Connect with us

Tech

Coupang, South Korea’s Answer to Amazon, Debuts in I.P.O.

Published

on

[ad_1]

SEOUL, South Korea — The small white delivery trucks zip down streets all over South Korea. The uniformed workers send photos of safely delivered packages to impatient customers. Workers can move so fast, their employer promises, that it calls the service “rocket delivery.”

The trucks and the operation belong to Coupang, a start-up founded by a Harvard Business School dropout that has shaken up shopping in South Korea, an industry long dominated by huge, button-down conglomerates. In a country where people are obsessed with “ppalli ppalli,” or getting things done quickly, Coupang has become a household name by offering “next-day” and even “same-day” and “dawn” delivery of groceries and millions of other items at no extra charge.

The company, which is sometimes called the Amazon of South Korea, is set to get a big endorsement on Thursday from Wall Street. Its shares are expected to begin trading in an initial public offering that will raise $4.2 billion and value the company at about $60 billion, the second-largest American tally for an Asian company after Alibaba Group of China in 2014. On Wednesday its shares were priced at $35, according to a person close to the company.

Coupang may need the money. South Korea’s big conglomerates, called chaebol, and others are building their own delivery networks as Coupang plans its expansion. It faces other issues, too, such as growing concerns about working conditions after the death of several Coupang warehouse and delivery workers that some relatives and labor activists blamed on overwork and poor labor practices.

For the moment, Coupang is South Korea’s biggest e-commerce retailer, its status further cemented by people stuck at home during the pandemic and those in the country who crave faster delivery.

“I won’t go so far as to say I can’t live without Coupang, because there are so many other online shopping options available here fiercely competing with each other, and some of them can be as fast as Coupang or cheaper,” said Kim Su-kyeong, a Coupang shopper and mother in Seoul. “But Coupang has branded itself so well it’s the name that​ first​ comes to my mind when I think of shopping online.”

As Bom Suk Kim, who started Coupang in 2010, likes to say, “Our mission is to create a world where customers wonder ‘How did I ever live without Coupang?’”

Mr. Kim, 42, ran an unofficial and short-lived Harvard alumni magazine in the United States before returning to his birth country to revolutionize its e-commerce industry. Coupang’s rapid growth was driven by a combination of daring entrepreneurship and branding.

The company’s name is a mix of the English word “coupon” and “pang,” the Korean sound for hitting the jackpot. In an industry where most delivery workers drive around in nondescript trucks wearing drab jackets, Coupang’s fleet of full-time drivers — known as Coupang Men, but recently renamed Coupang Friends — wear bright uniforms and cruise around in branded, company-issued vehicles.

“Coupang has grown fast by meeting two most important needs of customers: cheap prices and fast delivery,” said Ju Yoon-hwang, a professor of distribution management at Jangan University. “Coupang also offers more goods than competitors, so consumers believe they can find anything on Coupang.”

Only a few start-ups — like Naver, South Korea’s dominant web portal and search engine, and Kakao, its leading messaging app and online bank — have been as successful as Coupang. But Naver and Kakao are both listed in South Korea. Mr. Kim took Coupang to Wall Street aiming to court bigger investors and a higher valuation that would allow his company to eclipse its rivals back home.

South Korea is one of the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets, projected to become the third largest in the world this year, behind​ only​ China and the United States. Its volume, valued at $128 billion last year, is expected to reach $206 billion by 2024, according to Euromonitor International, a market research company.

And it is ideal for e-commerce. About 52 million people live in the country, a vast majority of them in densely populated ​cities. Nearly every home has high-speed internet, and people pay taxes and gas bills with smartphones.

Long before e-commerce arrived, South Korea already had a vibrant delivery culture. ​Families placed phone calls to get their food delivered around the clock. Dry-clean workers climbed stairs in apartment buildings to deliver freshly pressed clothes. Motorbike couriers ferried documents, flowers and whatnot from one ​district to another.

Coupang’s first rivals were eBay-style marketplaces where customers found sellers. Deliveries were made by third-party logistics companies that contracted with independent couriers. Deliveries could take several days.

When Coupang began its “rocket delivery” service in 2014, it set off a price and delivery war. It has since built its own network of logistics hubs, with 70 percent of the population now living within seven miles of a Coupang logistics center, according to the company. The company says it uses machine learning to predict demand and stockpile goods at warehouses. It also runs its own fleet of 15,000 full-time Coupang Friend couriers.

It has also doubled its work force to 50,000 in 2020, becoming South Korea’s third-largest private-sector employer. It plans to create 50,000 more jobs by 2025.

Analysts said Coupang has borrowed from Amazon’s playbook by seeking to become a dominant market force before turning a profit​. The company’s revenues almost doubled last year to $12 billion. But its massive investments in its logistics network, made possible by the funding from foreign investors like Japan’s SoftBank and its Vision Fund, has kept ​it in the red. Its annual net loss ballooned to $1 billion in 2018 before narrowing to $475 million last year.

It recently introduced Coupang Eats, a meal-delivery service, and Coupang Play, a video streaming app. But unlike Amazon, Coupang doesn’t have other businesses, like cloud computing, that can easily generate the cash needed for big expansions. And rivals are putting up fierce competition.

Some of ​the chaebol, the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate the economy, ​are expanding their e-commerce business, especially Lotte and Shinsegae, which operate the country’s biggest department store and shopping mall chains. So is Naver, ​which is ​​already an e-commerce giant.

As competition heats up, superfast ​delivery is quickly becoming the new norm, weakening the novelty of Coupang’s “rocket delivery” service.

Coupang has also faced scrutiny over its labor practices. Former Coupang workers and labor activists accuse the company of exploiting its warehouse workers in its mad rush to turn around orders as fast as possible.

As the number of workers doubled, the number of people who suffered from work-related injuries or illnesses at Coupang and its warehouses jumped to 982 in 2020 from 515 in 2019, according to government data.

“Coupang is an inhumane company that treats its workers like slaves or machine parts, squeezing them until the last drop,” said Park Mi-sook, whose son, Jang Deok-joon, died of a heart attack last October, shortly after returning home from an overnight shift at a Coupang warehouse. His death was ruled a work-related incident, and Coupang has since apologized.

Coupang has denied mistreating its workers. Last year alone, it said, it invested $443 million in the automation of its warehouses and increased its warehouse work force by 78 percent, to 28,400, to make its workers more efficient and lessen the workload.

“What has made Coupang’s rocket delivery possible was its massive employment and investment,” the company said in a statement.

And it continues to pitch itself as an essential service for busy South Koreans.

In a letter to potential investors, Mr. Kim put forward an example of a quintessential Coupang shopper: a working mother who, late at night, realizes she has forgotten to go shopping, and then places an order online through Coupang.

“When she opens her eyes, it’s like Christmas morning,” wrote Mr. Kim. “The order is waiting at her front door.”

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries with palm scan

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries using its parent company’s palm-scanning technology.

Amazon said Wednesday its palm-scanning system — currently used in about a dozen of its brick and mortar stores — will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the first of many planned rollouts at other locations.

The system uses Amazon One technology, which employs high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a “unique palm signature” based on the ridges, lines and veins in each person’s hand.

Its high-tech sensors don’t require users to touch the scanning surface, like Apple’s fingerprint technology does.

Instead, palm-reading tech uses computer vision and depth geometry to process and identify the shape and size of each hand they scan before charging a credit card on file.

Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The company said that the palm-scanning tech will be offered as just one of many payment options at participating Whole Foods Stores and that it won’t impact store employees’ job responsibilities.

“At Whole Foods Market, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers,” said Arun Rajan, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer at Whole Foods Market.

Palm images used by Amazon One are encrypted and stored in a “highly secure” cloud, and customers can request to have their palm data deleted.

The company claims palm-scanning tech is more private than other biometric alternatives, such as facial recognition.

Amazon One builds on the “Just Walk Out” technology that Amazon uses in its Go stores, which detects the items shoppers pick up and charges them once they leave — without the need for a checkout line

Amazon is also planning to expand the cashier-less technology to Whole Foods, as reported by The Post.

Meanwhile, the tech could be good for its bottom line. The online behemoth aims to sell its palm-scanning tech to other companies like retailers, stadiums and office buildings.

Amazon One scanner
The scanner uses high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a unique palm signature which is then encrypted and stored in a secured cloud.
Amazon

Last September, it said it was in “active discussions with several potential customers.” But it is unclear if it has progressed on any of those fronts.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Apple’s new iPad Pros and TV remote don’t have U1 locators to help find them in your couch

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

Apple has been quietly sticking special locator beacon chips into some of its new iPhones that’ll let you unlock your car and find lost items through walls — the latter thanks to the $29 AirTags announced today — but sadly, you won’t find that chip in the new M1-based iPad Pros or the long-awaited new Siri remote for the Apple TV.

Apple confirmed to us that the U1 locator chip, which uses pulses of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio to broadcast its precise location, won’t appear in the Siri remote. We’re waiting on final bulletproof confirmation about the iPad Pros, but it also doesn’t appear in their product page, spec sheet, or press release. Last year’s iP ad Pros didn’t include a U1 chip, either.

Is Apple expecting us to stick AirTags to our iPads and TV remotes to escape the jaws of the ever-ravenous couch? Unlikely, but the company has been pretty choosey about which devices get the chip so far. You can find it in the iPhone 11 and newer (but not the iPhone SE) and the Apple Watch Series 6 (but not the Apple Watch SE), but we’re pretty sure it hasn’t made its way to any iPads or MacBooks that have been announced since the chip’s introduction in September 2019.

Theoretically, Apple could build an ecosystem where any Apple device can easily find any other Apple device (not to mention UWB devices from Samsung, which is also deeply invested in the tech and has its own AirTag-like device as well). But for now, you’ll primarily just be using your phone to find AirTags, not other gadgets, except perhaps your future car.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Your iPhone has a completely hidden app. Here’s how to find and use it

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

Apple’s iPhone is full of hidden features and tricks we’re constantly discovering. For instance, did you know the Notes app has a hidden document scanner? Yeah, pretty cool. The latest hidden feature that’s been popping up on Twitter and blogs is another type of scanner, dedicated to QR codes, and it’s better than the one built into the camera app.

Indeed, you would already be able to filter QR codes utilizing the easy route in Control Center, or simply open the camera application and it will check a QR code. Also, you’re correct. Both of those strategies turn out great. However, the committed Code Scanner application accepts the position above and beyond by introducing a greater amount of the data I need to see about an examined code.

For instance, the camera application utilizes a little notice at the highest point of the screen to open a connection or show you data, though the devoted Code Scanner application makes it exceptionally clear what’s inside the QR code you just checked. Yet, here’s the rub: The Code Scanner application isn’t found on your home screen, nor is it found in iOS 14’s new App Library.

As should be obvious, the best way to discover the Code Scanner application is to utilize the iPhone’s Spotlight search include. Go to your iPhone’s home screen and swipe down in the center of the screen. An inquiry bar will show up at the highest point of your screen, alongside application and alternate route ideas underneath. Type either code or scanner. As you type, you’ll see the Code Scanner application symbol appear as an application idea. Tap to open it.

The flashlight icon at the bottom of the screen acts as a flash to illuminate a code if your phone is struggling to read it.

If you don’t have the QR scanner shortcut added to Control Center yet, here’s a post showing you how to customize Control Center to your liking. For more hidden features, check out our list for iOS 14. We also cover more general, but useful features in iOS 14.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending