SoftBank invests in Japan hotel technology service Handy

July 04, 2018 12:16
Handy, developed by Hong Kong-based Tink Labs, provides users with free access to mobile internet, unlimited local and international calls, and multilingual tourist information, among other features. Photo: Handy Japan

Handy Japan, a startup offering free-to-use smartphones docked in hotel rooms, announced it has received an investment from Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Handy, developed by Hong Kong-based Tink Labs, is now available in 650,000 rooms in 4,000 hotels in 82 countries, the company said.

Aside from offering mobile internet access, the device enables users to contact the hotel concierge, make unlimited local and international calls, and view multilingual tourist information.

Since its launch in July 2017 as a complimentary hotel service, the free handset service has been adopted by 1,700 hotels and 240,000 rooms, covering nearly 30 percent of all hotels in Japan, according to the company.

It counts Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt and other luxury and budget hotels among its clients.

“Handy has redefined the accommodation experience and the hotel business,” Japan Times quoted SoftBank CEO Ken Miyauchi as saying.

While both SoftBank and Handy declined to disclose the size of the investment, Miyauchi indicated that the investment will be less than 20 percent of the total stake of Handy Japan’s parent firm Handy Japan Holdings Co., the newspaper reported.

Handy Japan was formed in 2016 through a joint venture between Tink Labs and Sharp, following a US$125 million investment in Tink Labs by Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn via its FIH Mobile unit,former Google China head Lee Kaifu, and Cai Wensheng, founder of Chinese photo-touch-up app Meitu.

After the investment, Tink Labs’ valuation reached over US$500 million in 2016, founder and CEO Terence Kwok told TechCrunch that year.

Handy Japan CEO Hironori Katsuse said SoftBank's investment will accelerate the firm’s innovation in business areas like “hotel internet of things”, “travel agents” and “media”, and allowing it to benefit from the tourism boom that is expected to come with the approach of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The 26-year-old Kwok said the service will help the firm become “the single ecosystem for all of the travel, encompassing the entire journey of the traveler from end to end".

Katsuse said one of the new features of the Handy smartphone is its ability to lock and unlock hotel room doors without a key or key card, control electronics in the room, and check out without a receptionist, according to Japan Times.

It can also feature a virtual reality media platform and travel features like taxi call services and disaster warning notifications.

The full article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 4

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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