In a region with over 400 million internet users and growing, many stay connected through social media platforms and online forums. This connectivity has led to significant growth in the number of social commerce startups in Southeast Asia, as entrepreneurs recognise the value of tapping into these ready-made communities and utilising the networks to sell their wares.
ASEAN’s predominately youthful population has an average internet penetration rate of 70% (excluding Laos, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste). Sectors like eCommerce, gaming, and social media usage continue to rise in a post-pandemic landscape, with this soaring reliance on the internet changing social commerce trends and opening more doors for making money online.
Those in the social commerce section are particularly favoured as they tick off environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria on the wish lists of investors looking for regional projects to fund. Here are five of the biggest social commerce startups in the region right now:
5 promising social commerce startups in Indonesia
Reaching rural and underserved areas of Indonesia to provide retailers of FMCG an outlet is the main aim of the Super app. The Indonesian archipelago consists of approximately 17,000 islands, many of which are tiny, remote, and sparsely populated. Despite a land area of 1.9 million square miles, the majority of the population, 56.7%, lives on the island of Java, with over 11 million people living in Jakarta.
Having a widespread population causes logistical problems for the remainder of the nation’s people. Super aims to reduce this issue by creating smaller community hubs of retailers throughout the country. With the backing of the incubator programme, Y Combinator and a recent NEA led Series C funding round worth USD $70 million, this social commerce startup now has the capital to grow and achieve its goals.
The Filipino Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is one of the supporting partners of the Resellee app, which strives to offer people an income through selling on social media. Sellers join the app and create networks to resell products from other sellers and brands. Sellers can earn commissions on their sales and on the performance of any teams they build, and the app encourages the growth of online entrepreneurs in the country.
Founded in 2019, Resellee has added to its Seed Round funding in November 2020 with a USD $2 million investment in March 2021. The Early Stage Venture Capital (VC) funding will help the company develop its product and reach more potential resellers in the Philippines.
As the Mio app grows in popularity in Vietnam, it empowers more women to earn through micro-entrepreneurship. The grocery and fresh produce resale platform has over 10,000 downloads on Android and is ranked #147 under Apple’s food and drink apps.
With ambitions to expand beyond the metropolitan areas of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and reach northern parts of the country, Mio recently received a much-welcomed financial boost. In January 2022, a Series A funding round brought in USD $8 million from lead investors such as Jungle Ventures and Patamar Capital. The money will help Mio improve its logistics sector and increase its fulfilment centre footprint.
Singaporean social commerce platform WEBUY recently bought a similar startup in neighbouring Indonesia in a bid to expand into the archipelago’s lucrative market. Using social media communities to sell, resell, and advertise products, WEBUY brings an element of group buying to the region.
The app offers consumers cost reductions of 20-50% by selling products directly from the supplier, and also provides rewards and incentives to those who host group-buying sessions and assists businesses in growing their brands. WEBUY has raised USD $9 million since its 2018 inception, with $6 million USD added to its coffers in October 2020. By adding rival Chilibeli to its company, this startup now has access to the 10,000 group leaders currently driving group buying in Indonesia.
USA-based Elloe is looking to expand into the Southeast Asian market, with the Philippines as its first stop. Using artificial intelligence (AI) to allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to provide conversational commerce through various social media platforms, this startup also helps local economies grow by localising the sales of products online. Its mission includes reducing its carbon footprint and protecting the environment using renewable energy and automated logistical supply chains.
To aid its expansion in the Philippines and gain a foothold in the ASEAN market, Elloe raised USD $7 million in pre-seed round funding in April 2022, led by Filipino management firm Mad Ventures, Inc.
The current social commerce trends show an increasing number of women growing their own small businesses with the help of platforms such as those mentioned above. And, with social commerce startups in Southeast Asia rapidly expanding their market share, investments in such enterprises will likely increase, making this a lucrative sector for the region.