Tencent has strengthened its presence in the Thai market through the formation of a joint venture (JV) with Thailand’s Ookbee in the form of Ookbee U, which is intended to be the foundation of a digital media content ecosystem.
Ookbee is a digital entertainment platform startup that started as an online book and magazine business and engaged content creators across Southeast Asia. Incepted in 2011, over the years it has expanded its offerings fro include user-generated comics, novels, music, short videos, and idea sharing.
The launch of this JV by Tencent and Ookbee will target and promote user-generated content and cover a diverse array of online media, with the aim of growing its presence in the region. In addition, Tencent recently rebranded its Thai web portal Sanook, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to Tencent Thailand in an attempt to consolidate its brand. This latest investment is congruent with moves to consolidate its brand and assets in the Thai market.
In an exchange with TechCrunch, Ookbee CEO Natavudh Pungcharoenpong commented: “Ookbee was born in time of ebooks and magazine, working with professional content creators and publishers. We used to compete with traditional book stores, but for this new company idea is to be more flexible. The format can be anything. More than just books: music, comics, and experimenting with video.”
Additionally, according to a source cited by TechCrunch the JV is backed by an apparent $19 million investment. To date, Ookbee reports that it has a user base in excess of 8 million individuals distributed across Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, with 4 million monthly active users.
This development comes at a time when Tencent, alongside firms like Alibaba and JD.com are expanding their business operations in Southeast Asia. Thailand, alongside India and Indonesia, are also expected to outperform other Asian economies this year, further aiding in the platforms’ growth prospects.
In an interaction with the Wall Street Journal in December 2016, Poshu Yeung, VP of Tencent’s international business, shared: “What we have learned in China, we can apply the fastest in Southeast Asia. Everything in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, you will experience a pretty good growth rate.”
In relation to the latest JV, Yeung stated: “This JV reinforces our commitment to Thailand and supports our Thailand strategy to grow our digital content platforms.”
He adds, “With Tencent (Thailand)’s existing properties in Sanook.com, the country’s number 1 web portal for the past 18 years, and JOOX, the country’s number 1 mobile music streaming application, we are confident that our investment into Ookbee U will further strengthen our position to capture the promising potentials in the dynamic local creative media market.”
With advertising expenditures expected to rise this year in Thailand, the launch of Ookbee U comes at an opportune time. This move to strengthen its presence in the Thai market comes at a time when data suggests that Tencent, alongside other Chinese Internet majors, will continue to expand beyond the Chinese market through a mixture of mergers & acquisitions as well as investments.
Speaking on the JV, Pungcharoenpong states: “We believe our JV [joint venture with Tencent] will be very well positioned to capture the opportunities in both Thai and SEA markets given Tencent’s industry expertise and tremendous resources in both domestic and international markets, together with Ookbee’s deep root in Thailand’s digital media market.”
The increasing digitisation of banking in Thailand, where Tencents’ WeChat competes against Japan’s LINE app, may also see this latest JV serve s a tool for Tencent to leverage on the use of entertainment and content assets to grow WeChat’s presence in the Thai market.