LEFT OR RIGHT?

The Pak­tor app aims to take dat­ing in Asia to the next level

Oi Vietnam - - News - Text by Anh-Minh Do

The Pak­tor app aims to take dat­ing in Asia to the next level

ON­LINE DAT­ING IS EV­ERY­WHERE, with myr­iad of apps de­signed for dif­fer­ent dat­ing pur­poses, and even chat and so­cial me­dia apps func­tion as on­line dat­ing fo­rums. Al­though there are still peo­ple who are turned off by on­line dat­ing, it is un­de­ni­able that they are pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially in Asia. The con­ti­nent is a com­bi­na­tion of fron­tier mar­kets, emerg­ing mar­kets and de­vel­oped mar­kets all wrapped into a bun­dle. The ris­ing young and sin­gle pop­u­la­tion in this re­gion is hun­gry for dat­ing apps, and it po­si­tions Pak­tor well to en­ter the scene.

Oi speaks with Joseph Phua, founder and CEO of Pak­tor, one of Asia’s lead­ing dat­ing apps, to talk to him about how the Pak­tor story started, how it evolved and what he sees on the hori­zon. The app has a strong pres­ence in Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia, and will be ex­pand­ing to Tai­wan and Ja­pan this year.

In 2013, while fin­ish­ing his MBA in Chicago, Joseph was dumped. That same year, Tin­der was only a year into the on­line dat­ing scene, Okcu­pid was still mainly US-cen­tric and Cof­fee

Meets Bagel was barely get­ting to first base. With his new­found sin­gle­hood, he was ex­cited and tried them all. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he moved back to Sin­ga­pore where he found few on­line dat­ing apps avail­able, so it seemed only nat­u­ral that he de­cided to build his own.

One of the prob­lems that Joseph no­ticed when build­ing Pak­tor was the dilemma of the gen­ders. Dat­ing apps tend to be lop­sided—there were more men than women. There­fore, his first in­sight was to make it much eas­ier for women to get in the plat­form and much harder for men to get in. The re­sult was a game the­ory so­lu­tion where the plat­form has a more bal­anced set of sin­gles.

The les­son here is: when you are build­ing a two-sided mar­ket­place, make sure to bal­ance them. By bal­anc­ing, the net­work ef­fects are more sus­tain­able.

When Pak­tor first launched, it en­tered 12 coun­tries. For many in the re­gion, their big­gest ques­tion is when should they ex­pand be­yond their lo­cal mar­ket. For Joseph, it’s a mat­ter of tem­per­a­ment and sta­bil­ity: “I think re­ally, one of the keys to our suc­cess is that we were lucky. When we ar­rived onto the scene, there were 13 other play­ers. We got fund­ing and we all made mis­takes, but we picked the right two to three mar­kets af­ter se­cur­ing our first mar­ket. By be­ing strong in one mar­ket, we could fund the growth of sub­se­quent mar­kets. The dilemma of be­ing dom­i­nant ver­sus be­ing sta­ble is that if you choose dom­i­nance, than it’s hard to make money. Our phi­los­o­phy is that you need a pot of gold first that can fund your ex­pan­sions. And it comes down to know­ing when you are ready. For us, when the un­cer­tainty dis­si­pates and you are not filled with fear than you can move on. The num­bers give you a feel where you can man­age your fear. But at the end of the day, it’s a bal­ance be­tween con­fi­dence ver­sus fear.”

To­day, Pak­tor op­er­ates in six core mar­kets, with three of them be­ing the

back­bone of the busi­ness. For some, it’s un­clear where Pak­tor stands in a very com­pet­i­tive and com­plex mar­ket, how­ever, Joseph thinks one of the keys to be­ing a good en­tre­pre­neur is seeing what oth­ers don’t see, and op­ti­miz­ing the busi­ness around those op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“What we’ve learned over the years is that this is not a win­ner-takes-all mar­ket. Tin­der dom­i­nates many mar­kets, but in some mar­kets it lags be­hind,” he says. With Pak­tor, on the ground, and close to the users, it has many touch points that trans­late to new mar­kets for growth. This is es­pe­cially true of Ja­pan, where Joseph says you must be even more lo­cal­ized.

“In Ja­pan, we couldn’t be seen as a for­eigner, and had to be lo­cal­ized to their pop­u­la­tion. We have to re-en­gi­neer the app so peo­ple feel that we are Ja­panese.”

17 & Dat­ing

Joseph’s jour­ney at Pak­tor has been a sur­prise for him and a learn­ing one. His early en­thu­si­asm has turned into a care­ful ma­tu­rity about the future.

“If I had known I would have picked a dif­fer­ent in­dus­try, be­cause this is very hard. The thing about the dat­ing in­dus­try, keep­ing peo­ple con­stantly en­gaged, what the in­dus­try needs is a break­through in con­tent or mod­els that is en­gag­ing while also be­ing used for data.”

This may be one clue into how and why Pak­tor has been em­bark­ing on new mod­els like 17 Me­dia. Ac­cord­ing to Joseph, “dat­ing can­not be your only mar­ket, since many apps are min­i­mally dif­fer­en­ti­ated. So you have to break out of dat­ing some­how.”

So­cial En­ter­tain­ment is an in­dus­try with plenty of po­ten­tial for growth, and mo­bile livestream­ing is its new­est fron­tier. While desk­top live stream­ing is al­ready pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially in coun­tries like China and Korea, mo­bile live stream­ing has re­de­fined the land­scape with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of smart­phones. This presents all new op­por­tu­ni­ties. Fu­eled by the ever-grow­ing mo­bile smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion around the world, mo­bile live stream­ing has the po­ten­tial to grow be­yond the desk­top. In the past, in­ter­ac­tion is lim­ited to near­real time where users can post com­ments on sta­tus text, pho­tos or videos. The level of en­gage­ment through other so­cial me­dia is nowhere as close as live stream­ing. Live stream­ing en­ables idols to en­gage di­rectly with fans, in­stead of fans talk­ing to copy­writ­ers em­ployed by the idol.

This is why 17 Me­dia makes sense. 17 Me­dia be­came pop­u­lar with teenagers shar­ing pho­tos and earn­ing mon­e­tary re­wards from the num­ber of likes they re­ceived from users on their pho­tos. In ad­di­tion to this, 17 of­fers the abil­ity to live stream di­rectly on the smart­phone. Though it was founded in 2015, 17 has dom­i­nated the Tai­wanese live stream­ing mar­ket. With Pak­tor’s re­cent deal to gain a con­trol­ling stake in 17, South­east Asia will be in the head­winds for 17’s live stream­ing ser­vice. Part­ner­ing with MNC Group, 17 Me­dia has be­gun its South­east Asia en­try in In­done­sia.

2017 prom­ises to be a unique year for Pak­tor. Re­fer­ring to the early days of Pak­tor and the new fron­tiers,

Joseph re­flects, “We likely won’t see this crazy growth again. This year is where we will re­dis­cover our­selves. Re­build­ing our­selves fun­da­men­tally, tak­ing the time to dis­cuss, push­ing to break even—push­ing to in­no­vate.” In­deed, live stream­ing may just be the start of Pak­tor’s en­try into ex­pand­ing the dat­ing fron­tiers.

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