Thailand’s Priceza CEO Wai Thanawat: while others focus on acquiring users, we focus only on driving revenue for our clients

12998746_10153551399522960_6687742452742637738_nBorn as the youngest child in a garment business family, Wai career was clearly set up to grow the family business. Actually he has done few years to build the ERP and digitalize the company system. But his heart didn’t follow this traditional path. Eventually he ended up building and growing a product serving millions of customers in Southeast Asia, Priceza.

Similar to Yod of Wongnai, Wai has failed one startup before starting Priceza. He decided to step back, went to study Master of Marketing at Thammasat to strengthen his market view as his background is computer engineering. Before that the tech founder went to an exchange program at Stanford and also quietly armed with a Thai home-grown secret startup’s weapon “Disrupt University”.

Based out of Thailand, Priceza started in 2010 and managed to get one million visits after one year, then got funded from a Japan VC and expanded to Indonesia in 2013. Now the shopping search engine is already operating in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam. While in some countries it is just reserving a seat for the future, the startup has aggressively grown  to be the No.1 site in it’s field in Thailand and one of the top sites for shopping search in Indonesia if not after none for some metrics. Let’s meet up with Wai and learn how he successfully leads the Thai market and expands into major Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia.

Having expanded successfully to Indonesia while top the market in Thailand, and also opening sites in other countries while just secured seed round. What are your principles to plan and manage budget cleverly but still get great results?

money While some startups focus only on driving the Topline non-monetary tractions (user-side metrics), Priceza focuses on driving Revenue for our clients (Online Merchants) and hence it generates more Revenue for us.

Revenue is still our key metric when we run the business. We generate revenue in order for us to put it to develop better product to serve users (consumers). In conclusion, although we raise some money from an external investor, we are still bootstrapping in parallel by investing profit back to the business to grow it further.

When expanding to a new market, what are the key factors in your check list to tackle that market?

  • Localization: SE Asia markets are fragmented. You cannot use only English as the only one standard language of your site.
  • Key partnerships: Who are the key sellers in the market? How can we help them to achieve their goal?
  • Consumer behavior: What is the consumer behavior regarding online shopping? Do they do price comparison?

How did you manage to grow Priceza successfully in a vast foreign market like Indonesia and go ahead of local players? Any advice for startups coming to a new market and your grow hacking steps?

Priceza team with some different nationalities for relevant markets

Priceza team with some different nationalities for relevant markets

Immerse yourself into the market. Use local people to do sales & partnership. Focus on the users. Make sure you build the product that serve their needs.

What do you mean “immerse in the market” specifically?

So I went there and talk to a lot of people and partners in the industry. Pitch to the local investors. Pitch to the clients there myself with my local team. Join the local tech events to learn more about the industry.

what are the DON’T things in a startup?

Don’t think SE Asia is like a one country. It’s not. Think global/regional early on but focus only on one country/market first in order to make sure that you have the product-market fit. After that, you can aim for international market expansion.

What do you think about mobile commerce trends in Thailand and Indonesia? Any similarity and difference?

Indonesia is more mobile-first country comparing to Thailand. Over 75% of our users are using mobile device to access Priceza while it’s around 60% in Thailand. We see that the percentage of Mobile Commerce will grow more and more.

You mentioned that Priceza is moving from helping customers to find where to buy to what to buy? what you do really mean and what are the real benefit for customers?

There are two major questions that consumers have in mind when they want to buy anything: What to buy? And Where to buy? Priceza focuses on the letter one in the beginning and now we expand our scope to help answer the former one now this year. That means when a user wants to buy something, he/she just go to Priceza and we can help him/her decide what product is really suitable to him/her and where to buy it.

Priceza is serving more than 10M monthly visits and has more than 16m products only in Indonesian market, what are your points to build a robust and scalable system? Anything you are applying big data to serve users in a better way?

Wai and the other two co-founders in charge of technology and product

Wai and the other two co-founders in charge of technology and product

So we know how to optimize it in every single bit and byte.

We implement all of the core architecture ourselves. So we know how to optimize it in every single bit and byte. If you outsource it, you cannot do this. You cannot outsource your core system/architecture.

What is the role model of Priceza or your idol and what did you learn from there to grow Priceza?

Our role model is, the largest price comparison in Japan. I admire founder persistence and passion of building it from day one. In the early day, he was the one who went to Akihabara to collect price list / brochure and key-in to the himself. He put a lot of effort for many years to build and scale it from that time to nowadays.

Another person is Jack Ma, he is a visionary guy and hard working and inspiring person.

When facing new problem or a new goal need to acchieve, what’s your way to get it done? 

I believe that the main role of the CEO is to solve the problem.

There are always problems coming up. You cannot ignore them. When there are many problems coming in together, let’s solve all of them one by one.

How do you plan for the future? eg what to prepare and goals for next 12 months, five years, etc

In the next 12 months, we will focus on building our product to better serve users on two major question: What to buy and Where to buy. In the next five years, I see the picture that Priceza covers and index all Online and Offline stores in SE Asia together in one place so that users can just go to Priceza to help them make better and smarter shopping decision.

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Minh Bui is a seasoned eCommerce veteran from both Southeast Asian startups and corporates in online commerce and offline retail chain as well. He's also an avid Asia explorer and love to enjoy local foods and learn cultural differences in Asia.

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