Business / Corporate

Startup Giftee Inc. teams up with sushi bar operator in Malaysia

Kyodo

A Japanese startup has made inroads to the Malaysian market by promoting the giving of e-gifts — a practice it believes is an important way for people to engage in today’s hyper-connected age.

For its first foray into a Southeast Asian market, Tokyo-based Giftee Inc. teamed up with the operator of a conveyor-belt sushi bar in Malaysia, which has a population of around 30 million people.

In Malaysia the online gifting service provider launched a campaign with local sushi restaurants, to send e-vouchers via social media that enable customers to eat sushi for 3.18 ringgit (about ¥90) a plate, according to company officials.

The latest initiative is aimed at encouraging more people in the majority Muslim nation to dine out after they break their daily fast during Ramadan, a month-long period in which adherents to Islam fast during the day and local restaurants tend to see a drop-off in business.

The initiative, however, has yet to near the startup’s goal of enabling people to send e-gifts. In Japan, a Giftee user can send a voucher for small gifts, such as a coffee or donuts, via email or the popular messaging app Line.

For Mutsumi Ota, Giftee’s chief executive officer, however, it is an important step in gaining a foothold in Malaysia. “With the economy growing, Malaysia is a promising market for e-gift services. I hope the latest initiative will become a trigger for something bigger to come,” he said.

Giftee is joining forces with Sushi Kin Sdn. Bhd., the Malaysian operator of Japanese Sushi King-branded restaurants.

The companies are targeting some 260,000 registered customers, who will each receive an e-voucher. When electronically stamped, the ticket can be used at some 129 restaurants, the officials said.

Ota said he plans to launch a consumer-to-consumer service this fall in Malaysia, with negotiations under way. “Our immediate challenge is to enlarge our market base in Malaysia, having spent years trying to gain recognition at home.”

The venture is also considering entering another Southeast Asian market in the future.

Launched in 2010, Giftee had about 950,000 users in Japan as of April. With an eye to expanding its business into ASEAN countries, it raised about ¥584 million in March from entities such as JCB Corp. and Mirai Creation Fund, a recipient of investment from Toyota Motor Corp.

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