Proxies give Chinese tech giants a seat at the table as SE Asia’s e-wallet market takes off

Chinese tech rivals Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings are poised to ride a fundamental acceleration in Southeast Asia’s e-wallet market through a sprawling web of proxies, according to DealStreetAsia’s latest report, Chinese tech giants’ e-wallet proxy war in SE Asia.

Data compiled by DealStreetAsia shows that although the tech giants operate directly only in a few countries in Southeast Asia, they currently back at least 11 e-wallets in six key markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Those indirectly operated e-wallets reach a combined 150 million registered users and are often leading brands in their respective markets.

Those proxies give Alibaba and Tencent valuable exposure to Southeast Asia’s digital payments market, which Google, Temasek and Bain & Co have predicted will multiply more than five times in gross transaction value between 2019 and 2025 to $114 billion.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, those estimates have probably become too conservative. Take Grab, for example. The super app, which operates the GrabPay wallet across all six countries covered in this report, told DealStreetAsia that it saw a 30 per cent jump in first-time cashless users for GrabFood.

While Alibaba appears to have an edge in Malaysia and Myanmar, Tencent seems to be ahead in Vietnam based on the user base of wallets that they back in those markets. Both camps seem evenly matched in the Philippines and Thailand.

In Indonesia, the Chinese titans may be the least of each other’s concerns. There, homegrown super app Gojek rules the day with its dominant GoPay e-wallet. The e-wallet may have gotten stronger over the past week with fresh investments from WhatsApp owner Facebook and e-payment giant PayPal.

While Tencent is an investor in Gojek, it holds only a minority stake and appears to have little influence over Gojek’s e-wallet strategy. Gojek’s closer ties with Facebook, in particular, nudges GoPay closer to Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform than Tencent’s WeChat ecosystem. While Gojek and GoPay are undoubtedly affiliated with Tencent, for this report Gojek is deemed as not “backed” by Tencent.

Access the Chinese tech giants’ e-wallet proxy war in SE Asia report to find out the state of market in each country where Alibaba and Tencent have backed e-wallets, as well as the regulatory and market trends that will shape the battle in the months ahead.

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.