by Cristina Lago

Southeast Asia’s internet economy to reach US$72 billion by end of 2018

Nov 19, 2018

The region’s internet economy has hit an inflection point after growing 36% from a year earlier, accelerating beyond the 32% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) that was recorded between 2015 and 2018

ecommerce - order tracking - shipment logistics - RFID
Credit: Thinkstock

A report commissioned by Google and Temasek and published today, 19 November, reveals that Southeast Asia’s internet economy is expected to exceed US$240 billion by 2025.

This figure greatly surpasses the forecast from 2016, which predicted that the region’s internet economy would reach US$200 by 2025.

According to the 33 page report, there has been an increase of 90 million internet users since 2015 across ASEAN-5 countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) plus Vietnam, bringing it to a total of 350 million.

The main difference between this year’s report and the previous ones is that this time Google and Temasek have included sectors of the internet economy which had not been covered before, namely online travel, online media and ride hailing – all three sectors which have achieved substantial adoption among ASEAN region users and consequently resulting in significant business size and growth.

These estimates might still vary as other sectors of the internet economy – social commerce, financial services, healthcare and education – have not yet been covered due to lack of reliable data or because of their nascent adoption.

Vietnam “the unleashed dragon” and Indonesia the largest and fastest internet economy

Vietnam and Indonesia offered some of the most interesting highlights in the report. 

The Vietnamese internet economy (US$9 billion in 2018, 38% CAGR in 2015-2018), compared in the study “to a dragon being unleashed”, has almost tripled in three years thanks to ecommerce and online media.

Indonesia is leading the way to ecommerce in Southeast Asia, reaching US$12 billion in 2018 and accounting for more than US$1 in every US$2 spent in the region.

Supported by the largest internet user base in the region (150 million users in 2018), Indonesia has the largest (US$27 billion in 2018) and fastest growing (49% CAGR 2015-2018) internet economy in Southeast Asia.

With huge headroom across all sectors, it is poised to grow to US$100 billion by 2025, accounting for US$4 of every US$10 spent in the region.

Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia main ecommerce drivers

The most dynamic sector of the internet economy during the last three years has unsurprisingly been ecommerce.

Behind the rising numbers of the ecommerce industry in Southeast Asia lie a rich internet penetration rate and a growing middle class with a higher acquisitive power.

The three largest ecommerce companies in the region – Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia – have played a critical role in the development of the sector. They are estimated to have grown collectively more than sevenfold since 2015 – well above the rest in the industry.

As the report explains, by offering tens of millions of products, world-class mobile user experiences, frequent consumer promotions, and far-reaching logistics networks, the three companies have been the leading forces behind the dramatic growth of ecommerce in Southeast Asia.

1.7 full-times jobs to be created

The report also reveals that the internet economy will create 1.7 million full-time jobs by 2025 for highly-skilled professionals, as well as flexible work opportunities in sectors like ride-hailing.

Some of the internet economy jobs are directly tied to technology (e.g. networking specialist or internet engineers) while others extend to the related ecosystem (e.g. mobile app developers, community specialists in social networks or data scientists). 

These jobs have salaries 3 to 5 times higher compared to median wages. They have also gained popularity among a younger workforce due to their flexibility and the opportunities they offer partners who want to supplement their income to cover costs (e.g. from owning or renting a vehicle).

According to research by Ride Hailing players, 20 partner jobs offer wages that are 20% to 30% higher than alternative job opportunities in each market.