With the recent launch of its Singapore operations, Asia Pacific Digital, a company that provides business end to end e-Commerce solutions, is now present in six key markets in the region – China, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. But for Roger Sharp, Chairman of Asia Pacific Digital, this is only the beginning. And there are enough reasons for Sharp’s optimism on the e-Commerce per se and the role that players such as Asia Pacific Digital can play.
Speaking to DMA, Sharp articulates the thought process that Asia Pacific Digital has worked with in the last four years to assist in the growth of the e-Commerce industry and its players. He said, “When we looked at the region, we tried to analyse what are the key things you need to work with. Asia is many different regions with varied cultures and market dynamics. From what we have seen over the years, we think there are five pre-requisites to choose a market before making a foray in it.”
The first four on Sharp’s list are more external in nature and tied to the market in question. A market should have its logistics in order, for example, roads, warehousing, ports for an efficient delivery system and so on. The second is the growth of broadband and the kind of devices that allow for online purchases on the go, at home or even from offices. The third is the online payment mechanism and what players in the market are doing to make the experience smooth and trusted. The final is the presence of a sufficiently large working middle class that can fuel the volume required for a robust business model.
In comparison, the fifth is tied to the company itself and comprises research done and the expertise owned to be able to then work in the market. “These are the criteria we adopted and you will see the markets that we are in scores on all of these factors. There are market nuances to bear in mind as well. For instance, Indonesia itself doesn’t have the right infrastructure but Jakarta is different,” pointed out Sharp, and added, “Once you can make sense of this, it is much easier to choose how you would like to expand to the right markets in the region.”
The other important factor to consider is a market’s maturity. B2C (business to consumer) e-Commerce is still a new concept to some markets, and this includes some of the more promising markets in regions like South East Asia. But on this aspect, bringing experience from other markets can help in making the right decisions on what the business approach should be for an e-Commerce player. That said, there continue to be players who while have the wherewithal to invest in its e-Commerce, do not realise, until significant time has lapsed or substantial investments have been made, that some of the basics of their model may not be right. They miss out on the fact that while they would have managed a sale but the opportunity to create scope for repeat business, is lost.
“Brands and retailers who have failed on the first attempt are fertile hunting grounds for us,” admitted Sharp and explained, “E-channels are one of the areas that a brand needs to be present on to be able to reach their consumers because if they don’t, someone else would beat them to it. But doing it efficiently is another game all together.”
There lies the opportunity for Asia Pacific Digital that is looking to enter relationships with logistics partner in a region, offer end-to-end capability and in short create a touch point across the ecosystem to get what Sharp sees as the competitive approach. Asia Pacific Digital intends to expand its presence to some of the other markets in the region too.