Giants like Amazon and Google are going head to head with local players in Southeast Asia e-commerce, creating a unique competitive environment. Sebastien Lamy, a partner with Bain's Consumer Products practice, outlines two routes companies can take to thrive in this fast-moving market.
Read the Bain Brief: So You Want to Win in Southeast Asia E-commerce?
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Read the transcript below.
SEBASTIEN LAMY: The competitive landscape in Southeast Asia in the digital space is evolving very, very fast. And we're seeing a unique combination and the unique evolution from a competitive-edge standpoint. It's what we call the clash of titans. It's the clash between Western groups (the traditional Googles and Facebooks of the world, which have a presence in Southeast Asia), competing with Chinese players increasingly investing in the region, and competing with homegrown groups such as Grab, Go-Jek, Lazada, Garena in the gaming space.
So tremendous competition between all three different groups. Some countries like Singapore are a unique example, where some of these global groups are effectively coming head to head. We're seeing, for example, both Amazon and Alibaba through these different investments—Lazada, RedMart, as an example—competing head to head. And that's something which is relatively unique in the world: where you are seeing these two global giants effectively competing on a smaller market.
What this means for companies in Southeast Asia is that they need to adapt to the fast pace of evolution in the digital space in the region. Companies can take two routes. One is adaptation. The other one is revolution or transformation. Adaptation means acquiring the right capabilities to be nimble, agile, to really, really respond in the right way and the right pace. Transformation is a little bit more aggressive. And some companies are taking that route. A good example of that is Sephora, the French retailer, that has acquired the largest cosmetics retailer—e-commerce retailer—in the region, to form a truly omnichannel retailer in the region.
A surge of new digital consumers is propelling the growth of the region's digital economy.