SE Asia set for major internet explosion

Google study sees $240 billion Southeast Asia internet economy by 2025

SOUTH-EAST Asia's Internet economy is expected to exceed US$240 billion by 2025, beating the previous estimate of US$200 billion put up just a year ago, as lower costs enable more consumers to go online using their mobile phones.

The report predicted that online food delivery would be the "next battleground" for ride-hailing players aiming to become "super apps", adding that companies like Grab and Go-Jek were leveraging their well-known brand names and larger user bases against food delivery companies like Deliveroo and Foodpanda.

South East Asia has 350 million internet users across its six largest countries - that's more than the entire United States population - and the latest data suggests its internet economy will reach $72 billion this year, up from $50 billion last year and $19.1 billion in 2015.

Of the six countries, Indonesia is the fastest-growing.

The region's internet economy is being fueled by 350 million online users who are buying airline tickets and goods, ordering rides and food with their smartphones across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The GMV of e-commerce in the region will exceed $23 billion in 2018, the report said, and rise more than four times to exceed $100 billion by 2025, helped by increased consumer trust.

The total amount raised in Singapore since 2015 is around US$16 billion, with US$6 billion in Indonesia. It's expected to exceed $100 billion by 2025.

The Internet economy is set to create 1.7 million full-time posts by 2025 for skilled professionals as well as flexible jobs in sectors like ride hailing with Singapore taking a "disproportionate share", said Mr Rohit Sipahimalani, joint head of the Investment Group at Temasek.

Separately, 2018 is turning out to be a record year for fundraising, with US$9.1 billion raised in the first half of the year, almost as much as all of 2017.

Ride-hailing app Grab scored the most funding out of any company - US$6 billion - and is now the region's first "decacorn".

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Unicorns are companies valued at over US$1 billion (S$1.37 billion, RM4.19 billion), while decacorns are worth over US$10 billion. Fundraising for this sector of the ecosystem was stagnant over the past two years, in 2016 it pulled in US$0.8 billion and in 2017 US$1.0 billion.

"In general, I feel that it's a recent trend in terms of seeing that acceleration (in funds raised) but one we think should continue because of that presence - people are setting up here to look for opportunities".

According to Google and Temasek's report, the ride-hailing sector has attracted over US$10 billion worth of investments in the last three years. By 2025, 57 percent of the bookings will be made online when the market is projected to reach $78 billion.

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