Hong Kong-based startup Tink Labs has struck a strategic alliance with Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn. The deal provides funding and hardware support to power the expansion of its free-to-use handset solution Handy to an estimated 3 million hotel rooms around the world.
Beyond the investment of $135m from Foxconn, Tink Lab has also secured cooperation with leading hotels around the world. Having officially entered the Taiwanese market on February 21, the company also revealed plans to become listed on the local stock exchange in March or April of this year.
Win-win for hotels and guests
If things go according to Tink Labs’ plan, there may soon be no need to pay for expensive roaming charges when traveling to another country. Founded in April 2012 by then 19-year old Terence Kwok, the startup has set out to provide frequent travelers with a free communication solution.
Tink Labs’ standout product, aptly titled Handy, envisions a communication platform for tourists that is supported by local hotels and tourism bureaus.
Partnering hotel chains or cities provide each room with a free-to-use and carry customized smartphone, which guests may use to make calls, send texts, or access the internet while traveling.
Since Handy is linked to the hotel or location, guests can also use the device to access promotional discounts at local stores and book hotel services.
The company believes its major revenue stream will come from related advertising along with set- up fees and other monthly charges paid for by hotels.
Hotels, on the other hand, will
benefit from the increased engagement with their guests thanks to Handy.
Tink Lab’s handsets are already available in more than 30 cities and 100,000 hotel rooms around the world, with partners including renowned brands like Hyatt Regency, The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Hotels, or Sheraton.
The Handy provides hotels with valuable user data from location sensor, which can be analyzed later to understand which restaurants or scenic areas were visited by guests.
According to a survey carried out by Tink Labs, offering the free-to-use handset can increase hotel occupancy alone by 20%, while food and beverage consumption rises by up to 30%, and other services may grow by 35%.
The company has already accumulated more than 1.2 million members since its launch, but hopes to see these numbers grow even more.
Akina Ho, executive vice president of Tink Labs’hospitality business, expects Handy to be available in more than 100 countries and over three million hotel rooms by 2017.
In Taiwan alone,where the company cooperates with three-star hotels and above, Tink Labs aims to be prominent in 10,000 rooms by the end of the year.
Foxconn alliance drives international expansion
This ambitious expansion is driven partially by Foxconn. The Taiwanese manufacturer has already made two rounds of financial investment in Tink Labs, while Foxconn- owned Sharp provides production support for the handsets, and Asia Pacific Telecom the communication infrastructure as well as support in Taiwan.
According to Ho, Foxconn is a natural partner due to its expertise, which will allow Handy to meet international telecommunication standards and reach more markets.
Currently, approximately 10,000 Handy handsets are deployed in hotel rooms, most of which are either older InFocus M812 or Sharp M1 handsets. However, Foxconn is currently working with Sharp on developing an upgraded model. Tink Labs hopes that the T1 handset will be the main Handy hardware by mid-2017.
Ho said that since each handset is expected to perform certain functions, it will come equipped with specific software and a designated SIM card.
As a security measure, removal of the SIM will render the device useless. Additionally, Handy’s phone functions can be controlled by hotel staff when needed.
Now at the young age of 25, Tink Lab founder Terence Kwok is well on his way to become a global entrepreneur. His company has already expanded to many cities all over the world.
Rumored to be worth well over $500m, Tink Lab is one of the highest-valued startups in Hong Kong. With some 300 employees currently and a target of 900 by the end of the year, Tink Labs’ free-to-use Handy is set to provide convenience to travellers well outside its native East Asian market.