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Digital economy in Southeast Asia to touch $240 billion
November 26, 2018, 5:28 pm

According to the latest annual ‘e-Conomy SEA’ report compiled by Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, the digital economy of Southeast Asia, with a population of 650 million, is set to triple in size and reach US$240 billion by 2025.

Boxed in by China and India it is quite easy to overlook the economic potential of countries in Southeast Asia. The report points out that the digital economy in the region is at an ‘inflection point’ with the six largest economies in the area, with a combined 350 million internet users, expected to spend over $72 billion on internet purchases this year — a growth of 44 percent from the $50 billion in 2017 and nearly four times the $19 billion in 2015.

Breaking down the annual spend this year, the report says that $8 billion is expected to come from ride-hailing, 11 billion from online media, 23 billion from e-commerce and the largest chunk of $30 billion from online travel.

According to the data, Indonesia and Vietnam have seen their respective digital economies more than triple since 2015. Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country by population, is forecast to hit $100 billion by 2025, ahead of Thailand at $43 billion and Vietnam at $33 billion, with strong growth forecast across the board.

The 2018 Google-Temasek report highlights ride-hailing as a lucrative venture in the region. Early this year Indonesia’s Grab acquired Uber’s local business with the aim of expanding from its home country base and to help ward off increasing competition from its rival Go-Jek. In Indonesia, daily ride-hailing users jumped to eight million this year from 1.5 million in 2015, with monthly users growing to 35 million from eight million during the same time period.

The report also shows that growth in revenue is actually coming faster for food delivery services over core transportation services, which is a good sign for Grab and Go-Jek since the two businesses have aggressively expanded into additional on-demand services. Meanwhile, Singapore, while the smallest of Southeast Asia’s six largest economies with a population of 5.5 million, has an outsized share of the region’s ride-hailing market — and that is forecast to continue to 2025.

The e-Conomy SEA also sheds some light on how the region’s largest companies utterly dominate its funding landscape. Billion-dollar companies in Southeast Asia sucked up $16 billion of the $24 billion invested in the region of the last four years, with Grab alone responsible for $6 billion of that figure. While the report’s growth forecasts are contingent on requisite levels of funding, it is a bit disconcerting that most capital is going to a few very big players.

However, the report does show there has been progress from the rest of the field, with non-unicorn funding in the first half of 2018 reaching more than the total for the whole of 2017. The report noted: “More than 2,000 internet economy companies in the region have secured investments, with companies valued less than $1 billion able to raise collectively almost $7 billion in the last three years. Among them, the most dynamic segment was that of companies valued between $10 million and $100 million. The bedrock of the internet economy, these companies have raised $1.4 billion in the first half of 2018, already eclipsing the $1.0 billion they received in all of 2017.”

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