Source: The Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam (ISEV)

The world is currently in an unprecedented crisis as countries are being locked down and trades are being halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries like Vietnam has been more successful in containing the spread of the disease and some are still in the midst of the fight against it. Nevertheless, most countries have reached a stage where they realized that governments are becoming helpless with trades not happening and people preferring online over offline. For such, there have been several cases of success startup-government partnerships that is helping to address the larger problem of economic sustainability.

Malaysia as a case study

It is undeniable that Malaysia’s agribusiness industry has faced huge challenges following the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has affected the business operations across the supply chain including the production, distribution, and retailing of agricultural products and the food industry. In response to this, the Ministry of Agriculture is partnering with Dropee, a Malaysian B2B ecommerce startup, to ensure that the distribution of food (such as rice, meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits) across Malaysia is in control and adequate throughout the COVID period.
Dropee’s B2B eCommerce marketplace allows producers across the country to continue selling their produce to wholesalers, retailers, and consumers during the COVID period. Dropee’s initiative with the Ministry of Agriculture provides an alternative sales channel for these producers and suppliers to sell their products online in bulk. Through Dropee’s platform, sellers are also able to access logistics, financing, and insurance support from Dropee key partners.

Other than just a platform to list their produce, Dropee’s team provides hands-on guidance to suppliers from setting up their online B2B store to marketing their products. Because of this, the government of Malaysia views startups as channels of empowerment to empower even the farmers to go digital and get connected with the rest of the supply chain.
Dropee hopes to help all 90,000 farmers and fishermen in Malaysia to leverage Dropee’s B2B marketplace to sell their products, manage the buying demand from their customers, and understand purchasing trends to produce more relevant products for the consumer market.

The main objective of this go-digital initiative is to help producers and suppliers maintain a stable distribution of food supplies and access to safe, quality, and affordable produce for all communities in Malaysia.

As part of the global & highly well-known Y-Combinator and Alibaba’s eFounders Fellowship Programme as well as backed by early stage venture capital firm Vynn Capital, Dropee aims to help businesses across Southeast Asia to digitally transform and adapt towards the new economy – in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than just platforms

Another case of successful startup-government partnership, also from Malaysia, is between Epost, a Borneo based ecommerce logistics platform, and the payment gateway of Sabah state of Malaysia.

Working with the state-owned payment gateway, Sabah Pay, Epost launched a new protect called Epost Protect, a digital insurance product offering Life, Motor and Pet Insurance. This allows for users, especially those who have never been able to purchase insurance products, to be able to make insurance premium payments through the Sabah Pay.

Backed by early stage venture capital firm Vynn Capital, Epost was founded in East Malaysia in 2018 as an online logistics service platform that allows businesses to connect with domestic and international customers. Its current customers include Digital China Holdings, Shopee, Yunda Express and BGO Taiwan.
With this collaboration, Epost leaps into a new industry that is parallel to the ecommerce logistics industry, at the same time, empowering the government to reach out to more citizens of the state. This is aimed at enabling the government to provide support to as many citizens as possible who are situated in the further and rural areas.

Collaboration as the future

As countries start to race to the top in the effort of emerging out of the post-COVID environment, startups become the key of success. One could argue that the success of a government could be indicated by the amount of openness as well as willingness to work with startups and venture capital firms. Firms like Vynn Capital believe that countries will be super-charged if more startups are working with them. At the same time, governments who are able to import foreign startups into the country will benefit from a knowledge transfer perspective, while enabling more local startups to work with international startups.