Asia’s Answer to Slack

asia's answer to slack by sunil jagani














The cloud market for software is growing fast in the US, but it’s even faster in Asia.  While Slack is popular in the US, it caters to Western work habits and is only in English, serving as a major opportunity for any Asia-based company.  This is particularly notable as quickly-growing demand from Asia and Africa has been expected to push enterprise communication into a $42.4 billion market by 2019.

People have of course noticed this huge opportunity, and many Asian companies are looking to fill in the hole, such as ChatWork, Teamchat, Qiscus, Eko, Oneteam, TeamNote, Pie, Teambition, Line Works and Typetalk.  The leading contender in South Korea is Jandi, developed by the company Tosslab, which has been cultivating footholds in Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.  According to Tosslab, they’ve nearly doubled their user base in the past year to some 80,000 teams across Asia as of last month, with 25% upgrading to their premium plans.  They also claim to have 10 times the number of downloads as their closest competitor, and increase teams’ efficiency on average by over 50%.  While Slack and Hipchat have become a universal standard, Asians working in an Asian marketplace have a different idea, which is where Jandi comes in.  

This means user interface and experience should be optimized for various industries and geographies.  With a recently sealed $1.7 million series A investment, the startup has plans to develop a private cloud version of Jandi and bring in more talent over the course of 2017.  Tosslab has been banking on Asian teams will want the same comprehensive user feel as various all-in-one chat platforms that have already taken off, such as Line and WeChat.  Jandi has been designed not only with language support for various languages (so far English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese), but also the familiar Asian interface put into details to make it feel like one of the leading personal messaging platforms.

One example is the emoji.  While Western workplaces aren’t as big on emojis, workers in Korea and Japan love them, with company emails chock full of smiley and frowny faces.  Animated stickers on Asian chat apps have generated an $8.6 billion industry in just Korea.  While Western audiences can easily dismiss emojis, they’re a huge deal for Asians.  Another notable feature reflects the traditional top-down hierarchy of Asian workplaces, allowing admin functions geared to help them control team communications.  Asian workplaces are far more hierarchical than in the US, where employees eschew openness in favor of efficiency.  

Since Asian markets are more likely to adopt a product if they personally know the people behind it, Asian clients are also a pretty hard sell.  That’s why Tosslab has been building local offices throughout Asia, so that they can convince decision-makers to adopt enterprise software.  While that’s difficult to scale, such a personal touch goes a long way.  

Even at the biggest companies, there is no longer such a thing as “comfortable dominance”.  Just look at Kodak.  In the Information Age, workplaces and business strategies need to change.  Even more conservative audiences are starting to recognize the importance of adapting to cloud-based communication.  Asia is shaping up to be a battleground for various software; Tosslab might be doing well, but they’ve got a lot of competition.  I am excited to see who emerges dominant from this inevitably heated challenge.

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