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The biggest tech giants you’ve (probably) never heard of

Amazon, Google, and Facebook may dominate the tech scene, but there’s another realm of digital innovators making waves across the globe. From a Brazilian digital banking revolution to a Kenyan peer-to-peer payments trailblazer, these ten under-the-radar tech platforms are actively reshaping the future.


Nubank, Brazil: Disrupting digital banking

Move over HSBC, the real giant in the digital banking arena is Sao Paulo-based Nubank. With a user base of nearly 90 million spread across Brazil, Mexico, and Columbia, this mobile-only platform is on a mission to transform financial services in Latin America. Boasting a $4 billion investment, including backing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Nubank aims to foster financial inclusion through its innovative mobile app.


M-Pesa, Kenya: Pioneering peer-to-peer payments

M-Pesa, the Kenyan marvel, has revolutionised peer-to-peer payments by enabling secure money transfers via text messages. Embraced by 84% of Kenya’s population and expanding its footprint across Africa and beyond, M-Pesa stands as the continent’s most successful mobile money service, inspiring similar platforms worldwide.


PhonePe, India: Leading digital wallets

In a sea of payment apps in India, PhonePe emerges as the frontrunner, using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Acquired by Flipkart and later becoming a centrepiece in Walmart’s mega acquisition, PhonePe is a versatile solution with 480 million registered users, facilitating everything from inter-bank transfers to in-app purchases.


Shopee, Singapore: E-commerce dynamo

Dubbed the “Amazon of the Global South,” Shopee is a force to be reckoned with in e-commerce. Operating in Southeast Asia and Latin America, Shopee pioneered livestreaming and “shoppertainment” in online shopping, and now boasts 343 million monthly users and a market share of approximately 50%.


Showmax, South Africa: Streaming sensation

Showmax, South Africa’s rapidly expanding streaming platform to rival Netflix, has extended its reach to over 40 African countries. Emphasising local markets and diversifying payment channels, Showmax is poised to triple its streaming users from 5 million to 15 million over the next three years, securing a spot among Africa’s top streaming services.


Grab, Singapore: The super app revolution

From ride-hailing to grocery shopping and handling finances, Grab has evolved into Southeast Asia’s all-encompassing super app. Originating in Singapore, its popularity stems from its ability to meet diverse needs in one place, a feat Uber was slow to grasp in the region. Grab’s slogan sums things up nicely: The Everyday Everything App.


Transsion, China: Africa’s mobile phone maven

Transsion, Africa’s top mobile phone supplier, started in Lagos, offering localised features like dual SIM support and cameras adept at recognising darker skin tones. In 2017, its market share in Africa surpassed Samsung, driven by competitive pricing and a “glocalisation” strategy tailored to local markets. Today, Transsion is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, which says something about the trajectory of the Sino/African tech sector.


Bitso, Mexico/US: Crypto exchange champion

Bitso, the Mexican crypto-exchange, has found a smart use for cryptocurrency: remittances. The crypto exchange has captured a substantial 4% of the total remittances exchanged between the United States and Mexico. With lower transaction commissions, Bitso has positioned itself against giants like Western Union and MoneyGram, boasting a customer base of 6 million individuals and 1,500 institutions.


Kitopi, UAE: Revolutionising ghost kitchens

Ghost kitchens – also known as dark kitchens or cloud kitchens – are commercial kitchens optimised for third party food delivery services. Kitopi, based in the UAE, is a pioneer which manages over 60 kitchens throughout the Gulf states. Partnering with restaurant brands, Kitopi turns recipes into reality within 14 days, playing a pivotal role in launching virtual restaurants for big names like Shake Shack and Papa John’s.


BYD, China: Driving electric vehicle innovation

BYD, short for ‘Build Your Dreams,’ is not just leading China’s electric vehicle market but challenging Tesla on a global scale. Broadening its focus to commercial vehicles like taxis and buses, BYD sold over 3 million vehicles in 2023, solidifying its position as an electric powerhouse.


These lesser-known titans may not have the global brand recognition of Amazon or Google, but they’re carving their niche and reshaping the tech landscape in surprising ways.

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Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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