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Homage announces strategic partnership with Infocom, one of Japan’s largest healthcare IT providers

Homage, a Singapore-based caregiving and telehealth company, has taken a major step in its global expansion plan. The startup announced today that it has received strategic investment from Infocom, the Japanese information and communications technology company that runs one of the largest healthcare IT businesses in the country. Infocom’s solutions are used by more than 13,000 healthcare facilities in Japan.

During an interview with TechCrunch that will air as part of Disrupt tomorrow, Homage co-founder and chief executive Gillian Tee said “Japan has one of the most ageing populations in the world, and the problem is that we need to start building infrastructure to enable people to be able to access the kind of care services that they need.” She added that Homage and Infocom’s missions align because the latter is also building a platform for caregivers in Japan, in a bid to help solve the shortage of carers in the country.

Homage raised a Series B earlier this year with the goal of entering new Asian markets. The company, which currently operates in Singapore and Malaysia, focuses on patients who need long-term rehabilitation or care services, especially elderly people. This makes it a good match for Japan, where more than one in five of its population is currently aged 65 or over. In the next decade, that number is expected to increase to about one in three, making the need for caregiving services especially acute.

The deal includes a regional partnership that will enable Homage to launch its services into Japan, and Infocom to expand its reach in Southeast Asia. Homage’s services include a caregiver-client matching platform and a home medical service that includes online consultations and house calls, while Infocom’s technology covers a wide range of verticals, including digital healthcare, radiology, pharmaceuticals, medical imaging and hospital information management.

In a statement about the strategic investment, Mototaka Kuboi, Infocom’s managing executive officer and head of its healthcare business division, said, “We see Homage as an ideal partner given the company’s unique cutting-edge technology and market leadership in the long-term care segment, and we aim to drive business growth not only in Homage’s core and rapidly growing market in Southeast Asia, but also regionally.”

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While America Looks Away, Autocrats Crack Down on Digital News Sites

Like many American media types, I spent a lot of time last week reading heated arguments about free speech. I was wondering if I, too, could count myself as a “veteran of the Twitter wars” when Steven Gan distracted me by telling me about his car.

Mr. Gan, the co-founder and editor in chief of Malaysia’s most important political news site, is leaving his hatchback at home on Monday morning and catching a ride to court with a colleague. That’s because Mr. Gan thinks there’s a good chance he’ll be going straight from the courthouse to jail.

The nominal charge against him is contempt of court, a charge brought because his site, Malaysiakini, briefly hosted user comments insulting the judiciary. But his real crime, in the eyes of the government, appears to be his years of straightforward journalism, often chronicling the corruption of the faction that recently retook power in Malaysia.

“Power is consolidating power” around the world, said Maria Ressa, the co-founder of the Filipino site Rappler, who has been watching with alarm and sympathy from Manila, across the South China Sea. “By taking out independent news groups, it’s easier for the voice with the loudest megaphone to shape reality.”

Ms. Ressa, who is currently out on bail after a conviction under a new “cyber libel” law, has emerged as perhaps the world’s best spokeswoman for journalism that confronts power. That power, in her case, is the Trump-like Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, who ranted last week about the “bright girls” attacking him and said he was compiling information on Ms. Ressa, in particular.

I first met Ms. Ressa, and Mr. Gan’s co-founder, Premesh Chandran, and a half dozen digital media entrepreneurs from difficult places when I was running BuzzFeed, a high-profile new newsroom. They often came to our gleaming Manhattan headquarters, sat with me at long tables in our cafeteria and asked advice from an American company that was leading a global explosion of digital media outlets.

Image
Credit…Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

It quickly became clear that the premise of those conversations was ludicrous. I should have been seeking their advice. They had, on shoestring budgets and in the face of unrestrained government pressure, created the kind of mission-driven, scrappy and successful news sites that American start-ups dreamed of becoming. Malaysiakini, founded back in the long-ago Slate era, the 1990s, built the sort of robust subscription business that almost everyone is now trying to generate. When government attacks cost Rappler a third of its advertising in one month in 2018, it began doing data analysis for businesses to keep itself afloat. The Russian site Meduza started what became a breakout podcast network with a couple of microphones in a cramped apartment in Riga, Latvia. Its app includes a special setting for users in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, who would otherwise be blocked.

And then there’s their physical courage. Mr. Gan could well be in prison by the time you read this. Ms. Ressa is awaiting her appeal. Lina Attalah, the editor in chief of one of Egypt’s few remaining independent voices, Mada Masr, was arrested while interviewing an activist in May and is also out on bail. A Meduza correspondent was held by police in Moscow for two nights on trumped-up drug charges last summer.

“They are the little Gaulish village holding out against Rome,” marveled Naresh Fernandes, the editor and co-founder of Scroll, an Indian news site. Scroll, like the Hong Kong Free Press, represents a different strain in the current crisis for independent media — both are digital outlets in countries now rolling back their once-robust free press traditions.

The reporters and editors of this global generation of digital start-ups are, pound for pound, the most impressive journalists in the world. Their high-impact, low-cost model is seen as “the future of journalism in places where investigative or accountability journalism is difficult,” says Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The attacks on them are a tribute to their power, to an independence that reflects the best promise of the internet and to the threats they pose to corrupt and autocratic leaders.

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Credit…Roger Anis/Associated Press

But these outlets are now in more danger than ever. Even as they are facing the same advertising challenges from Facebook and Google —  and now an economic crisis —  that have stalled the growth of American digital media, they are contending with autocrats who increasingly draw their attacks from a common playbook. Many governments around the world are looking to an alternative model in China, which puts tight controls on domestic media and is in the process of imposing its stifling regime on Hong Kong. And digital upstarts aren’t the only ones feeling it — in the Philippines on Friday, Congress voted not to renew the franchise of the country’s main broadcaster, and Russia is pursuing treason charges against a respected former print journalist.

The coronavirus crisis, meanwhile, has given governments from Thailand to Cambodia to Hungary an excuse to crack down on independent media. The pandemic is also creating new tensions between authoritarian governments that seek to control the story of the spread and international outlets that, as domestic crackdowns intensify, can still sometimes report freely and be read locally online.

And then there’s President Trump. It can sometimes be hard to put your finger on the concrete effects of his corrosive rhetoric, but you can look to media around the world to see them. American private and nonprofit investment, and official political support, through the years had been a double-edged sword for independent media. That support helped new outlets around the world get a foothold, but the American connection could also be used to accuse them of disloyalty.

President Trump appears to have laid down the sword entirely.

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Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

“The knowledge that the United States and other Western democracies are going to be on your case often deters authoritarian leaders from taking these kinds of actions,” said Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, who was assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration. Not any more. Now, he said, “the official policy of the president of the United States is that free and independent media are the enemy of the people.”

Last week, in a particularly clear signal to autocrats around the world, the Trump administration began refusing to renew visas for Voice of America employees, some of whom may be driven back into the arms of authoritarian governments they’ve been criticizing on the American airwaves.

A State Department spokesman, who spoke (despite his title) on the condition he not be named, said, “The department speaks both publicly and privately about the importance of independent media and on specific cases, where appropriate, and will continue to do so.” He added that the secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, “has called on all governments to release journalists jailed for their work and to hold accountable those who commit crimes against them.”

The American media is now convulsing over questions of speech, important fights with real stakes, particularly when it comes to the decisions made by and for the giant tech platforms. But the overriding lesson from President Trump’s admirers around the world is obvious: that the ultimate, most severe threats to a free press come from governments, which, to justify their actions, have seized opportunistically on causes ranging from requiring platforms to moderate posts to cracking down on “fake news” to imposing new licensing requirements.

I started reporting on the attacks on my favorite journalists like Mr. Gan and Ms. Ressa feeling pessimistic. But it’s impossible not to be moved by their perhaps insane optimism and by how much they love their work. “The fact that there is nothing else out there gives us an immense sense of purpose — it makes you feel like you’re really doing something essential despite all the odds,” Ms. Attalah said.

Mr. Gan told me he “would not have lasted 20 years if I was not an incorrigible optimist,” adding that the current crackdown in Malaysia could be the worst yet. (In fact, he asked me not to describe the make and color of his car because it could be a target for attacks.) Ms. Ressa’s motto is, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

And Luz Mely Reyes, who co-founded a Venezuelan site whose name translates as “Firefly Effect,” said she has noticed one bright spot in the crisis: Even government officials have been forced to rely on her site’s and others’ reports on the coronavirus because they know the official numbers can’t be trusted.

“They know that people need information, and they know that people don’t believe them,” she said.

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Regulatory initiatives to help Malaysian life insurance business surpass US$13bn in 2023, says GlobalData

The Malaysian
life insurance market, in terms of gross written premiums, is projected to grow
at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4% from MYR46.7bn (US$11.6bn) in 2019
to MYR55.4bn (US$13.7bn) in 2023, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics
company.

GlobalData’s report, ‘Malaysia Life Insurance: Key Trends and Opportunities to 2023’, reveals that term insurance, endowment and whole life products account for almost 90% of Malaysia’s life insurance business. Rising working-age population and government and regulatory initiatives towards affordable insurance products are the key factors driving the growth.

Sangharsan Biswas, Insurance
Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “As of end-2018, the share of working-age
population stood at 66.2%. This offers huge growth potential as 46% of the
population still does not own life insurance product.”

IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION: Please click here
for enlarged chart

In 2017, the Malaysian government
launched affordable insurance scheme, Perlindungan
Tenang
, aimed at enabling accessibility of life insurance for economically
weaker section of the population. Since then, leading insurers such as Allianz
introduced micro-insurance products to tap into this segment. Sun Life Malaysia
partnered with U Mobile to offer affordable mobile-based life micro-insurance, to
cater to U Mobile’s customer base. Similarly, Gibraltar BSN partnered with
mobile wallet provider Boost Malaysia to promote mobile-based insurance premium
payments. These steps are expected to expand life insurance penetration in the
country.

Efforts are also being made
by the regulatory authority and industry association to promote insurance
awareness. In 2019, a national strategy plan for financial literacy was
launched to implement large-scale awareness campaign.

The regulatory authority has
also been taking steps towards improving product accessibility. It is now mandatory
for life insurers in Malaysia to offer standalone term insurance through their direct
distribution channel – either own office or online platform. Due to their more
affordable pricing, it is expected to help insurance adoption.

Biswas concludes: “With
focus on improving accessibility of insurance in the country, insurers will use
technology to expand their reach and also offer affordable products.”

Source: GlobalData

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Dahmakan, a Malaysian “full-stack” food delivery startup, raises $18 million Series B

Dahmakan, a full-stack food delivery startup based in Malaysia, announced today that it has closed a $18 million Series B. Investors include Rakuten Capital, White Star Capital, JAFCO Asia and GEC-KIP Fund, along with participation from South Korean food delivery app Woowa Brothers, and returning investors Partech Partners and Y Combinator.

This brings Dahmakan’s total funding to about $28 million. Its previous round of financing was announced last May.

Launched by former executives from FoodPanda, Dahmakan was the first Malaysian startup to participate in Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program. Operational costs for food delivery companies are notoriously high, and eat away at their profitability, but Dahmakan is among several startups that use “cloud” kitchens, located closer to customers, in order to reduce delivery costs.

The foundation of the startup’s full-stack platform is an operating system that controls nearly every step of its operations, from recipe development to last-mile delivery, and its cloud kitchens are part of “satellite” hubs placed around different cities to be closer to customers.

Instead of delivering from restaurants, Dahmakan creates its own meals, offering about 40 options each week from a database of 2,000 dishes. It selects its weekly menu based on customer data, including food preferences and spending habits, along with market research.

Then customers are given a menu and pick from a schedule of delivery times. Other startups trying to make food delivery more efficient in Southeast Asia by using a vertically-integrated model and cloud kitchens include Grain, which s backed by investors including Openspace Ventures, First Gourmet and Singha Ventures.

In a press statement about Dahmakan’s funding, White Star Capital managing partner Eric Martineau-Fortin said “Dahmakan is well-positioned to serve the growing demand for food delivery services in Southeast Asia with its unique, technology-forward approach of taking control of the entire value chain to provide affordable delivery options to SEA’s rising middle class.”

Source: TechCrunch