BANGKOK -- Line Man, an on-demand service platform of Thailand’s most popular messenger app Line, is making inroads in the local market by providing a variety of services, including food delivery, taxi-hailing, parcels and convenience goods, with a large subscriber base, according to a top company executive.
Line, a subsidiary of Korean internet search giant Naver, launched its messenger app in Thailand in 2012 and has grown into a leading social media platform with 44 million users out of the 69 million population.
Line Thailand CEO Phichet Rerkpreecha
Based on the large subscriber base, the local unit of the company has created a unique service called Line Man. It was first launched in 2016 as a food delivery service but has now grown into a service delivering groceries, food, documents and packages to customers by motorcycle riders.
“Although Thailand has the world’s best street food, it has one of the worst traffic congestions. Getting to eat becomes a hassle because of the traffic jams. Sometimes it takes an hour. But, Line Man is addressing the problem,” said Line Thailand CEO Phichet Rerkpreecha, in an interview with Korean journalists at the company’s headquarters in Bangkok.
After working for Google Thailand, he joined Line Thailand in 2016 and was promoted to CEO last month.
“We were not the first to look into food delivery services but are the first to solve the problem of getting street food to customers. Traditional food delivery was back then only for restaurants, but we focused on street food,” he said.
Line Man is also used by many small companies especially in the e-commerce sector to save delivery time in the congested city.
“In Thailand, we have many offices where only one man works. When they deliver something, it takes a lot of time. Given the time they take to go to the post office and park a car, it is more efficient to use Line Man,” the CEO said.
The company also plans to expand to grocery services later this year.
“Since we announced our plan to open a grocery service last month, there has been a lot of interest from major stores,” he said.
Beyond food delivery and parcels, Thai users have been very creative in using Line Man, he said.
“We found Line Man is used to hold a table at a restaurant until customers come. At some very popular restaurants, reservations can be canceled if a client is late.”
Given the variety of services being provided, Line Man is becoming the number one personal assistant in daily activities, he said.
Line Man is operated in partnership with local food tech firm Wongnai, which has the largest food database in Thailand, and local logistics companies.
There are more than 1,000 delivery people, who belong to the logistics companies -- not Line Thailand. More than 100 Line Man engineers in the headquarters keep monitoring apps and delivery performance to maintain service quality of the delivery men, who follow guidelines of both logistics companies and Line Thailand.
The service is currently available in Bangkok and three adjunct cities. “We will start operations in Pattaya City soon and plan to expand into other cities,” he said.
The company plans to expand its operations to all major cities by 2020.
“Once Line Man becomes truly successful, we will most likely duplicate it in other countries. The Southeast Asian region has technology and services that are still quite new and also the same traffic congestion problems exist,” he said.
In December last year, Line Thailand announced it would establish Kasikorn Line, a joint venture with Kasikorn Bank, or KBank, one of the three largest local banks, via Kasiakornvision, a tech investment holding company.
Kasikorn Bank is the first local bank that has invested in information technology and fintech and is now aggressively investing in the sector.
This year, Kasikorn Line acquired a license for microfinance from the Bank of Thailand and it plans to launch the service possibly by next year. Customers will then enjoy instant banking services on the Line platform, such as being able to apply for banking products, transfers of funds or personal loans, with an easy approval process.
All the activities will be done by Kasikorn Line and not by Line Thailand itself because the firm has no banking license, a company official said.
In terms of getting a banking license, the Line Thailand CEO said it does not foresee a Line internet bank “in the near future” because of the nation’s regulatory framework.
Currently, Taiwan is the only nation to allow Line to set up an internet bank. It is preparing to start similar services in Japan, but has not yet received a license.
“At the moment, we will provide services through a partnership with local banks. Now we partner with Karsicon, but there is more potential because we are looking for an opportunity to expand services. Line Pay is one of the strongest e-wallet platforms in Thailand,” he said.
There are five million e-wallets registered with Line Thailand, according to the company.
By Shin Ji-hye/The Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org)