There are many ways to solve longstanding problems in Southeast Asian markets, and perhaps not all of them require AI at the onset. 

L-R: Super VP of Innovation Nadira Zahiruddin, VP of BD & Strategy Gisella Tjoanda, Insignia Ventures Principal Yongcheng Ong, VP of Investment Shefali Dodani, VP of Strategic Development and Operations Allen Chng, Super CEO and co-founder Steven Wongsoredjo

Is AI overrated in Southeast Asia? Revisiting Innovation Beyond AI

There are many ways to solve longstanding problems in Southeast Asian markets, and perhaps not all of them require AI at the onset. 

Gen AI is the words on everyone’s lips these days. While there’s no denying the potential ubiquity of generative AI and its impact on what startups are building and investors are investing in these days, there are other emerging innovations and opportunities worth taking a longer look at, some of which preclude or are even necessary for AI to be effective as a technology solution. There are many ways to solve longstanding problems in Southeast Asian markets, and perhaps not all of them require AI at the onset.

We share insights around this from events and podcasts this past month:

(1) Automation can already go a long way, even before AI comes into the picture.

In Southeast Asian markets, simply moving operations from analog to digital can go a long way. For example, in the case of Nimbly Technologies’ software improving ground-level operations and reporting processes for large chain businesses, including retail and F&B companies like coffee chains and fast food chains. Read more insights on retail innovation from our VP of Strategic Development and Operations Allen Chng.

(2) Cloud adoption opens up demand for more comprehensive cybersecurity solutions.

The increasing adoption of cloud exposes businesses to more cybersecurity risks, especially cloud and network intrusions. This means cybersecurity providers able to cover monitoring capabilities have a step ahead in an age where intrusions can also happen at the network level (e.g. router, VPN gateway). Read more insights on the cybersecurity industry from our VP of Investments Shefali Dodani and our in-house cybersecurity expert Ardian Danny.

(3) Are your enterprise customers spending from their innovation budget or their actual BU budget?

Your generative AI solution might be next generation but it’s important to note how customers are spending on it. Being able to move from tapping into enterprise innovation budgets to actual business unit budgets is a key milestone for AI commercialization. Read more insights on the realities of driving enterprise gen AI adoption from our principal Yongcheng Ong.

Read more in our event recaps

(4) Social commerce contributes to reducing CO2 emissions, among other SDGs?

Climate innovation can be approached by supply chain efficiencies, as demonstrated by Super’s social commerce (group buying) model. A consolidated supply chain minimizes CO2 emissions, leading not only to fuel savings but also bridging the price disparity for goods in rural areas, as Super CEO and co-founder Steven Wongsoredjo shares in a panel.

Bridging the price disparity for Super also comes in the form of private label products, as VP of Innovation Nadira Zahiruddin shares in a recent podcast.

“Our thesis for building private labels is to create products more affordable than existing ones in the market by partnering with local manufacturers to ensure competitive pricing. We conduct focus group discussions to test consumer reactions to pricing and competitive analysis to see where other channels sell these brands…Additionally, Super processes a vast amount of data to see what products and pricing work best in our market. This helps us decide which products to develop next and which pricing category to tackle.”

(5) TikTok opening up new channels for product marketing and brand growth in rural Indonesia

Along with the increasing disposable income in rural Indonesia, this is driving the growth of certain categories like health and beauty. Super VP of Business Development & Strategy Gisella Tjoanda shares more in a recent podcast.

“In the cosmetics industry, cosmetics are huge on TikTok these days. With the rise of cosmetics marketing on TikTok, we’ve seen a rise in demand for cosmetics products. Knowing which products are currently in high demand, we ensure we partner with the brands and supply those products to customers in the areas where we are available.”

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Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies, and co-author of the book Navigating ASEANnovation. He is currently Editor of Insignia Business Review, the official publication of Insignia Ventures Partners, and senior content strategist for the venture capital firm, where he started right after graduation. As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.