Sea says Thai preserved- fish seller’s chances equalised by web

Bangkok • Online channels can be the means of equalising businesses in South-East Asia and the push for more e-platforms must be made by the private sector in addition to the government, according to participants at a Bloomberg Asean Business Summit panel.

From being relatively unknown, a seller of Thai “pla ra”, or preserved fish, saw growth more than double within three months because its business went online, said Santitarn Sathirathai, group chief economist at Sea Ltd, a Singapore-based operator of online businesses including shopping platform Shopee.

“Better yet, once their products become known, then they meet a lot of business partners,” Santitarn said yesterday at the summit in Bangkok.

“There’s definitely huge opportunities about using these digital tools to empower what we haven’t thought about before.”

The Internet economy in South-East Asia, home to more than 600 million people, is projected to expand fourfold from last year to US$200 billion (RM808 billion) by 2025, according to a research report by Google LLC and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd.

Digital infrastructure can help small companies become international trade players, and also link firms within South-East Asia to each other to connect the region’s markets.

“It’s everyone’s issue if we want to make it happen, so it’s not just the government’s task,” said Kattiya Indaravijaya, president of Kasikornbank pcl. “It has to be the private sector that has to make it happen also.”

Other highlights from the panel discussion:

• United Parcel Service Inc sees significant growth throughout South-East Asia and Asia Pacific, said Jim O’Gara, the company’s South Asia president.

• The Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are markets that have opportunities for growth over the next few years. Thailand could be a surprise market for Sea as digital consumption grows “multiple times faster” than offline consumption gains, Santitarn said.

• Thai people spend about 4.2 hours a day on the Internet, above the Asian average of 3.6 hours, Kattiya said; e-commerce sales through social channels is at least one-third or half of sales made on these social media. — Bloomberg