Rainforest & the rise of Ecommerce Aggregators in Asia Pacific with JJ Chai

Rainforest & the rise of Ecommerce Aggregators in Asia Pacific with JJ Chai
JJ Chai shares the backstory and inspiration behind his new company, Rainforest & key trends on ecommerce aggregators in Asia Pacific.

Fresh out of the studio, JJ Chai, CEO and co-founder of Rainforest, joined us in a discussion on his company, a leading eCommerce aggregator that focuses on brands and products for the modern mum and offered his perspectives on the rise of ecommerce aggregators in Asia Pacific region. We dived into how JJ shared the vision and mission of Rainforest and their customer focus for the ecommerce aggregator. From there, we broadened the conversation with JJ explaining how ecommerce aggregators work with platforms such as Amazon and their playbook in selecting the right brands to acquire, scale and distribute. Last but not least, JJ offered his perspectives on how the landscape of ecommerce aggregators will change in the next couple of years globally.

But fundamentally the core of the business, at least the way we see it, is that, we need to be great operators of these brands as a start, in fact the best operators for these brands. For us here, it's about looking into ways to be differentiated around how to run those brands better than anyone else, and definitely better than the last owner. - JJ Chai


  • Chai Jia Jih, CEO and co-founder of Rainforest (@jjchai.eth, LinkedIn)
  • It has been a long time since we last spoke. At that point, you were in Airbnb, and then you moved to Carousell and xto10x Southeast Asia for a while. My first question, how was the experience in helping the founders of a rising startup to scale a company?
  • Given that you are recently profiled in the Ken as one of the founders who are active prolific angel investors by night in Southeast Asia, how do you select companies to invest in and what are the traits or red flags you found in teams before you decide to make that investment?

Rainforest and the rise of Ecommerce Aggregators in Asia Pacific

  • What is the inspiration behind Rainforest?
  • What is the mission and vision of Rainforest?
  • How did you assemble the team and bring this mission and vision to life? How do their skillsets help to bring the company together?
  • Congratulations on your recent $36m round led by Nordstar with Insignia Partners (Source: TechCrunch), can you talk about the investors who have been part of your company’s journey and how they are helpful in building out this venture?
  • Given that Rainforest adopts the Amazon-centric approach taken by Thrasio, Branded Group and Berlin Brands group, which are well-known and high profile ecommerce aggregators, can you talk about the market opportunity and broadly, what is the thinking process behind acquiring ecommerce brands in the region and then aggregate them to achieve economies of scale?
  • For Rainforest so far, what are the categories which the brands you have acquired tend to fall under?
  • Based on an interesting research done by Shiv Kapoor on Amazon Aggregators: breakdown research from the Business Breakdowns podcast, Amazon third party aggregators raised $10 billion in capital till date and at least 80 active companies worldwide doing this, my first thought will be, what is the value proposition for Rainforest to acquire these third party sellers?
  • What is the playbook to become an ecommerce aggregator? I understand that Thrasio uses a 503-point checklist to evaluate every acquisition.
  • How do ecommerce aggregators differentiate themselves from each other?
  • Of course, we live in Asia, and there are other ecommerce platforms similar to Amazon: Taobao or T-Mall owned by the Alibaba Group in China, Rakuten in Japan and Coupang in South Korea, does extending the brands under Rainforest help you to hedge the risk against Amazon or how tough is to do the extension (or maybe, just doing Amazon third party retail is good enough?)
  • The naive view from people looking at this space is that since you own a plethora of brands, you can cross-sell or upsell your brands. Is that assertion true or are there really synergies or you just have to build one brand at a time?
  • How has COVID-19 pandemic’s supply chain impact affected your business?
  • What are the risks of the business? One point of view is that there might be coordination friction where you might coordinate the integration of disparate collections of brands that are not interrelated and instead of getting economies of scale, you get a hodgepodge of confusion. How do you deal with this kind of risk?
  • What are the current trends that you see are happening in the ecommerce aggregator space?
  • What is expected to change going forward in the aggregator space?
  • What does great look like for Rainforest in the next few years?


Podcast Information: The show is hosted and produced by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin) and Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin, LinkedIn). Sound credits for the intro and end music: "Run it" by DJ Snake, Rick Ross and Rich Brian and the episode is mixed edited by Geoffrey Thomas Craig (LinkedIn).