Weekly Focus APAC: Alibaba Partners with Office Depot to Widen B2B Reach

In this edition of Weekly Focus APAC: Alibaba Partners with Office Depot to Widen SMB Reach; Chope Targets Chinese Tourists with Food Delivery Partnership; Tmall Aims for 1,000 Stores with Cosmetic Brands; JD.Com Has Eye on Luxury Fashion Through Farfetch; and Indonesia Health Tech App Snags £49.19m in Series B.

Alibaba Partners with Office Depot to Widen SMB Reach

U.S. retail chain Office Depot has joined hands with Alibaba to broaden their online offerings for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The alliance aims to help U.S. small companies tap a worldwide business-to-business (B2B) commerce market worth USD$23.9tn (£18.09tn), said the two partners, pointing to estimates from the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The partnership initially would focus on building a co-branded, online B2B marketplace to better enable U.S. businesses to access both companies' inventory of goods and manufacturing products and services.

Both companies said in a joint statement they planned to further expand their offerings to include logistics and sales channels in the "near future".

Office Depot CEO Gerry Smith said: "Leveraging Office Depot's trusted brand, local presence, and national distribution network with Alibaba's global supplier network and well-known capabilities in serving SMBs, U.S. businesses can now access a wide array of products and services through Office Depot and Alibaba's collaboration. [This] will empower them to compete and thrive."

With a network of 1,350 retail locations, Office Depot has a clientele of more than 10 million U.S. business customers and operates a supply chain network that its says can reach 99% of U.S. businesses with next-day delivery. Alibaba has a global network of more than 150,000 suppliers.

The U.S. teams of both partners will support each other's customer service delivery and the two companies will jointly invest in marketing to help U.S. SMBs benefit from the collaboration.

Following the initial launch, both companies will also introduce cross-border and local logistics services that combine Alibaba's global logistics capabilities with Office Depot's national distribution and fulfilment network, reaching nearly 99% of U.S. businesses with 24 hours.

Chope Targets Chinese Tourists with Food Delivery Partnership

Singapore-based dining reservation app Chope has inked a partnership with Meituan-Dianping that will enable Chinese tourists to tap its service through the latter's online platforms.

Headquartered in Beijing, Meituan-Dianping started out providing online food delivery services and has since expanded its offerings to include hotel reservations and other consumer lifestyle services.

Its platform integration with Chope will allow Chinese tourists to access localised travel-dining services when they visit any of the eight Asian markets in which Chope operates, and make dining reservations via Meituan-Dianping's suite of lifestyle channels. These markets include Bali, Bangkok, Phuket, and Jakarta.

Citing research from Nielson, Chope said food tourism is one of top three expenditures for Chinese tourists.

The Singapore company added that combining its localised regional knowledge and Meituan-Dianping's connection with the Chinese market will offer Chinese travellers a curated experience.

Chope's founder and CEO, Arrif Ziaudeen, said: "We are confident Meituan-Dianping's platform will contribute significantly to outbound destination discovery and that the integration will help match tourist dining demands to our network of over 4,000 restaurants regionally. Ultimately, I believe the partnership will strengthen our vision of creating seamless and memorable dining experiences for more people, more often."

Indonesia Health Tech App Snags £49.19m in Series B

HaloDoc has secured USD$65m (£49.19m) in Series B funding, which it says will go towards product development and growing its partnerships with healthcare providers in Indonesia.

The health technology platform saw existing and new investors participate in its latest funding round, including UOB Venture Management, Singtel's Innov8, Korea Investment Partners, and WuXi AppTec. The money will be used to beef up its health service infrastructure and improve its technology, as well as grow its partnerships with the various hospitals and healthcare services providers in its domestic market.

Launched in 2016, HaloDoc aims to drive online healthcare service by facilitating patient-doctor communication on smartphones and desktops, connecting 20,000 licensed doctors in Indonesia.

Its app also offers a booking function for home visits and delivery service for medicine from 1,300 pharmacies.

HaloDoc's founder and CEO, Jonathan Sudharta, said: "Within the last two years, we have provided healthcare service to our two million users every month, with half of the numbers located outside the highly populated Java area.

"We believe this strategic funding will help us accelerate the building of a digital platform that will increase access to reliable healthcare across Indonesia."

The startup, to date, has worked with more than 1,400 hospitals and healthcare providers.

Tmall Aims for 1,000 Online Stores with Cosmetic Brands

Alibaba's online marketplace Tmall is targeting to add 1,000 cosmetics shops on its platform in 2019, where it looks to meet growing demand from Chinese consumers for beauty products.

The Chinese e-commerce platform said seven international cosmetics brands already have signed agreements to open flagship stores on Tmall this year, including Tom Ford, Japan's Cosme, South Korea's Primera, and Sweden's Barnängen.

In addition, five other beauty brands, that included Maybelline, Kiehl's, and Innisfree, signed New Retail partnerships to integrate insights from digitised offline promotion activities and storefront information with online data.

The Korean Small & Medium Business Corp also unveiled plans to launch a flagship store on Tmall that would house 50 niche South Korean beauty brands.

Tmall's president Jet Jing said: "As China continues its consumption upgrade, more and more people from different age groups and geographic locations are willing to spend on high-quality beauty products. We are looking forward to working with more brands to address the opportunity."

According to the e-commerce platform, its beauty product sales climbed more than 60% last year. It added that, in China, online sales of cosmetics grew 46% last year, while skincare products increased 40%, and personal care products climbed 37%.

JD.Com Has Eye on Luxury Fashion Through Farfetch

Chinese online retailer JD.com has announced plans to merge its high-end fashion brand Toplife with London-based fashion retailer Farfetch, and offer brands a "premier luxury gateway" into China.

Under the deal, which was an expansion of the companies' existing partnership, Toplife would merge into Farfetch China, which also would be given "Level 1" entry point on the JD.com app. This would provide its network of more than 1,000 luxury brand and boutique partners access to 300 million JD.com customers.

JD.com established Toplife in 2017 as a standalone site that allows luxury fashion brands to control their own online stores.

Farfetch's founder, CEO, and co-chairman, José Neves, said: "We believe our Level 1 access with JD.com 'closes the circle' and will be transformational for the luxury industry's digital landscape in China. With this agreement, and our previous strategic investments in China including our acquisition of CuriosityChina, we now offer luxury brands a one-stop solution to develop their digital strategies in accessing the engaged and sophisticated audience in this important market."