Southeast Asia: Why the real money is in logistics, not e-commerce.

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Dec 26, 2015

A quiet revolution is underway in an obscure warehouse in Singapore, and you’d be hard pressed to pick its leader out of the pack. When drivers arrive at the nondescript building to report for duty at logistics startup Ninja Van, the CEO blends in among the other mostly 20-something men in polo shirts and flip-flops.

Changwen Lai is a lifelong entrepreneur. As a student at Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College – Singapore’s most elite schools alongside Hwa Chong Institution – he spent his free time buying used mobile phones at below-market prices from internet forums, and then selling them for a tidy sum. Later, he’d buy bicycle parts, put them together, and sell the two-wheelers for a profit.

“I wanted extra pocket money,” he says, lighting up a cigarette. That was the best use of his free time, since he didn’t need to attend extra lessons – “tuition” as they’re called in Singapore – to get good grades.

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