Alibaba and Shopee clash in Vietnam as ASEAN e-commerce war rages

HO CHI MINH Metropolis/SINGAPORE — For Nguyen Ngoc, a merchant in Ho Chi Minh City offering blouses and wallets, a regular way to attain online consumers is via Facebook. But these buyers normally request to switch to on the web marketplace Shopee for payment.

Ngoc understands why: Shopee is acknowledged for free deliveries.

“From the commencing, Shopee has been geared toward reduced costs. Persons associate it with cost-free transport,” Ngoc informed Nikkei Asia.

Absolutely free deliveries and low commissions are portion of Shopee’s aggressive marketing attempts in Vietnam that have aided it come to be the country’s most well-known e-commerce platform and increase via the COVID-19 pandemic. Shopee, owned by Singapore-based mostly tech group Sea, drew 62 million month to month visits in Vietnam in the third quarter of 2020, up far more than 80% from a yr previously.

Shopee’s bullish expansion in Vietnam is section of a new phase of growth in Southeast Asia’s $100 billion electronic overall economy. In the article-COVID era, e-commerce will be the cornerstone of a new array of alliances, and rivals are racing to develop full ecosystems to provide as quite a few customer requires as probable.

The expansion of the region’s most effective-regarded tech startups, such as Singapore-based mostly Grab and Indonesia’s Gojek, was spurred by companies these kinds of as ride-hailing. Now the immediate rise of Sea — which has develop into Southeast Asia’s most precious organization, well worth about $100 billion — is triggering contemporary tie-ups and acquisitions that are set to redraw the landscape in 2021 and past as economies start out to get well.

Backed by money move from its gaming organization, U.S.-mentioned Sea is investing intensely in e-commerce and digital monetary services. In the July-September quarter of 2020 its revenues for its e-commerce unit, which addresses Vietnam and other nations around the world, rose 2.7 periods from a calendar year earlier to $618 million, whilst the working loss widened from $277 million to $338 million, predominantly as a final result of its campaign to achieve market place share.

The exertion appears to be paying out off. According to info from iPrice Group, Shopee was the most visited web site in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in the third quarter of 2020. Only a yr previously, Lazada (owned since 2016 by China’s Alibaba Group Keeping) was No. 1 in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, while Indonesia’s most visited was Tokopedia, the e-commerce group backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group.


Lazada’s sites have lost their “most frequented” status in many Southeast Asian markets.

  © Reuters

Sea’s rise is forcing a reaction. Lazada has joined arms with Grab in Vietnam, even though Seize and Gojek have manufactured new investments in electronic finance businesses.

Until finally 2015, says Edwin Muljono, an Indonesia-dependent consultant at YCP Solidiance, Southeast Asia’s digital financial system “was in the progress stage of the business everyday living cycle, with numerous new gamers rising [and] swiftly expanding demand with reasonably very low competitors.”

Now he claims the industry is in a “shakeout stage”– which he dates to the acquisition by Seize of Uber’s regional small business in 2018. “Albeit continuing double-digit growth, the industry has begun to experienced, and consolidation appears to be to be on the horizon,” Muljono claimed.

Emphasizing the consolidation agenda, and the change in priorities, Nikkei Asia uncovered this thirty day period that Gojek is in merger talks with Tokopedia — a opportunity alliance that would develop a massive tech group in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Gojek has also been discussing a feasible merger with Seize.

Southeast Asia is a unicorn searching ground. Seize and Gojek have develop into the largest, last valued at $14 billion and $10 billion respectively, but the location is home to 12 startups valued at $1 billion or more, in accordance to a examine by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Business. In Tokopedia and Bukalapak, Indonesia has two e-commerce unicorns that are empowering thousands and thousands of nearby merchants, which includes numerous mother-and-pop outlets, to promote on the net by way of their platforms.

This landscape is being transformed by the pandemic. Experience-hailing was hit hard by the vacation curbs and get the job done-from-household craze, with Grab and Gojek cutting 5% and 9% of staff members respectively in mid-2020. But desire for e-commerce and meals deliveries soared, and this will very likely carry on in the submit-pandemic period.

Investor sentiment chilled early in the pandemic. The overall amount of funds invested in Southeast Asian startups fell 13% in the 1st half of 2020 from a yr before, according to details compiled by Singapore’s Cento Ventures. Vacation curbs manufactured fundraising meetings and owing diligence difficult.

But progress tendencies are expected to continue being intact. “The long-term outlook for Southeast Asia’s electronic economic climate continues to be more strong than at any time,” according to Aadarsh Baijal, a spouse at Bain & Company, stating that factors this kind of as “higher have faith in in know-how” and “current market forces producing significantly larger on-line offer” will give a everlasting increase to the digital economic climate.

Vietnam is a key example of the new battlefield and the prizes even now to be attained. Its digital economies, together with e-commerce, food shipping and experience-hailing, grew to $14 billion in 2020, up 16% from the past year, and will extend to $52 billion in 2025, according to the Google-led report.

Shopee is now considerably outperforming its rivals in the region. Next is The Gioi Di Dong, also regarded as Mobile Entire world, which had 29 million regular visits in the course of the similar interval. Tiki, a neighborhood e-commerce operator, followed with 22 million, and Lazada had 20 million, according to iPrice facts.

Tuan Anh, taking care of director for Shopee in Vietnam, advised Nikkei Asia that Shopee has captivated “consumers into our ecosystem by ramping up the integration of e-payments.”

To counter Shopee, Singapore-primarily based Lazada in November joined arms with Get in Vietnam, a large-ranging partnership that offers Get a way to reinforce its aim on e-commerce.

“We’re actually hopeful that we’ll be ready to provide all of Get to our e-commerce companions,” Seize President Ming Maa reported at a startup event in late November.

“It’s not just last-mile shipping and delivery, but ideally partnering with our payment options, partnering with some of our local products and services so that we can definitely combine the client experience and offer a substantially richer expertise for our customers.”

Lazada faucets Grab’s purchaser and driver networks, pointing shoppers to Grab’s food items shipping, and will use Grab’s parcel shipping and delivery service to ship items. Seize also refers its application people to Lazada. Equally Lazada father or mother Alibaba and Grab are backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group.

In the meantime, Tiki guarantees two-hour deliveries many thanks to the conclusion-to-conclude offer chain it has with nationwide success heart units. It also introduced its personal credit card with a regional lender in 2020, displaying that it needs to go over and above e-commerce functions.

The partnerships cast in Vietnam by Lazada and Get could quite possibly be replicated in other Southeast Asian markets. “I see a good deal much more that we can be doing the job on jointly,” Grab’s Maa reported. His unicorn has presently taken the partnership route in Thailand for advertising strategies all around Nov. 11 “Singles Day” income.

Lazada collectively with Google in November started out digital coaching classes for its on the web sellers so they can increase their sales, which would support make improvements to Lazada’s personal effectiveness, much too. It has released what it calls a “promote to China” method, which gives cross-border e-commerce opportunities for Southeast Asian merchants by capitalizing on mum or dad Alibaba’s world wide system.

Grab and Gojek have also been looking for growth in economical services. In 2020, Get acquired prosperity management startup Bento and invested in Indonesian condition-owned payment firm LinkAja.

Like Sea, Get has obtained a electronic banking license in Singapore by a consortium with Singapore Telecommunications. As for Gojek, it has acquired a 22% stake in regional loan company Financial institution Jago, anticipating to present electronic banking providers on the Gojek superapp.


Seize and Lazada could replicate their Vietnam partnership in other Southeast Asian markets.

  © EPA/Jiji

Other worldwide players are also responding. Amazon.com of the U.S. is growing its existence in Singapore. In meals shipping and delivery, Germany’s Shipping and delivery Hero is aggressively increasing in Southeast Asia by way of its Foodpanda brand name. Japanese messaging app Line has Line Guy, which is between the most popular foodstuff supply companies in Thailand.

On the lookout forward, the global economy is commencing to rebound, backed by financial easing and fiscal stimulus as perfectly as the distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Some unlisted startups have started off to receive far more cash, with Gojek in November bagging $150 million from Telkomsel, Indonesia’s point out-owned mobile operator.

Outlined firms like Sea are presently taking gain of the stock marketplace rally. In December, Sea lifted almost $3 billion by new share choices for needs “including possible strategic investments and acquisitions.” Whilst most startups, together with Sea, are continue to making web losses, the refreshing cash must make it possible for them to more expand, fueling competitors.

Muljono of YCP Solidiance pointed out that the important electronic gamers in the location like Grab are swiftly increasing their providers to develop into lifestyle apps, and major buyers these kinds of as Chinese and U.S. tech giants and local conglomerates prefer to make investments in current significant players.

This “would signify the important players in Southeast Asia would compete with the present significant players, although at the same time consolidating as a result of different acquisitions,” he mentioned. “In the long run, this would outcome in a consolidated sector in Southeast Asia, led by numerous players, and backed by financial commitment from across the globe.”