Alibaba, Tencent and JD.com are investing in the region of Southeast Asia, which counts 655 million people
The investments of China’s tech giants are focusing on the 11 countries of Southeast Asia, typically defined as the region east of India, west of New Guinea, north of Australia and south of China. Eleven countries that range from a city-state like Singapore to archipelagic nations like Indonesia and the Philippines.
Chinese companies have already shown their interest. Alibaba Group Holding, for example, bought the Southeast Asian e-commerce company Lazada Group and signed cooperation agreements with Malaysia and Thailand.
JD.com led an investment round into Thai online fashion brand Pomelo last year
Tencent Holdings, on the other hand, has invested in Singapore-based Sea, which operates the Shoper e-commerce site and Garena gaming and esports platform.
Hian Goh, who founded Openspace Ventures in 2014 and has invested in start-ups such as Go-Jek, Halodoc, Redmart and Chope, said that Southeast Asia “is becoming a proxy war for large Chinese internet companies like Tencent, Alibaba and we think going forward this will increase”.
“JD has done a joint venture with Central Group in Thailand” said Hian Goh
“Already, we see Go-Jek, our portfolio company, receive investments from JD.com as well as Meituan, and JD has done a joint venture with Central Group in Thailand. We think a lot of the capital funding could come from these strategic sources as well as venture capital” said Goh.
Instead, Grace Yun Xia, Singapore-based principal at Jungle Ventures, said: “There’s a joke that start-ups in Silicon Valley would add a zero behind their asking price if they knew Chinese investors were interested because of their reputation for being willing to bet large sums of money”.
The numbers for this market are in sharp ascent. According to data from venture capital research service CB Insights, financing for Southeast Asia’s technology sector totalled US$6.3 billion across 422 deals last year, up from about US$300,000 for 100 deals in 2012.
To make the market even more interesting is the fact that Southeast Asia has not yet fully built its tech capacity. For example, according to Robert Lomnitz, director of Bangkok Venture Club, in Thailand the entire start-up scene began taking off only three years ago in 2015.
MORE ON THIS TOPIC