Thai billionaire heir's startup Amity flourishes amid pandemic

BANGKOK, June 30 (Reuters) - Tech startup Amity, run by the grandson of Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, has managed to break even for the first time thanks to a surge in demand for its communication platform during the coronavirus pandemic, its chief executive said.

Amity, until recently known as Eko, saw a 200% jump in revenue in the second quarter as hotels, hospitals and cleaning firms used its product, 25-year old CEO Korawad Chearavanont told Reuters.

It comes as demand for remote work technologies like video-conferencing software Zoom has boomed amid lockdowns globally to contain the outbreak.

“This is for people who are not at their desks,” Korawad said of the chat service.

Amity, which has 5 million active users and benchmarks itself against Microsoft Teams and Slack, managed to avoid a loss for the first time since it was founded eight years ago.

Demand came from facilities management and hospitality firms in the United States and Europe, while hospitals in Thailand signed on to manage patient flow and coordinate cases.

Amity generates 80% of its revenue in Thailand, but plans to grow its presence in western markets, Korawad said.

Korawad’s grandfather is senior chairman of the country’s largest agro-industrial conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group).

The startup does not have financial support from the group, but has had some of its firms - including CP Foods and convenience store operator CPALL - as its customers since 2018.

The family privately also has a minority stake in Amity.

The firm counts Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, AirAsia and Japanese trading house Itochu Corp as investors and has raised $30 million since it was founded.

Even though its outlook has improved, Korawad worried this was not enough.

The firm earlier announced it had acquired local chatbot startup, ConvoLab, to enhance its service and boost growth and announced it had changed its name to Amity to reflect this.

“Zoom activity is up, but we’re not seeing anything near that so this prompted the acquisition ... to supercharge our platform,” he said.

The firm had a “decent” shot at a $1 billion valuation next year and is eyeing an initial public offering in 2023, he added. (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)