The Digital Decade of Asia

Southeast Asia is buzzing with action in the online world, growing like crazy, especially in the spending department. But hey, not all online gigs are sprinting at the same speed. E-commerce and food delivery are getting a slower growth on 2023 Total online spending in Southeast Asia will rise about 11 per cent this year to US$218 billion, reaching its lowest growth rate since at least 2017.

However, the travel and transport scene which got a real punch from the pandemic are now rebounding. With travel restrictions and lockdowns, things got pretty quiet for flights, hotels, and ride-hailing services. These sectors have now rebounded and pose for the greatest growth of 2023.

Despite some sectors hitting the brakes, Southeast Asia’s still leading the pack in digital strength and creativity. The internet economy’s gearing up to hit $360 billion by 2025 (up from the earlier forecast of $300 billion). And brace yourself—by 2030, it might even hit a whopping $1 trillion, stepping into its “digital decade”.

One big reason for this growth spurt is the rise of middle market firms (MMFs)—companies with revenues between $10 million and $500 million. These guys are the backbone, contributing 40% to Southeast Asia’s GDP and employing 70% of the workforce. What’s cool is that MMFs are embracing tech faster than bigger or smaller companies, hiking their online sales.

But here’s the scoop: different Southeast Asian countries are cruising at different speeds when it comes to online spending and tech use. Singapore’s leading the pack with folks spending $2,900 online per person, followed by Malaysia at $1,200 and Thailand at $900. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are a bit behind at $400, $300, and $100 respectively. And hey, Singapore’s MMFs are digital pros at 81%, followed by Malaysia at 68%, and Thailand at 58%. But Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are trailing a bit behind at 48%, 44%, and 36%.

These gaps show that there’s still room to grow and get innovative in Southeast Asia’s online spending scene. As more folks and businesses hop onto the online train, there’ll be more hurdles and chances for online platforms, sellers, and service providers. The pace might be slowing, but Southeast Asia’s online spending marathon isn’t hitting the brakes anytime soon.