Kiu, a new e-commerce platform to help small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the lower Mekong region gain access to developed markets, has been launched with the support of the Asian Development Bank.
Founded by Vietnam-based American entrepreneur Steve Landman, the platform would initially cover Vietnam and Cambodia, and will enable overseas buyers to source goods from Vietnamese suppliers.
Kiu platform – which was launched on Tuesday – consists of Kiu Marketplace, which lists products ranging from baby clothing, home décor, art and crafts to school supplies for consumers and wholesale importers to source; Kiu ERP, a management tool for local SMEs; and Kiu Shipping, which helps buyers arrange international shipping from the Mekong region.
The partnership between Kiu and the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI), a collaboration between the Asian Development Bank and the Australian government, started to address issues constraining private sector development, including expansion of SMEs.
Small businesses account for over 90 per cent of the country’s private sector, according to data by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“We wanted to understand why Vietnamese companies found it so difficult to access the US, Europe and other overseas markets, and we kept hearing the same thing: there were many marketplaces but there was no real support for SMEs to help them validate their goods and access finance,” Dominic Mellor, senior Asian Development Bank economist and head of the MBI, addressed the launching event on February 21.
Kiu, incorporated in the US, aims to visit and validate every supplier to its platform face to face to ensure the benefits of buyers and transaction quality.
The multi-currency and multilingual platform claims to have been working with around 250 SMEs and attract 5 new suppliers every week, according to Landman, CEO of Kiu. Landman also expects to see 3.5 million transactions via Kiu within the first year post launching.
“The Kiu platform (…) represents a game changing marriage of technology, private sector ingenuity and overseas development assistance to propel economies forward,” commented Mellor.
Prior to venturing into Kiu, Landman has been associated with other MBI projects, including the Mekong Angel Investors Network. He had a stint serving as managing director of Lotus Impact, a Southeast Asia social investment fund invested by Ho Chi Minh City-based asset management firm VinaCapital.