HelloAsia Says Hello Hong Kong

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HelloAsia.com, an online loyalty rewards site for the Far East, is moving forward with its expansion plans by launching a Hong Kong-specific portion of its site and releasing the HelloAsia Visa Electron Card.

HelloAsia offers its members AsiaRewards points, redeemable for merchandise, for taking surveys, referring friends to the site, signing up for its free AsiaMail e-mail service or making purchases from select e-commerce vendors.

Upon registering for the site, members can currently choose from three regional focuses: Singapore, Taiwan and Korea. In the middle of this month (a specific date was not available at press time) Hong Kong will be added to this list. Additional countries and cities will be added to the site in the coming year.

Depending on what region the user is from, members receive offers and promotions from local merchants in their own language.

Because of the diversity of the different Asia cultures, specialized sites were necessary, according to Henry Elenboggen, CEO of HelloAsia, Singapore. "Asia is very different then the U.S. Although, the general architecture for the sites is the same, the experience of each is localized. We use local partners like Asiana Airlines for the Korean site. We also are running two promotions with Korean stars. We wouldn't launch in Hong Kong with the same partners and celebrities."

During the site's first three weeks, 36,000 members registered. Members can make purchases from the more than 30 merchant partners. Elenboggen expects both of these numbers to grow dramatically as e-commerce takes off overseas. "We're expecting our membership base to grow 25 percent month after month," he said. "This is a nascent market. Asia is expected to generate $100 million in e-commerce for 1999 compared to the $12 or $15 billion in the United States."

The further the reach of the AsiaRewards currency, the site partnered with Visa to launch a branded HelloAsia.com Visa Electron Card in Singapore on Dec. 15. Issued by United Overseas Bank, this card allows members to earn points whenever they use the charge card. The card will be launched in other markets in the near future, according to Elenboggen.

To promote the brand, HelloAsia is running a Valentine's Day promotion through the end of the month for SingTel Mobile & Paging customers who register at the site. Five couples will be randomly selected to earn a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world.

A number of investors are betting this online currency site will take off. It received the highest ever amount of first round funding for any Asian-interest site. Investors including Critical Path, Inc. and Intel Corp. divvied up $20 million.

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