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'Whoscall' company Gogolook sees opportunities and challenges in exploring Southeast Asian markets

Ines Lin, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: DIGITIMES

Known for "Whoscall," an app for phone number identification, Gogolook is one of the few successful software companies born in Taiwan. Listed in the Taiwan Innovation Board in July, Gogolook is expanding its business across Southeast Asia. However, the differences in languages, cultures, and user environments can pose challenges to its expansion.

The company's board members include representatives from Win Semiconductors and the Kirkland Capital Group. During the first three quarters of 2023, it earned NTD$559 million (US$17.8 million) in revenue, of which 59% was collected in Taiwan, 40% from East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, and 1% from other countries.

Mel Migriño, Gogolook's Southeast Asia Regional Director for Information Security and Regulatory Alliance and Philippines Country Representative, sat for an interview with DIGITIMES during her stay in Taiwan for the first Anti-Scam Asia Summit co-organized by Gogolook and Global Anti-Scam Alliance (GASA) in late November.

She noted that many Southeast Asians use mobile devices before they gain access to personal computers, echoing some experts' observation that many Southeast Asians skip the personal computer generation.

Smart solution for fighting scams

The number of scams across the globe is on a continuously upward trend, but not many companies can offer effective consumer protection solutions, Migriño said. She added that most cybersecurity firms and malicious hackers target enterprise users, while mobile cases are not as much in the limelight.

Under this context, Gogolook is quite competitive, as it develops smart solutions to fight scams and continues to expand ties with public and private sectors, she said.

In the Philippines, e-commerce and social media platforms are the most common channels for scam dissemination, and fraudsters tend to reach victims first via Facebook and shift to WhatsApp or Viber for following contact, she observed.

Investment scams and employment scams, which often link to human trafficking, are common types of fraud, and there are persistent attacks targeting government agencies and national defense agencies, she said.

These problems sound similar to what is happening in Taiwan. However, there are notable differences in the mobile user environment in the Philippines and Taiwan, epitomizing the differences between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries.

For example, the smartphone penetration rate is nearly 90% in Taiwan but is approximately 40% in the Philippines. Apple is the most favorite handset brand in Taiwan, while Samsung is more dominant in the Philippines due to a wider range of mid-level offers.

Besides, the major e-commerce platform in Manila is Lazada (a majority of its shares acquired by China's Alibaba group) and Shopee; the primary e-payment platform is GCash, which differs from Taiwanese preferences.

A former CISO of GCash, Migriño said she will bring her expertise in information security to Gogolook and help the company forge ties with public and private sectors across the region. In addition to regulatory agencies in the government, private companies in telecom and e-commerce industries are also potential partners, she said.

Regarding its business across Southeast Asia, Gogolook said it has established presences in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, with Thailand being its earliest destination and posting the best outlook.

The number of Whoscall users in Thailand is now lower than in Taiwan. However, advertisement revenues there are already higher than in Taiwan, other Gogolook executives previously told an investors' conference, expecting the number of Whoscall users in Thailand to surpass that in Taiwan next year.

Asked why Singapore is not prioritized in its market development, Gogolook said it tends to partner with companies in the telecom and Internet industries given the number of mobile users there is smaller.

In addition to the Whoscall App, the company plans to launch more consumer protection, enterprise protection, and fintech solutions in Southeast Asia. With its database strength, the company also looks forward to assisting other companies in developing their own phone number identification services.