What are the new business opportunities in Asia

WiWo founder

The airline's digitization unit praises the dynamic start-up scene in Asia - and also announces that it will systematically invest in start-ups in the future.

Founded in 2014 as the Group's digitization unit, the Lufthansa Innovation Hub (LIH) is expanding. Two new locations are currently being set up - in Singapore and Shenzhen, the airline announced today. Until now, LIH was only based in Berlin. The reason given was that the Asian start-up scene was “more than ever the driver of fundamental technological change along the travel and mobility chain mentioned”.

Both new locations would initially be set up by experts from the currently 32-strong Berlin team, explained LIH managing director Gleb Tritus when asked by WirtschaftsWoche founder. After an "exploration phase", a local team should then be set up. “The Asian market is as fragmented as it is special,” says Tritus. "Therefore, the declared goal is very clear to develop tailor-made solutions for individual Asian markets."

Flagship product airline checkins

As in Europe, the Asian offices should be broadly based. First of all, the airline is concerned with observing the market and identifying new business opportunities. These should then be tackled through partnerships with (young) companies or through products developed in-house. In addition, investments are to be made in start-ups.

At its Berlin location, Lufthansa has concentrated in recent years on developing its own digital products. The prime example is airline checkins. With the service, travelers can have themselves checked in automatically - regardless of whether they are flying with Lufthansa or another airline. Cooperations with start-ups have also been initiated. By contrast, the group has long been cautious when it comes to venture capital.

A major start-up investment was only made in January of this year: Advised by the Innovation Hub, the Lufthansa Cargo division took a stake in the US start-up Fleet. Overall, the financing round of the online marketplace for freight services had a volume of ten million US dollars. The logistics group UPS was also involved. In addition, further investments have been made that have not yet been communicated, so Tritus.

"Structured investment vehicles" planned

The LIH boss announced to WirtschaftsWoche founder that he would increase the pace in this area: "We are currently planning to systematically expand our investment activities in very specific terms and are currently in the process of creating the right framework - including structured investment vehicles." should fall this year.

LIH has ended a cooperation with Plug & Play, which existed until the end of 2017. Instead, Lufthansa Cargo has been the “anchor partner” of the American tech accelerator since February. From the innovation unit it is now said: The dynamics in the travel and mobility sector have meanwhile shifted very strongly to Asia. LIH also looks to Israel. The country is much more interesting than the USA for a potentially further location.