Alternative Data Firm Sandalwood Carves Asian Consumer Niche

In the two years since its founding, Sandalwood Advisors, an alternative data provider focused on Asian consumer spending trends, has grown to over 25 staff supporting eight databases.  Based in Hong Kong, the firm calls itself the biggest Asian alternative data platform.

Asian Databases

Sandalwood offers both offline and online sales data for the greater China region, including Korea.  Online sales data draws from a panel of over 300 Asian million users on an anonymized and aggregated basis, covering more than 1,000 global brands primarily sourced from Asia’s leading e-commerce platform.  The online sales data is supplemented with harvested web data from online e-commerce sites, including Tmall, the equivalent of Asia.  Sandalwood also offers bespoke web crawling services.

The company’s offline sales data covers more than 100 million Asian consumers’ purchasing behavior, primarily sourced from Asia’s largest credit card provider.  Altogether Sandalwood offers eight databases: Asian credit card transaction data, Asian e-commerce sales data (i.e. Adidas sales trends on Tmall), Asian department store data, Asian social media data, Chinese supermarket sales data. Korean export data, Chinese department store sales data, and data extracted from Asian video game live streaming apps similar to Twitch.

Data has a minimum of two years history, and in some cases up to 8 years.  Frequencies vary by database from weekly to monthly.

GfK Roots

The three Sandalwood co-founders — Alan Shen, Tony Ho, and Agnes Xu – worked for GfK Boutique which sells GfK Group’s point-of-sale data to investors.  Shen was head of GfK Boutique’s Asian business and Ho was head of Asian equity sales.

They decided to found Sandalwood in April 2016 to capitalize on unique sources of Asian consumer data. “We saw a lot of buy-side demand, and very little supply, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to be one of the pioneers in the alternative data industry in Asia,” said Ho in an interview with Integrity Research.

Besides the founders, Sandalwood employs several GfK veterans, including advisor Gwilym Jones, who was briefly head of sales for 7ParkData.  As with GfK Boutique, Sandalwood has hired equity research analysts to interpret and present the consumer data to the buy-side.


According to Ho, the primary client base is comprised of discretionary long/short funds, with growing interest from quantitative hedge funds.  Given the importance of the greater China region, clients are diversified geographically.

The firm employs over 25 employees and is recruiting for institutional sales people, analysts, a data scientist, and a client engagement manager.  The firm has one angel investor and the majority of shares are employee owned.

Our Take

Sandalwood has grown rapidly in just under three years, reflecting its first mover advantage in capturing Chinese consumer data.  Like Earnest Research, which is largely focused on US consumer alternative data, Sandalwood’s initial client base is long/short hedge funds.  Beginning last year, Earnest began to diversify its client base, including marketing to consumer companies directly.  Sandalwood, which is half the size of Earnest Research, may not be quite at that stage, but given its trajectory the firm is narrowing the gap quickly.