This article concludes our series on international commerce and describes the current state of ecommerce in Southeast Asia (SEA). Unlike previous articles in the series, we will not concentrate on each individual country within SEA, but will talk primarily about the region as a whole. First, most countries in SEA share similar characteristics and can be treated as parts of a larger 'state'. Secondly, many ecommerce companies within SEA operate on a cross-border basis, which means they trade across several territories, rather than in any particular country, with a few notable exceptions. If you'd like to learn more about our series on international ecommerce, check out the following pieces:
- The State of International eCommerce. Part 1. Turkey and Persian Gulf
- eCommerce in Israel
You might be also interested in a few articles we've written on China:
- Marketplace boom in China
- Chinese AI
Before we dive into our analysis, let's define what constitutes Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia, also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical subregion of Asia consisting of the regions south of China, southeast of the Indian subcontinent and northwest of Australia.
By contemporary definition, SEA consists of two cultural regions: mainland Southeast Asia, comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, and maritime Southeast Asia, consisting of East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and regional archipelagoes and small islands that belong to Malaysia, India, and Australia.
Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia are considered the region's emerging, most promising markets. Indonesia and Vietnam, in particular, are noteworthy subjects of a more comprehensive debate for several reasons. Indonesia, for instance, is expected to account for more than 50% of SEA's ecommerce market by 2025. It also makes up half of SEA's population (273.5M), while Vietnam is teeming with more than 100 million people, almost double that of Italy, for comparison.
Both Indonesia and Vietnam also have quite unique, distinctive landscapes: Vietnam, for example, is considered China's manufacturing alternative in the region, while Indonesia boasts a vibrant VC scene. On the other hand, we have Singapore and Malaysia, already sophisticated markets, which have been garnering attention for quite some time. Singapore, dubbed a "smart nation," has been known for its government's dedication to a digital economy, its ultra-high-speed, trusted ICT infrastructure, and tech-savvy population. Malaysia's growth, too, has been driven by the increased digitalization of processes across all major industrial sectors as the Malaysian government seeks to become the digital hub in the region.