Consumers in Southeast Asia are snapping up smartphones at a growing rate but yet the range of mobile services and content that is available for device owners in the region remains limited when compared to Western markets. While Apple launched local iTunes Stores in 12 Asian markets in June, and services like music site Deezer are making their way over, a number local firms have stepped up to bridge the gap.
Thailand-based ebook specialist Ookbee is one such example, and the company has announced that it has snapped up $2 million in funding from Intouch, as e27 reports. The new investor — which is owned by Shin Corp, parent of mobile operator AIS — has grabbed a 25 percent share in the company through a deal that values Ookbee at $8 million.
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Ookbee claims to have an 85 percent share of the domestic ebook market thanks to the range of publishing and content companies that it works with. Ookbee partners with big name media brands, such as OK! Magazine, The Nation, T3 and others, to bring their content to iOS and Android users via apps.
In addition using app stores, Ookbee also sells digital content within its website, which acts as an ebook store.
Two-year-old Ookbee says that the content it has created serves more than 1.5 million users. That’s a figure that is says is growing at a rate of 5,000 per day, and it is impressive given that feature phones still dominate the mobile landscape in Thailand.
The three company founders explained to e27 that they were inspired to launch the service when the first tablets came to the country, since the local ebook ecosystem had very little content. While the company has found its niche bringing offline media content into apps, it has been forced to literally create each piece of content from offline sources by itself.
Many startups in Southeast Asia focus too intensely on their local market, without considering the potential to expand, but Ookbee is already pursuing possibilities in neighbouring markets.
Indeed the fresh capital will be used to increase its product base and also push the company into new markets, and it follows the startup’s recent moves into Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Ookbee-AIS link goes further than the funding deal, since the operator is one of its largest customers:
Image via Getty Images / AP / Pornchai Kittiwongsakul