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China Tech Domination in SE Asia

  

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A Chinese billionaire surprised the audience of a pitch from a startup in Singapore when he wrote “Speed x Market Share” on a white board. This formula means that to succeed to you in a market, you need to be the first and the largest, no matter what the cost. This simple formula is now revolutionizing the Southeast Asian tech scene as China takes it over.

“It was the moment that I understood the Chinese strategy,” said Isaac Ho, the founder of Venturecraft Group, who's known in local medtech circles for whiskey-fueled networking parties. “If you are not the number one, you will become obsolete; if you are the number one, you can buy the newer technology. It's a winner-takes-it-all game.''
This is the story of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Didi Chuxing. The three corporations expanded to new territories at an unprecedented speed on an immense scale. They did this by following that simple formula laid out by the Chinese billionaire. After such expansion and investment, the first two are now listed amongst the 10 largest corporations in the world.
After those companies have conquered their home markets, which are now saturated, the country's tech overlords are looking to expand to the rest of the planet. The first obvious choice is Southeast Asia, which is a market where they can export that technology and grow quickly as the population in the region is twice the population of the U.S. and is home to the largest Chinese expats in the world; therefore, language and tradition will facilitate this expansion.
Over the course of 2016, Chinese investment in technology off shore more than doubled to $37.8 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Out of those, giant Alibaba paid $1 billion in 2016 for control of Singapore-based e-commerce player Lazada Group SA. Meanwhile, WeChat-operator Tencent - a backer of Sea Ltd., Southeast Asia's most valuable startup - invested around $100 million to $150 million in Indonesian ride-sharing giant Go-Jek. Even Asia's most valuable startup Didi has declared it intends to go global.
“What you are seeing is a change in mindset,” said Thomas Tsao, founding partner of early stage investor Gobi Partners. “They're starting to aspire, not just to be the biggest Chinese company, but they are thinking globally.”
China has paved the way to take over the regional economy for decades. Chinese investors have are transforming the region by pouring billions into everything from transport to real estate. According to an estimate by Credit Suisse Group AG, China nearly doubled foreign direct investment into the six biggest Southeast Asian nations in 2016.
Although little of that investment went to the tech sector, which is in its infancy compared to the Chinese tech sector, the country's tech giants are shifting their gaze to the region. China's tech domination of the region will be facilitated by Southeast Asia's deepening mobile penetration and an emergent middle class. The region is an asset for these tech investors as the tech sector is in its infancy, it's home to a large market and also hosts the largest ethnic Chinese population on the planet.
According to the International Monetary Fund, growth in the Asean-5 of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam is projected to exceed annually through 2022, outstripping North Asia's 3 percent on average.
No single player is dominant in the Southeast Asia's tech sector, which means the territory is still up for grabs, unlike China where just a few control the major spheres of search (Baidu Inc.), e-commerce (Alibaba), social media (Tencent) and ride-sharing (Didi). This means that Southeast Asia is an opportunity for new companies that can't compete in the saturated market of China or for the key players which can't expand any longer in the Chinese market. As China starts its way to dominate the tech sector of Southeast Asia, we are yet to see how it will all play out and which are the key players that will dominate the region.
Israeli tech pioneer Yossi Vardi says Alibaba's eagerness to expand quickly outside China reminds him of the U.S. in the 60s and 70s when American companies shifted their gaze outside of the American territory, looked outward for growth and that's the story of how they became multinationals. “This is very, very substantial and it's just a beginning,” he said.
“The opportunity in Asia is just unparalleled,” said Grace Xia, Tencent's senior director of corporate strategy and investment. “Southeast Asia is emerging at an accelerated pace, with a lot of similarities with China in terms of user behavior.''

 

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