Shopee, the largest ecommerce platform in Southeast Asia, was in an all out expansion mode (new markets, new verticals) in 2021 – and its parent Sea Group’s market cap briefly hit US$200 billion.
2022 was a totally different matter. Its market cap is down almost 90%. Its headlines the entire year have been negative – geopolitics, product slowdown, people and profit issues, and probably most troubling – the rise of TikTok Shop.
To discuss some of the common questions and concerns from the community, Momentum Academy held an online event: “Off the Record: Shopee’s turbulent 2022” event on 17 November 2022.
More than 400 investors, founders and corporate executives registered for the event. Progressively we are publishing some of the key points of the presentation. Here is the first part:
It has now been exactly one year since November 2021, where Sea’s share price hit an all time high. The year prior was filled with an abundance of positive news for Shopee. Market entries, new verticals, and of course, continuous growth in top line numbers.
At the beginning of 2022, the market environment for Shopee was completely different. First,Tencen reduced its stake in SEA – even though the action was probably requested by SEA to reduce its geopolitical risk, the act itself sent shockwaves to the market confidence in SEA.
Subsequently, negative news cascaded. India banned Garena’s cash cow Free Fire, which came as a complete surprise. Market exits, layoffs, refusal to give guidance in earning reports… the year has been rough.
Shopee has left almost all markets they entered in the pandemic (with the exception of Poland). For this reason, we took a closer look at the background to this exception and published the report Shopee in Poland.
Shopee has executed a few rounds of layoffs since June, in addition the market exits. These layoffs have definitely impacted the morale in the company, as well as confidence around the ecosystem. The incident of a Chinese would-be employee receiving a call from Shopee HR rescinding the offer upon landing in Singapore with his wife and dog captured the headlines in Southeast Asia as well as China.
Over 2022, many Southeast Asian currencies have depreciated against the strengthening USD, affecting both the purchasing power of end consumers and ecommerce value chain as much of the goods came from import.
Those who live in the major capitals of Southeast Asia will probably recall that petrol prices have fluctuated quite a bit in recent months. Indonesia finally gave up their price-stabilizing subsidies in September, allowing petrol prices to appreciate by 30% overnight, while oil producing Malaysia is the only one still keeping the prices at very low levels. The fuel price fluctuations not only affected consumers’ spending power, but also impacted fulfillment costs of ecommerce.
Shopee also faces increasing competitive pressure. People in Singapore might remember the golden monkey hanging on the wall of Lazada headquarters earlier this year. Even though the monkey was not put up by Lazada, it probably signified Lazada was trying to get its mojo back.
TikTok, on the other hand, has expanded its TikTok Shop from Indonesia to across all six major markets in Southeast Asia. As of the time of the event, TikTok Shop seemed to be very determined to win the market.
It has never been easy to develop such a Flywheel, regardless of company size or industry, because there is a difference between things that seem logical, but at the same time there is a lot of friction in the market. So things are often not as simple as people (want to) see them.
At the end of the day, we ask ourselves a few questions towards the end of the year: Is the demand for online purchases slowing down? Is the Southeast Asian market already saturated and how would this affect the future of e-commerce and Shopee? To answer these questions, we need to look beyond the headlines and find out what’s really happening right now.
You can download a complimentary copy of the full presentation of Off the Record: Shopee’s Turbulent Year 2022 as well as our other reports for a behind-the-scenes look at Shopee and the future of e-commerce in Southeast Asia.
If you want to watch a replay of the event on our YouTube channel, click here.
We also received a lot of interesting questions from participants which we have compiled and answered them – You can find them here.