Digital Picks and Shovels: Paul Srivorakul’s aCommerce Enables the Ecommerce Boom in Southeast Asia
Bangkok-based aCommerce is a regional company that enables ecommerce in Southeast Asia. The firm helps online merchants, both regional and global, build their businesses in Southeast Asia, with a big focus on the unglamorous side of e-retailing, such as customer support, distribution, fulfillment and logistics.
“We are close to what a distributor does. We help companies enter local markets, and plug them into retail outlets,” says Paul Srivorakul, 40, co-founder and chief executive of aCommerce.
The tagline that aCommerce uses is “making ecommerce easy since 2013.” A more colorful description comes from the LinkedIn profile of aCommerce Group Chief Marketing Officer Sheji Ho: “The exclusive provider of premium digital picks and shovels for the ecommerce gold rush in Southeast Asia. Inquire for the latest models.”
Paul, a Thai citizen and serial entrepreneur, came up for the idea when he was working at Ardent Capital, an venture investment firm he also founded in 2012.
“While at Ardent Capital, where we have invested in 17 different ecommerce companies, we realized the common problem that all these companies faced was logistics and getting products delivered to customers. There were no real B2C logistics and fulfillment companies. Thus aCommerce was build as an internal need of the fund to support all the brands, since we knew that we could use the same service for other brands and retailers,” says Paul.
In June 2013, aCommerce became its own company, with Paul bringing in his brothers Tom and John to help found and start the firm (Tom remains as Thailand co-chief executive of the firm), while Paul continues to have a role at Ardent.
With $3.1 million in funding from Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, the firm was launched. By 2014, the firm had four offices and fulfillment centers and over 250 employees in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The company had some major clients such as L’Oreal, HP and Groupon. Others were entering the same market at the time, with Japanese BPO giant Transcosmos setting up a local Indonesian office in June 2013, and Singapore’s postal firm, SingPost, offering similar services and selling a 10% stake to Alibaba in 2014, making Alibaba the second-largest shareholder in the firm after Singapore telcom SingTel.
Today, aCommerce operates in six Southeast Asian countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, with 20 offices and fulfillment centers. Its range of services have grown to include digital marketing, channel management, warehousing, call centers, shipping and cross border services and webstore development. It also provides advisory and consulting services such as market entry strategies and ecommerce market research. For example, for IT giant HP, the firm manages all of its online markets, fulfillment and deliveries in Southeast Asia. The firm has also started to help clients with offline services.
“The difference for us is that we started online and now we are also moving to offline,” says Paul.
Current clients include international brands such as Philips, Nestle, Unilever, Adidas and Samsung Indonesia has emerged as one of its largest operations, with 50 of its 220 clients based here, including Blibli, Eiger, Sales Stock, Mataharimall, Mitra, Adiperkasa and Kawan Lama.
“Before we would take a brand and grow them in B2B and B2E [business-to-employee] markets, but today, we are getting brands that want the entire Southeast Asian region, and that’s what allows us to scale in a big way,” says Paul, with what he dubs “B2all” services across the region.
The company claims to have grown over 200% year on year since 2015.
Paul has a global background, being born in Thailand and raised in California. Although he got a BA in anthropology at University of California Berkeley in 2000, he caught the internet bug early and got a sales job at Ask.com in the U.S. (his brother was working at Apple). They both decided to become entrepreneurs, so they quit their jobs and moved back to Thailand to look for opportunities, and decided to focused on online advertising.
They used credit card debt to fund the startup Newmedia Edge, started in 2006, which went on to represent MSN in Thailand and the Philippines, and then Yahoo in Indonesia and Vietnam in the early 2000s. The company was acquired in December 2011 by Australian marketing firm STW group for about $8 million. Even while running Newmedia Edge, they started a second firm, ad network business Admax in 2007, selling it to Indian firm Komli Media in 2012 for $36 million.
Paul started his third venture, Ensogo, in 2010 after seeing the Groupon phenomenon in U.S. and selling it the U.S. social media firm LivingSocial in October 2012 (for an undisclosed sum). Earlier in 2012, he had already launched Advent Capital in Thailand, to seed ecommerce firms around Southeast Asia, which sparked his idea to start aCommerce.
While Paul won’t disclose any revenues, he says 70% of it comes from service fees and 30% from revenue sharing. Paul says the firm could sport a $550 million dollar valuation by next year. To get a sense of its current valuation, Paul notes that the most recent funding round in November 2017 raised more than $65 million from private equity giant KKR, Telkom’s VC arm, MDI Ventures, is one of the investors in aCommerce, “We are focused on brands,” says Paul to sum up his strategy.
The story first appeared on Forbes Indonesia, by Aastha Maheshwari and Anushka Dhoo.