Sea sees high local potential for internet economy

Sea sees high local potential for internet economy

Ms Maneerat wants to build a unique footprint in Thailand's digital economy.
Ms Maneerat wants to build a unique footprint in Thailand's digital economy.

Sea Thailand, the local unit of Singapore's unicorn tech startup, is focusing on gaming, e-commerce and mobile payment to cash in on the second largest digital economy in Southeast Asia.

"Thailand ranks second in terms of Sea's business potential with regards to customer base and growth in Southeast Asia and Taiwan," said Maneerat Anulomsombut, chief executive of Sea Thailand.

NYSE-listed Sea operates in Taiwan and seven countries in Southeast Asia.

The company uses "3E" strategies (enlarge, enable and empower) to drive its business as an internet economy in Southeast Asia, according to a Google Temasek study, and is expected to reach US$240 billion by 2025 from $72 billion last year, fulled by e-commerce, gaming, travel and food delivery businesses.

"Enlarge" is meant to increase users, while "enable" concerns efforts to allow local players to play a larger role in operations. "Empower" refers to the strengthening of a system and skill development among workers.

Ms Maneerat said Sea is committed to scaling up investment, widening the user base and adding more services for a distinct footprint on the digital economy. Thais spend the third most amount of time online in the world.

Sea will enmesh the strengths of different business units for cross-customer bases, mainly comprising the 18-35 demographic.

One of the key businesses is gaming through the Garena tag, ranging from computers to mobile games, such as Arena of Valor, which first came to popularity in Thailand in 2018, as well as Free Fire.

The company is also expanding from game publishing to development.

According to New Zoo research, Thailand is the second largest game market in Southeast Asia, worth $67 million (2.06 billion baht) and ranking 19th globally. The country is also an e-sports hub in the region.

For gaming, Sea is adding TukTuk, a Thai symbol in gaming that helps promote Thai tourism. Sea has 35 million users for PC games and 40 million users playing mobile games in Thailand out of 271.6 million active gamers in the region as of the first quarter of 2019. Arena of Valor has 31 million registered users locally.

Regarding digital financial services, AirPay e-wallet, which was first rolled out in Thailand by Sea, is gaining traction among gamers, bill payers and those who purchase movie tickets and mobile top-up.

AirPay has attracted 7.5 million users with a target of 10 million expected by 2020.

Sea's online marketplace Shopee is still unprofitable because of strong competition, said Ms Maneerat, but the company is supporting the user experience for online shopping.

Shopee is still the second largest e-commerce app locally, with 30 million downloads. Shopee reported $3.5 billion in gross merchandise value across the region in the first quarter.

"Taiwan has seen the most success for Shopee in terms of monetisation, but in Thailand, the platform just began earning from advertisements," said Ms Maneerat.

The company is also working with the government and academics to develop skills e-commerce skills, she said. Local Shopee sellers are trained under a cooperation with Chulalongkorn University.

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