Singapore-based mobile marketplace Carousell wants more users in Southeast Asia to start buying and selling items through their mobile phones on its platform — and it has linked up with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten to do so.

Carousell announced today that Rakuten has led a $1 million round of funding for its mobile-only platform, which is currently available only in Singapore but has already hit a million listings.

Carousell is now setting its sights on capturing the audience in Southeast Asia, especially for those who are increasingly accessing the Internet via their mobiles. According to an Accenture report from last year, there will be 194 million new Internet users between 2010 and 2020 in the region.

Vinnie Lauria, founding partner of Golden Gate Ventures which also participated in the funding round, notes that US-based selling platforms such as Craigslist and eBay are “seriously underutilized” in Southeast Asia, and this has created a gap in the market.

Quek Siu Rui, co-founder of Carousell who oversees product and customer support, says that its mobile-first approach appeals to users because of the emphasis on simplicity and its photo-centric nature.

The reason why we started Carousell in the first place was because we didn’t want to continue using any of the existing channels anymore. We felt existing marketplaces like forums and desktop-web classifieds are stuck in the 90s — uninspiring and tedious to buy and sell on.

So that was then we decided to build one for ourselves because we wanted a selling platform that was simple, inspiring to use and social; and of course built for the smartphone. There was no such alternative.

Carousell 1 730x431 Carousell gets cozy with Rakuten to bring its mobile marketplace to Southeast Asia

For added convenience, buyers and sellers have an in-app chat system to deal with one another directly. Carousell also places an emphasis on social features by letting users like, comment on and share items, as well as follow their favorite sellers.

Moving into Southeast Asia, however, isn’t an easy task — as it is a hugely fragmented market. This is why other than Rakuten, Carousell has also sought out investors such as Khailee Ng from 500 Startups and Danny Oei Wirianto, part of the team that grew Kaskus into Indonesia’s largest online community, as it seeks to land in new markets.

Though Carousell says that the relationship with Rakuten doesn’t go beyond funding right now, it is possible that by leading the funding in Carousell, Rakuten may also tap on the startup’s mobile visual approach to add value to its services. In July, Rakuten tested a new e-commerce service that lets users in Taiwan search for clothes using photos — reminiscent of what Carousell is doing right now.

The app launched in August 2012 and is available as a free download on both iOS and Android platforms.

➤ Carousell | iOS | Google Play

Headline image via Shutterstock

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