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Updated: Oct 13, 2020

In hustle and bustle society, e-commerce brings a huge number of advantages to customers. In Vietnam, an emerging country with a population of nearly 100 million and a potential market size of $23 billion in 2025, is one of the most popular brands for consumers. It is well regarded as a national brand name for all Vietnamese people. So, what is Tiki in its enthusiasts' thoughts?

Established in 2010, Tiki, written in short forms of saving and searching in Vietnamese, has become one of the top e-commerce websites in Vietnam closely behind the leader Singaporean Shopee and above Alibaba-backed Lazada and the Softbank Ventures Asia-backed and FPT’s subsidiary Sendo in terms of web traffic. Had it not been for enthusiasm and talent of the founder and CEO Tran Ngoc Thai Son (or Son Tran in English), who got a Master’s degree in e-commerce in New South Wales, Australia in 2007, would have not existed in the crowded Vietnamese market today. Started with a capital of only $5,000, Son and Tiki have raised a total funding of $192.5 million from investors across Asia such as Japanese financial corporation Sumitomo, Chinese, Singaporean government-backed Temasek Holdings, Vietnamese tech conglomerate VNG, Indian venture capital InnoVen Capital and most recently Singaporean private equity firm Northstar Group. Though the valuation of the company has not been disclosed, analysts estimated Tiki worth more than $1 billion, making it the second unicorn in Vietnam.

Like Jeff Bezos when he started Amazon, Son started Tiki as a website to sell foreign language books after many years studying and working overseas. Back in Vietnam in 2009, he immediately realized the demand of readers for buying and reading books, especially in English. He shared: “Reading books is not really a habit of the majority of Vietnamese people, but is a sign of intellectual standards for people who want to change the habit of reading in a positive way.” In the beginning, Tiki only sold English books with no more than 100 titles. Due to difficulties and lack of funds, Son utilized his own bedroom for storing books and developing Tiki. When there were any orders, Son packed and delivered books to his customers by himself since there was not enough money for investment and no one helped him as a co-founder. No matter how challenging it was, Son did not give up. After two years of putting a lot of effort, Tiki was quickly voted as the best customer care and delivery service together with the most favorite e-commerce website based on the B2C model majoring in books.

“Practice makes perfect.” Patience has brought Tiki to one of the top e-commerce websites in Vietnam. Although Mr. Son has faced many obstacles, his efforts and passions do not betray his feelings. In March 2012, Soichi Tajima, chairman, and CEO of investment funds CyberAgent Ventures became the first investor by investing $500,000 in Tiki. A fast-growing startup that grew bigger and bigger with 80 staff members, officers, and well-prepared storages, brought Tiki to the number one online bookstore in Vietnam in just two years. A few years later, in 2016, VNG, a tech conglomerate behind Zing social and media network, Zalo, a messaging app, and a lot of popular online gaming services, invested 384 billion VND ($17 million) to help Tiki develop software and technology to bolster its wide ranges of services and product lines. From time to time, the CEO of Tiki figured out the potential of a fast-growing e-commerce business through customers' shopping habits and using the money for online shopping. He has expanded Tiki from an online bookstore to an interdisciplinary retailing online store including 10 major products: books, phones-tablets, digital devices, electrical appliances, households, beauty products, stationery, toys, fashionable clothes, and supplies for maternity and infants. At present, Tiki has two big fulfillment centers in the two biggest cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, and Ha Noi. Moreover, a 55,000 square-foot fulfillment center in Ho Chi Minh City is capable of storing 1.5 million to 2.2 million different items. With a huge number of products, Tiki is trying to make the delivery finished from a 2-to-4-hour process in the two major metropolitans Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi.

Within nearly 10 years in the highly competitive Vietnamese e-commerce market, Tiki has not only survived but also become one of the most familiar online shopping websites for customers. Tiki has satisfied its customers not only by the virtue of quick delivery service, the quality of its products, the time-efficiency services but also the change in shopping habits. To reach a peak of success in startups, Son shared some useful tips to the new startup founders: “To be successful in investment, there are three main factors: enthusiasm, experience, market.”. By and large, the success of Tiki Vietnam and Mr. Son Tran is one of the most inspiring stories which encourages and promotes the growth of startups in Vietnam. We hope that in the next few years, there will be more and more success stories for startups in Vietnam. Follow VietLaunch for more updates on Vietnam startups, business environment, and investment opportunities.



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