The chop space (digital loyalty cards) in Malaysia

I love competition and free markets. I read about Pirq coming to Malaysia via the webcampkl group. An interesting thread is brewing.

In Malaysia, I see three players (not including Foursquare for merchants which some establishments use to give mayor discounts, every 5th check-in, etc.): 

  1. ChopChop is the pioneer in this space (bootstrapped around December 2011 by 3 passionate young entrepreneurs whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more than once). 
  2. Shortly thereafter Voucheres came along and they picked up a nifty RM700,000 from MyEG & MDEC (newsclip, crunchbase). They’re a startup with 4 founders (January 2012), claiming 10 employees, and they seem to be relaunching 10 months into it. 
  3. And the latest to the block? ChopInk (July 2012). Four young founders who were AllStars graduates (RM18,000 + mentorship for some 6-7% equity), which I’m told reliably is a pivot from a different unworkable idea. ChopInk has goals of a 1,000 merchants by year end and is supported by Cradle and possibly had some investment from Telekom Malaysia.

And today, you’ve got the fourth player: Pirq. Pirq’s take is different: you receive an immediate discount of 20-50% instantly. You don’t collect chops for later redemption. Pirq is a US-based company flush with cash – currently USD$3.2 million has been raised (yes, thats USD not Ringgit). Their first expansion country: Malaysia, then Singapore. Pirq is like collecting chops meets Groupon (20-50% discounts on a bill last I checked at most restaurants is unsustainable). 

The grapevine tells me that Pirq has four sales people on-board. From an execution perspective, I love how they focus on areas. My biggest problem with these digital loyalty card applications is that I generally never visit any of their merchants! From a tech perspective, Pirq needs work.

I see Pirq as competition with group buying sites, which is definitely seeing fatigue (in Singapore they’re dwindling; in Malaysia?). The verdict is still out there how digital loyalty is going to be managed between ChopChop, ChopInk, Voucheres. Maybe well-funded Singaporean Perx might arrive eventually.

As a consumer, while I may not have to collect loyalty cards in my wallet any longer, I’m going to be collecting smartphone apps. Good thing you have folders on iOS :)

Who’s going to win? The people that make the better product & with better execution. Not just for the consumer (location based alerts, geo-fencing, etc) but for the merchants as well (smart ad posting, etc.). 

In another post, we’ll talk about money. Foreign money is rolling into companies coming into Malaysia (Rocket Internet, now Pirq), mainly because the USD or Euro goes further in Ringgit Malaysia land. Most of the discussion at webcampkl is focused on this.

Me? I’m naturally rooting for the bootstrapped entrepreneurs – that’s ChopChop.