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[Herald Interview] Line Man Wongnai eyes district-level expansion in Thailand this year

CEO Yod Chinsupakul says company is ready for fast growth

Line Man Wongnai CEO Yod Chinsupakul (Line Man Wongnai)
Line Man Wongnai CEO Yod Chinsupakul (Line Man Wongnai)

Line Man Wongnai, a food delivery service firm distantly affiliated with South Korea’s Naver, has said it will expand its operation nationwide in all 77 provinces in Thailand by the end of this year and hopes to branch out into districts in an effort to continue its growth.

CEO Yod Chinsupakul said the company is “well primed” for a fast expansion given its database and local expertise, in a Zoom interview this month with The Korea Herald.

“Wongnai already is a restaurant database so when we go into a new city we already have some database to work with restaurants. We also have a local team who has the best knowledge on where to go to, how Thailand works and the needs of each group of people in each area,” he said.

A new private round of fundraising is currently underway with internal stakeholders and external investors, which is set to conclude within a few months, Chinsupakul said.

Last year, the company secured a $110 million investment from growth capital firm BRV Capital management.

Plans for an initial public offering remain in the works as of now, which Chinsupakul said is “one of the outcomes of the company’s growth in the next few years either in Thailand or elsewhere.

Line Man Wongnai was born out of a merger last year between food delivery app Line Man and restaurant review and discovery platform Wongnai, co-founded by Chinsupakul. The apps are being operated separately, with Line Man boasting 5.9 million monthly active users and Wongnai 14 million.

Launched in Thailand in 2016, Line Man was operated by Line Thailand -- a local branch of the Tokyo-based subsidiary of South Korea’s Naver Corp. and Japan’s Softbank Group, before coming under the wing of Line Man Wongnai.

Similar to KakaoTalk in Korea, messaging app Line enjoys a great level of popularity in Thailand.

Line boasts 187 million monthly global active users, among which 49 million are in Thailand, the second-largest user base after Japan with 88 million.

Describing Line as “the most frequently used large user base app in Thailand for nearly a decade,” Chief Financial Officer Chung In-young said the messaging app’s dominant presence in the Southeast Asian country is Line Man’s biggest strength.

“It has sustained the position for a decade, meaning a lot of people trusted the brand. There are Line Friends characters, games, news, shopping and all these things are creating a touchpoint with consumers, which gives us and the brand positioning trustworthiness,” the Korean CFO said.

Food delivery apps in Thailand have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And according to Line Man Wongnai, the number of orders placed on its app was up five times in 2020 compared to the previous year. The number of restaurants using Wongnai’s point-of-sales system also tripled in 2020.

Though the growth was fueled by the pandemic, Chinsupakul is hopeful the industry will continue to grow post-pandemic.

“In Thailand, there have been three rounds of pandemic. For the first two rounds, it is true that the growth jumped up during those months.

“When the pandemic ends, it is true that we can expect the growth to slow down. But consumer behavior seems to change for good since it is just more convenient for them to order food and we see COVID-19 is fast forwarding the trend, rather than something that comes and goes.”

Thailand’s prevalence of motorbikes also makes the country a market to watch for in the industry.

“There are more than 20 million motorcycle riders in Thailand so there is a big supply of riders that can serve the needs of the people,” said Chinsupakul.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)


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