Trip Free Secures Seed Funding To Offer Free SIM Card Service For Tourists In Japan

Trip Free Offers Free SIM Service To Tourists

Bridge, based in Tokyo, is a provider of mobile communication and retailer information service that caters specifically to international tourists in Japan. The startup, founded in January earlier this year, has announced that its tourist information service platform, Trip Free has managed to secure a funding round from iSGS Investment Works.

What appears to be interesting is that the funding group, in October, has also invested US$12 million in a startup of a similar nature, that is a mobile application for restaurant reservation management called TORETA. The details of this investment amount or payment date, however, were undisclosed.

Though both startups deal with restaurant reservations, Trip Free, in essence, is a free SIM card service for foreigners who are visiting Japan. The Trip Free service distributes 50MB data SIM cards for free to inbound tourists to provide them with tourist information via the company’s portal website. The SIM cards are also available for usual internet use as well. But if the data communication amount exceeds the free capacity of 50MB, users will be charged for additional capacity, or obtain such capacity for free by booking a restaurant via the Trip Free website.

According to Bridge CEO Yusuke Matsumoto, he has in mind a business model charging retailers for each completed reservation, aiming at information provision for 40 million inbound tourists in 2020, in line with the Japanese government’s goal for the Olympic year visitors.

“Through questionnaires to foreign visitors in Japan, we discovered that many of them have similarly faced troubles in terms of the language barrier, internet environment as well as the understanding of maps. So, at first we came up with a solution, a kind of taxi service which takes them directly to the restaurants first,” Yusuke Matsumoto, Bridge CEO tells about the story behind the commencement of Trip Free.

However, he later gave up that method due to the bad cost balance to the service and instead prioritized the improvement of Japan’s mobile Internet connectivity. That idea led to free SIM card provision and associating customer guidance that was seen as a business opportunity to grasp the route of information provision which visitors are likely to use.

“We perform intermediation of guidance or reservation for restaurants because restaurants are often concerned about last-minute cancellations by foreigners. Preventing the occurrence of cancellations by adopting advance payment with credit cards, we allow users to use this service for free by charging restaurants 10% of the sales amount as commission” Matsumoto added.

The additional capacity will be available with about 2,000 yen (about US$18.7) per GB. Since the service adopted Soracom SIM card, Soracom’s price fluctuations might alter the final pricing. Currently, Trip Free has been distributing SIM cards at about 10 hotels or youth hostels accepting inbound tourists in and around Tokyo, and been reaching 15,000 users.

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By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

The World’s Biggest Shopping Event: Alibaba Achieve Highest Sales Record Of US$ 17.7 Bn On Singles’ Day

alibaba-singles-day sales

As Singles’ Day 11.11 approaches again, consumers are happily celebrating their singlehood with a discounted online shopping spree. But nobody is happier than online shopping retailers as they rake in big profit from this retail frenzy.

Especially Alibaba who marked Singles’ Day with a splashy four-hour show in Shenzhen which included appearances from Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, ex-England footballer David Beckham, retired NBA player Kobe Bryant, and live music from One Republic.

The event kicked off at midnight on Thursday 10th November, whereby with just 52 seconds into the day, the Chinese e-commerce giant has already made over US$ 146 million, according to Vulcan Post. And as the day ends, Alibaba has made a sales record of 121 billion yuan, that is about US$17.7 billion in this 24-hour time frame., which makes it the biggest e-commerce sales day of the year for Alibaba.

Comparing this to last year’s US$14.3 billion sales, 2016 has seen a rise of 32%. And placing it into perspective, the US$17.7 billion revenue is also three times more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in 2015.

Despite that, what’s particularly interesting about the sale was that a high volume of purchase was conducted through mobile. As of 1.00pm in China, the mobile usage has represented 84 percent of all sales. While it is an entirely different story in the US shopping bonanza scene, as mobile usage is typically below 35 percent of the total sales.

On top of that, the online sales extravaganza has also seen the participation of about 14, 000 brands. But the best-selling products remains to be Apple Inc., Siemens, Uniqlo, Adidas, iPhones, Nike, and Haier.

Additionally, Alibaba has also been experimenting with new technology as it has allowed users to shop in virtual department stores like Macy’s. Though the concept is still new, but no doubt it will become a more prevalent and important medium for Alibaba as virtual reality and augmented reality gain a foothold among increasing numbers of consumers. VR could also help Alibaba broaden its reach into international markets.

But despite the extravagant event that Singles’ Day now emerge, the event prior to 2009, was only considered a day for singles in China to either celebrate in terms of rewarding and cherishing oneself or as a day to plan mixers to lose their unattached status. The date 11.11 (11th November) was chosen as the number 1 symbolizes a single individual.

The festival was reinvented in 2009 as Alibaba began promoting it as a day of which Chinese consumers should treat themselves to something nice. As a result, Alibaba was able to build momentum for Singles’ Day and turn it into a discount shopping event for everyone, calling the promotion “Double 11”.

“That resonated with people,” Jane Zhang, a principal analyst with Gartner’s personal technologies research team says, “Alibaba is sending a message to the people that we will give you more discounts, so you can treat yourself even better.’” And this can often lead to impulse purchase and overspending.

On the other side of things, however, it seems that not even the new heights of the Alibaba Singles’ Day sales can stop Alibaba Stock’s Trump problem as the company’s stock NYSE: BABA listed on the New York Stock Exchange has continued to plunge. Still, Alibaba’s stock dipped 1.4% on Friday, to $92.99, capping a three-day selloff that left the shares 7 percent lower. This is largely due to the concern that President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his protectionist rhetoric against China.

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By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media