Lazada veteran James Chang has taken over as CEO of Lazada Indonesia, filling the leadership position that had been vacant in Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce market for a while.

Before this, Lazada’s group CEO has been managing the Indonesian business, from the previous CEO Chun Li to incumbent James Dong. Li Chun was also Lazada Indonesia CEO before being promoted to group CEO in 2020.

According to the “Southeast Asia E-commerce Platforms 2023” report released by Momentum Works last month, Indonesia accounted for more than half of the overall GMV of Southeast Asian platforms in 2022.

The need to catch up 

Lazada has not been performing well in Indonesia. While the company ranks second in GMV in all other Southeast Asian countries, in Indonesia it is the third, behind Shopee and local competitor Tokopedia, and on par with another local player Bukalapak. 

Both Bukalapak and Tokopedia are facing significant challenges, and we do not see them compete effectively against Shopee, Lazada and emerging TikTok Shop in the medium term. With TikTok aiming to triple its Indonesian GMV this year, there is definitely upside potential that Lazada has not been able to realise in the country. 

There were many challenges Lazada faced in its Indonesian business, from strategy to organisation complexity. The previous Lazada Group CEOs also spent much less time on the ground compared to Shopee Group CEO. We have elaborated in our book Seeing the Unseen: behind Chinese tech giants’ global venturing

A veteran

James Chang is one of the few Asians in Lazada’s founding team back in 2012 (Shopee CEO Chris Feng is another one). He is also the only co-founder remaining in the leadership team – which shows the Group’s recognition of his dedication and capabilities. 

His journey at Lazada:

  • 2012-2014: Co-founder and MD of Lazada Philippines
  • 2014-2018: Chief Crossborder Officer
  • 2018-2021: CEO of Lazada Singapore
  • 2021-2023: Group Chief Business Officer
  • Starting July 2023: CEO of Lazada Indonesia

As Chief Crossborder Officer, he led the establishment of Lazada’s cross-border logistics system, and as CEO of Lazada Singapore, he led the integration of 1P grocery ecommerce platform Redmart into Lazada  (Redmart later became an important customer entry point/retention tool for the Lazada app and played a significant role during the pandemic).

During his tenure as Chief Business Officer, Chang was mainly responsible for LazMall, the brand mall business across all six countries. This emphasis on established brands in Lazada’s strategy differentiated it from competitors like Shopee. However, with Alibaba Group’s “return to Taobao”, Lazada’s strategy may undergo some adjustments.

New phase for ecommerce competition

The recently released “Southeast Asia E-commerce Platforms 2023” report by Momentum also mentioned that while Lazada’s GMV growth has slowed down, the order volume actually went up – indications that this adjustment may already be happening.

Apart from Lazada and TikTok Shop, Shopee is also expected to resume its growth in the second half of this year. Lazada’s “fully managed” business has already built a full team and started pitching crossborder merchants.

Even if Pinduoduo’s Temu doesn’t enter to disrupt, the ecommerce market in Southeast Asia will return to an interesting stage of competition.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].