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A Rural Taobao service center in Kang County / Image credit: Tech in Asia

In today’s news, Taobao taps China’s rural counties, South Korea commits millions to blockchain investments, and Clinivantage, Helian Health, and Umitron bag funding.

Ecommerce

Rural regions to see more of Taobao (China). Alibaba’s ecommerce platform Taobao is looking to expand to 1,000 counties and 150,000 villages in the country’s rural areas over the next three years. Launched in October 2014, Rural Taobao currently covers 700 counties with over 30,000 service centers where villagers can buy and sell items online. The group says it wants to connect the countryside with cities through this initiative, adding that around half of China’s 1.3 billion people are rural dwellers. (Alibaba)

Online travel agency Cleartrip buys Saudi Arabian travel startup Flyin (India). The purchase is the first cross-border acquisition for the Mumbai-based company, as it looks to expand into West Asia’s travel market. Subject to regulatory approval, the transaction is said to be worth up to US$70 million. Cleartrip said the combination of the two firms will give it a 60 percent market share in the region. Flyin says it has more than 320,000 hotels serving 450 airlines on its portal while Cleartrip claims it sells more than 10 million flight tickets and 1.5 million hotel room nights every year. (Livemint)

Meituan-Dianping surpasses Ctrip in hotel bookings (China). From January to March, Meituan accounted for a 45.5 percent market share in hotel bookings, compared online travel agent Ctrip’s 22 percent, according to information from data analytics firm TrustData. Last year, the company’s hotel bookings hit two billion, a big jump compared to its 45 million bookings three years ago. Meituan bought booking service provider Kuxun.com from Expedia’s TripAdvisor in 2015. (KrAsia)

Agtech

Umitron nets US$8.2 million (Singapore). The “aquatech” company will use the funding to strengthen its existing offerings and boost research and development. Participants in the latest funding round include the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, Design for Ventures by IDEO, and several unnamed angel investors. Its first product UmiGarden, a remote IoT fish feeder which allows supervision of fish farms online, was unveiled earlier this month. Umitron won the Arena startup pitch battle at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2017, pocketing the US$4,500 top prize. (Umitron)

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

Government eyes US$200 million in blockchain investments (South Korea). With plans to groom 10,000 blockchain industry professionals and 100 firms, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT aims to raise the sum by 2022. The project aligns with ongoing blockchain pilots that the ministry has backed, which focus on real estate, shipping and logistics, customs clearance, and livestock record management, among other segments. The announcement comes in the wake of recent hacking incidents involving cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, where the equivalent of about US$70 million was stolen. (CoinTelegraph)

Tencent, Huobi, and other institutions form blockchain security alliance (China). The group was formed with a view towards sustainability and security, on the back of growing expectations tied to the technology’s performance and rising interest from government-tied institutions. Last year, China saw 225 blockchain patents – more than twice the amount for the US. Just within the first 30 days of this year, the country’s blockchain industry secured almost US$105 million in investments, research showed. (TechNode)

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Photo credit: Xresch

Health and well-being

Helian Health raises US$75 million in SenseTime-led series B round (China). The startup will use the funds to build on its technical capabilities in the areas of AI, internet of things and big data. The round, led by AI unicorn Sensetime and backed by other investors such as Hangzhou Lianchuan Investment and Wanxiang Investment, brings the company’s valuation to US$900 million. Set up in 2013, the firm says it supplies WiFi to over 1,700 hospitals in China. Two of its health recording apps – Xiaohe Yizhu and Hejiankang – have served over 97 million patients and 1.4 million doctors. (DealStreetAsia)

Clinivantage gets US$1 million funding (India). With funds from US-based Metaform Ventures, the healthcare startup will use the money for its expansion plans and product development. Set up in 2016, Clinivantage claims to have more than 6.5 million consumers on its HealthHuddle.in platform, with over 5,000 registered outpatient clinics. Its other platform MyLife has records of over 10 million users. (Inc42)

Delivery and logistics

Zomato in discussions to raise US$400 million (India). Nipping on the heels of archrival Swiggy – which secured US$210 million in funding plus unicorn status earlier this week – food-delivery firm Zomato is reported to be in talks to raise funds from existing investors Ant Financial and Temasek. The prospective funding could bring the company’s valuation to as much as US$2 billion. Zomato operates in 23 countries and transacts around US$13.4 million-worth of orders every month. (Livemint)

Startup ecosystem

Freelancers can now get insured (Singapore). GigaCover revealed its first on-demand income protection insurance for workers in the gig economy, calling it a “first of its kind” and the “only one” in the country. Called freelancer income protection insurance (FLIP), interested parties can buy it on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, at a beginner’s price from S$2. GigaCover claims it allows flexibility as customers can change or stop their coverage anytime, with no extra fees. The underwriter for FLIP is Etiqa Insurance. (GigaCover)

Investors, incubators, and accelerators

Blockchain startup incubator Bluehill launches US$50 million fund (China). To support the IOST protocol blockchain network, the incubator is looking to put in about US$500,000 per project, with an initial funding of US$100,000. Follow-on investments for the projects could be in the low millions, Bluehill added. The incubator also said it is open to projects that are not built on the IOST platform, noting that it will work with Binance Labs and Huobi Capital to invest in startups. Bluehill has already invested in seven decentralized application projects so far, with two of them built on IOST. (IOST)

See: Previous Asia tech news roundups

This post Asia news roundup: Meituan beats Ctrip at its own game, Taobao goes rural, and more appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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