Women-led tech startups are sprouting across the region of Southeast Asia, supported by accelerators, incubators and initiatives that are giving them a boost in gaining access to investors and capital, establishing strong network connections and breaking ground in new markets. Female founders in Southeast Asia hail from a variety of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and display resourcefulness and an enterprising spirit that serves as an inspiration to entrepreneurs and go-getters everywhere. Their startups are creating value and bringing innovation to industries and sectors as diverse as export, healthcare, artificial intelligence, insurance, consumer insight and e-commerce.
Indonesian human resources (HR) solutions platform Gadjian is co-founded by Afia Fitriati, who is also the startups’ acting chief executive officer, and her husband Else Fernanda in 2016. Afia was inspired by her previous experiences working as a business consultant to develop a suite of HR solutions to help alleviate some of the more monotonous and taxing tasks associated with HR management. Using software-as-a-service (SaaS) as a basis for its platform, Gadjian offers quite a comprehensive list of HR solutions. Besides payroll management, the platform provides automation for standard HR tasks such as leave management, employee data upkeep, shift scheduling and wage structuring and scaling. Fitriati notes that her startup also operates a workshop called Gadjian Academy that educates participants on HR management, and the academy has successfully taught more than four hundred companies across a wide range of sectors. To date, the Jakarta-headquartered startup serves thousands of companies and organizations from a myriad range of industries and sectors and will continue to innovate and evolve the HR space, which shall remain the startup’s primary area of focus even though it is a competitive sector.
E-commerce eyewear platform Glazziq, co-founded by its chief executive officer Prinda Pracharktam, is based in Thailand and is the country’s first e-commerce site to comprehensively specialize in eyewear. Their partnership with Better Vision, Thailand’s leading optical retail chain, has afforded them the ability to provide eye prescription services for free. The startup seeks to disrupt the conventional eyewear retail model by offering their customers a rich, interactive experience on their platform whereby they can examine a rich catalogue of eyewear products ranging from sunglasses to eyeglasses, helped along by vibrant photos, search filters and personal recommendations, all of which are unavailable in conventional outlets. Once the customer has selected their eyewear of choice, it is then shipped to their homes directly from the manufacturing factories, thus eliminating the middlemen and saving on costs. Besides the aforementioned free eye prescription services, the e-commerce platform also provides excellent after-sales services through their partner stores.
Policypal, a Singapore-based insurtech company founded by Val Yap in 2016 – who is also the startup’s chief executive officer and is featured in Forbes 30 under 30 – is the first startup to graduate from the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) fintech regulatory sandbox. The financial planning platform is backed by Global Brain, Paypal and 500 Startups. The digital direct insurance broker aims to enable its users to optimize their financial planning through predictive analytics, and offers them a wide range of insurance products on its app that are from the numerous insurance companies that the startup is working with. As well, the platform also acts as a connector of insurers and financial advisors. With well over fifty thousand users, PolicyPal is focusing on continually evolving the insurtech space by innovating new financial services solutions and products to positively impact the insurance sector.
These women-led tech startups are transforming and disrupting traditional industry and business models while spearheading new innovations and solutions to bring more value to their industries and ecosystems. Southeast Asia is a region that is ready for its female founders to display their ingenuity and capabilities, and the region as a whole stands to gain much from their worthy contributions.