In a move that has surprised the industry, Japanese e-commerce mammoth Rakuten has announced it will be shutting down its Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia marketplaces next month and lay off about 150 staff.
The company did not give a specific reason for the closures, other than saying in a press release that the moves were "in line with a new roadmap.” Analysts point out that Rakuten is in the
process of moving from a business-to-business-to-customer (B2B2C) model in the region towards a customer-to-customer, (C2C) m-commerce focus.
"In SE Asia, as the market itself changes and adapts, we are looking toward C2C and mobile business models for e-commerce and other businesses," a company spokesperson was quoted as saying by Tech In Asia magazine.
Not leaving Singapore altogether
The Company did stress however, that it will maintain its regional headquarters in Singapore and continue to operate other businesses in the Southeast Asia, including Rakuten Travel, Viber, Kobo, Rakuten Institute of Technology and Rakuten Ventures.
The Rakuten group reported consolidated revenues of US$6.34 billion in 2015, up from US$5.31 billion in the year before.
Indonesia might overtake Singapore as main e-commerce marketplace
Interestingly, a Germany-based market research firm, yStats.com, last month published a new report under the title “Southeast Asia B2C E-Commerce Market 2015” in which it predicted that B2C e-commerce in Southeast Asia will maintain double-digit growth rates for the next several years.
While Singapore has established itself as the leading country by e-commerce sales in this sub-region, the report said that Indonesia is likely to take over this position due to increasing internet and online shopper penetration within its vast population. Indonesia is predicted to account for more than a third of overall e-commerce sales in Southeast Asia in the next three years.
Nol van Fenema