers ahead of the IoT curve

  • Singapore’s ViewQwest rocks Malaysia’s broadband market
  • Two key lessons from GrabGas fiasco for SEA’s startup ecosystem 

IOT has again been on my mind this week, thanks to an eye opening visit to Accenture’s IoT Centre of Excellence in Singapore and my participation in GE’s annual Digital Advantage conference held in KL yesterday.
I say again, because just two weeks ago I also wrote about property developer, Aspen Group, adapting its business model to include a recurring revenue stream through smart services.
And at least in Malaysia, there are more examples of IoT being used by some unlikely organizations. How about a durian export promotion body? Thillai Raj, CTO of Mimos, a Malaysian research and collaboration body, speaking at the GE conference, shared how Malaysian durian sellers exporting a premium variety to China called Musang King were hit by inferior varieties passing off as Musang King.
Yes, in China, even fruits can be faked!
Sharing their dilemma with Mimos, Raj says the solution was to tag each fruit with a sensor that displays the supply chain history of the fruit and authenticates that it is the real deal when scanned by consumers. Even better, the exporters get real time information about where their durians are being bought. Apparently it is working and exports to China are up!
Even more amazing, this has been going on for two years now. That’s right. Fruit exporters in Malaysia have long seen the business value of IoT.
And solving business needs is exactly the conversations Accenture has with visitors to the centre of excellence that it shares with Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto. “The technology is the underlay but we have conversations around the business issues faced by the corporate visitors here,” says Senthil Ramani of Accenture, who heads the centre which has a mining and resources focus. Senthil himself is the MD, Resources Industries, Accenture Consulting.  
Meanwhile something really exciting and disruptive happened in Malaysia this week. Singapore ISP, ViewQwest has launched its services in Malaysia through a joint venture with a local company.
Its value proposition is simple. “We will double your speed at the same or lower price than what you are paying now.” This is surely going to shake the local market big time as competitors are forced to deal with the reality of rival that has much lower international bandwidth costs than them. Can they respond?
Switching to a different type of conversation, the startup ecosystem has been abuzz with accusations of how GrabGas, a Malaysian startup, had grossly exaggerated its traction and did not fulfill its promises to its CTO.
And now, GrabGas has been dropped from the Digi accelerator program which carries with it a funding promise as well.
Journalists covering startups are well aware of exaggerations but we can’t make startups disclose numbers to us. At the most, with DNA, we will use “claims” although one leading ecosystem figure did chew me out three years ago and called DNA a s### media for attaching “claims” to his comments as he felt they insinuated he was not being truthful.
The GrabGas incident is good for the ecosystem as it sends the clear warning that any blatant exaggeration can easily come out at any time through disgruntled staff and serves as a reminder that verbal promises made to any employee can come back and bite you even if there is no black and white. This incident will definitely drive up levels of accountability with founders across the region.
As for the GrabGas founders, I am curious to see if anyone will give them a second chance. Would you?
Have a restful weekend and a productive week after.

Editor’s Picks:
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SEA's fintech ecosystem has a long way to go

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