Singapore Brands Going Overseas: Passport to Success

With so many impressive destinations in the region, it’s no wonder that Singaporeans love to travel. But for the founders of TripZilla and YouTrip, it’s not just the travel bug but the entrepreneurship bug that’s biting. Find out how these companies are making overseas journeys even more convenient for us in Asia.

By SGN | 5 Feb 2020

With one of the most powerful passports in the world located within a region full of beach destinations, cheap shopping paradises and cultural wonders, it’s no wonder that Singaporeans are constantly travelling. A study by Visa showed that Singaporeans travel almost four times a year on average for both business and leisure, while a survey by online shopping website Picodi revealed that we spend about S$1,086 on average per holiday per person.

Naturally, Singaporeans are always on the lookout for more information and tools to improve their travelling experience. This is where Singapore-grown companies like TripZilla and YouTrip play a big role in helping jetsetters make the most of their journeys overseas.

Making travel happen – TripZilla

TripZilla was founded in 2010 as an online travel listings portal, giving users the opportunity to compare prices and itineraries from Singapore’s travel agencies. They then branched into travel-related digital content, with the TripZilla Magazine, which quickly became a hit.

Their online content now spans travel guides, suggested itineraries and information on a variety of interests including winter sports and luxurious overseas experiences.

TripZilla Founder and CEO, Winnie Tan

“Our aim is to become the top travel digital media brand in Southeast Asia,” said TripZilla founder Winnie Tan. “We believe the travel industry in the region is set to grow over time, driven by the rising middle class.”

TripZilla hopes to cater to both travellers as well as travel brands.

“Southeast Asia is a difficult and fragmented region to market to, so we want to position ourselves as the travel media partner that can help travel brands access the entire SE Asia market.”

The company soon expanded its content offerings into other countries in the region, entering Malaysia in 2013, the Philippines in 2015 and Indonesia the following year. This rapid regional expansion came from a keen insight into the travel habits of each country in Southeast Asia, which led them to create separate online platforms for each country they are in.

“As a travel media publication and channel, we needed to localise our content to attract the right audience for each market,” shared Tan. “We hired a local content and business development team for each country’s platform. Having a country-specific platform also allows advertisers to better target audiences.”

This was easier said than done, of course, and TripZilla considers themselves fortunate to have found good regional heads for each of their overseas teams.

Team TripZilla

“It took a while to get the right team and operations in place, but we’re very proud to say that we now have motivated and happy teams that can work independently to grow our brand overseas.”

A big part of keeping their overseas employees happy is finding ways to improve their work-life balance.

“While our teams outside of Singapore work full-time for TripZilla, we only ask that they meet once a week, at a co-working space or some other convenient location, to get some facetime with one another,” revealed Tan.

“The rest of the week, they can work remotely, whether from home or wherever they wish. The teams love this arrangement because the traffic in some cities can be a killer, with hours wasted every day just commuting to and from work.”

There are also perks to working for TripZilla, a company that wants to “Make Travel Happen”.

“We always approve leave for travel! People who join TripZilla are passionate about traveling, so we are often in a situation where much of our team are on vacation at any point in time.”

The choice of the financially savvy traveller – YouTrip

Launched in 2018, YouTrip is Singapore’s first multi-currency travel wallet with a prepaid Mastercard®, designed for travellers to pay overseas with no fees in over 150 currencies. It is the perfect fuss-free accessory for any frequent flier and has been downloaded over 500,000 times since their launch in 2018. But it wasn’t always easy.

“At first, gaining consumers trust was a challenge for us. To overcome this, we worked with and leveraged on established partners like EZ-Link and Mastercard to gain the public’s trust,” said co-founder and CEO Caecilia Chu.

Caecilia Chu, Co-founder and Juthasri Kuvinichkul (June), Founding Partner of YouTrip Thailand

It also helped to have support from the Singapore Government in those early days.

“When we first launched in Singapore, we were very well supported by MAS. Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief Fintech Officer of MAS, connected us to EZ Link, as well as graced our launch event. We are very grateful for his unwavering support and trust in YouTrip from the start.”

However, it was clear that their rapid success is due to their focus on offering an excellent customer experience, for free!

“YouTrip has always focused on putting our users’ needs first. We have grown a community of loyal YouTrip users who truly believe in our product, and in turn, they reciprocate the sincerity by sharing about YouTrip to their friends and family. It is through word of mouth from these loyal users that has definitely helped propel the brand to grow to where it is today. By ensuring that we deliver on our promises, we retain our customers’ trust.”

Further evidence of their success is their recent venture into Thailand. The YouTrip Thailand team has 20 employees, with plans to double that number later this year. A key aspect of their overseas push is partnering with Kasikornbank or KBank, one of the largest commercial banks in the country.

YouTrip Thailand Team

“KBank is a leading bank trusted by the Thai people. They have expertise in digital banking and currency exchange, which makes them a strategic partner,” said Chu. Signing up for YouTrip in Thailand is simple thanks to the bank’s KPlus app.

“Through our partnership, we aim to replicate the success that we’ve enjoyed in Singapore the past year and we’re proud to share that we have surpassed 10,000 user sign ups within the first 12 hours of our Thailand launch.”

Singapore as a stepping stone for overseas expansion

Both the founders of TripZilla and YouTrip believe that starting their company in Singapore made a big difference.

“Singapore has a well-developed travel market, and it gave us some insight into what the rest of the region will be like in the near future,” said TripZilla’s Winnie Tan.

Caecilia Chu of YouTrip believes that Singapore had clear and specific guidelines set in place to help companies like theirs succeed.

“Guidelines like the Payment Systems (Oversight) Act by MAS has helped to guide fintech start-ups like us to operate properly within regulatory frameworks. Starting our operations in Singapore has helped us to set proper operational processes in place which in turn, made it possible for us to replicate when we ventured overseas.”

With companies like TripZilla and YouTrip continuing to grow and succeed, travellers both in Singapore and the region can soon expect to enjoy their overseas adventure of the future, today.

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