How did a Malaysian video-streaming service, DailyTV, gain 1 million users within the first year of launch?
“We filled up this platform with the best local content, we launched our services, and it just kicked off,” says Kevin Saw, CEO and co-founder of Evangeline Verto, the company that produced the popular platform.
Mr. Saw’s comments to ITU News during a recent visit to Malaysia demonstrate the power of locally relevant content to meet — and drive — the rapidly growing demand for video content in Southeast Asia (SEA).
Indeed, with annual video streaming subscriptions in the region projected to exceed USD 200 million by 2021, global industry leaders such as Netflix have launched major efforts to penetrate the market. But they face strong competition from regional and local players who have more robust local libraries and are sometimes better equipped to handle local realities, such as regulation and payment methods.
These dynamics have laid fertile ground for startups driven by entrepreneurs like Saw to fill gaps in the market, driving the type of domestic tech innovation countries need to power their increasingly digital economies.
An entrepreneur enters
Saw’s Evangeline Verto launched in 2012 to address two core barriers to connectivity: penetration and content.
“In Malaysia, all video services catered only to smartphones, and smartphone penetration was really low,” Kevin Saw, co-founder and CEO of Evangeline Verto, explained. “All video content on the Internet was in English, and nothing for local taste at all.”
Developing for all phones
Smartphone penetration remains low in SEA. Though penetration has increased rapidly in Malaysia, only 65% of the population own a smartphone. The company’s online platform, DailyTV, enables both smart-phones and non-smartphones to stream video content, thereby catering to 90% of the the market. By providing a near-app experience without the need to install an app, it allows customers to use the service immediately.
“An app would be a barrier to entry and users would need to install that app to be able to enjoy the video service. We don’t see the need for that,” he said. “Our DailyTV platform is a versatile and robust ecosystem that enables content providers to manage their content easily and monetize their content. Users have the best user experience, streaming videos with just one click and are able to watch the best content that appeals to them.”
Multicultural societies need multilingual services
Malaysia is a multicultural and multilingual society comprised of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities, along with a number of other diverse nationalities. Though Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, Chinese and Tamil are also widely spoken as a first language.
Yet these markets are underserved almost by way of this diversity, and “most of the content of what they can get is purely in English,” according to Saw.
By offering content from local TV broadcasters, together with a wide variety of music videos and locally produced short videos, the platform appeals to Malaysia’s diverse population. It also offers specific content to diaspora communities within the country by integrating migrant packages from international content providers via the telco packages.
“We have people from Indonesia, from Bangladesh, people from the Philippines that are working in Malaysia. These are markets that are really underserved because most of the content they can get is purely in English. They miss their home content, and we think with this type of local content, they will find the service interesting and they will subscribe for it.”
Rolling out the success across SEA and the future
But this success depended on a solid business plan – a robust platform with good content, designed to ensure quality user experience at a competitive price – supported by a passionate team. “I think being an entrepreneur anywhere is difficult, but it makes it a whole lot easier if you have a good team supporting you, sharing the same passion with you,” he said.
“We plan to take the same success that we have, and the recipe for success, and replicate it in all the countries in Southeast Asia, starting with Indonesia,” Saw explained. “There’s more than 200 million users in Indonesia. Next, we’re going to the Philippines, because there’s another 50 million users in Philippines.”
Aside from regional expansion, Saw has a larger vision, he told ITU News as he gazed out his office window at the Kuala Lumpur cityscape.
“We are thinking far ahead in the future. Five years from now, what do we want to do? I do want to share my experience being an entrepreneur and I hope to see my staff being entrepreneurs one day and I could be like a silent investor, and that would make me really proud.”
Lucy Spencer (@L_M_Spencer)