Markato, an online wholesale marketplace for independent retailers and buyers in Asia, has on Tuesday announced its official debut in Asia, launching first in Hong Kong.

Markato said in a statement that the fast-growing startup is aiming to transform the business to business (B2B) wholesale industry by providing a one-stop-shop for retailers and buyers to source and fulfill premium independent brands from around the world.

Along with significantly reduced procurement and logistics costs, Markato said the firm will digitize the entire product discovery process into one seamless end-to-end wholesale buying experience.

According to the statement, Markato will expand its footprint across the region beginning with Singapore in the coming months, to unlock the Southeast Asia hub’s B2B wholesale and retail opportunity.

The start-up looks to expand its network to include over 2,000 buyers and 2,000 brands over the coming months.

Following the launch in Hong Kong, Markato will ramp up hiring of engineering, product and business development talent, adding to a founding team of marketplace and retail veterans who held senior positions at Deliveroo, Grab, Net-a-Porter and Uber.

It said growing Markato’s core team will enable it to build on the marketplace’s proprietary technology, optimizing logistics infrastructure and further develop data-driven product and service offerings to support Asia retailers’ and global brands’ underserved needs.

Markato was founded in 2023 and helmed by Brian Lo and Martin Li, entrepreneurs with a track record in launching and scaling leading marketplace businesses across Asia at Deliveroo and Uber.

The firm has raised $5 million in the second quarter in a seed-round funding led by Lightspeed, with participation from other industry leaders.

This marks the global venture capital’s first investment in Hong Kong.

Markato is growing its business rapidly across Asia over the next 12 months, tapping into the giant retail market fueled by the fast-growing middle-class population in Asia looking for global independent brands.

Since they closed the fundraising round in the second quarter of 2023, they have expanded the team to 19 employees and have partnered with over 200 brands mainly from Europe, United States and Australia, with 80 percent of the brands not previously available in Asia of which 90 percent of products are being exclusively sold through the Markato marketplace, providing retailers in Asia with access to over 4,000 unique products.

The team is on-track to 10 times the amount of brand supply by the end of 2023.

Markato soft launched in July and the marketplace has already seen significant interest from new customers, including prominent retailers such as kapok, independent retail shops such as Co Ninety Select Shop and TLE Wellness Select Shop, and well-established “buy-to-use” segment customers such as leading hospitality group JIA Group.

The Markato platform integrates with cross-border payment and end-to-end logistics functionality, enabling retailers and buyers to save at least 20 percent of transaction and logistics costs.

Markato also offers a 60-day Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) option for retailers, while extending a 90-day free returns feature that eliminates retailers’ risk from unsold inventory.

All of these benefits are aimed at reducing retailers’ risk of trying out new products while allowing them to increase customer traffic and sales opportunities with new and unique products.

“Retailers and buyers across Asia are always on the lookout for exciting brands and premium products from around the world that sets them apart without straining their limited resources,

“However, sourcing new brands from outside of Asia has traditionally been very costly, marred by process inefficiencies and time-intensive offline coordination,” said Brian Lo, Co-Founder of Markato.

According to him, it is also extremely risky given high inventory risk in procuring new products for local customers.

He said that Markato creates opportunities for Asia’s retailers to tap a global marketplace and access a curated mix of unique global brands by providing cost and time-efficient operational support while eliminating capital constraints and inventory risk for the buyers.

By digitizing a traditionally offline and inefficient process, he said the firm enables retailers and buyers to rethink their product mix and achieve diversification that ultimately helps them attract new customers and generate higher sales.

It is noted that Markato’s digital platform enables independent brands to streamline and manage their distribution to Asia through one centralized platform at greater efficiency.

Brands can sell globally in the same way they sell locally on Markato, and reduce their customer acquisition cost and operating costs while growing their brand and discoverability in Asia.

They can also make use of valuable pricing, data analytics and recommendations provided by Markato to grow their business.

“Around the world, there are amazing boutiques and brands that simply do not have the network or manpower to be present in Asia,

“At the same time, buyers in Asia always want the most interesting independent brands from around the world,” said Martin Li, Co-Founder of Markato.

According to him, Markato is transforming the way the wholesale sector operates by connecting brands with new retail opportunities in Asia by leveraging proprietary technology and cross-border infrastructure.

“Tapping the previously underserved needs of cross-border retail, we ensure lower transaction costs for retailers and brands, empowering access for Asia’s B2B wholesale and retail industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed Partner Rahul Taneja said that their vision to serve independent businesses in Asia and enable access to the best products globally is a compelling one.

“Early progress on the platform is very encouraging and we strongly believe they are the perfect team to transform retailers’ end-to-end experience in Asia,” he added.

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