Chinese tech giant Alibaba has made a big play for the South Asian e-commerce market, with its acquisition of Rocket Internet-owned Pakistani platform Daraz. The Karachi-based firm, founded in 2012, operates in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka as well as its home market. It is the second Rocket firm Alibaba has bought, the last being Singapore’s Lazada, in 2016.
Alibaba appears to be jumping ahead of the queue in backing a company based in Pakistan, a nation with a huge population – over 190 million – but an Internet penetration of just 17.8%, according to Internet Live Stats, an analyst.
That figure is growing by around 20% per year, however, and will surely represent a huge potential land grab for Jack Ma’s company. Its population is young, and social media use is growing by a massive 35% year-on-year.
Likewise Bangladesh, which has a population of 160m, and where Alibaba is allegedly eyeing a 20% stake in fintech company kBash.
Daraz claims to sell 2m products to 5m consumers across South Asia. In statements made on its website, the firm’s leadership expressed enthusiasm for its new owner’s technology infrastructure.
“With this transaction Daraz has found its natural home in the Alibaba family, and we are proud to carry our part of the mission to ‘make it easy to do business anywhere’,” said Bjarke Mikkelsen, co-CEO of Daraz. “With hard work and dedication we have started the e-commerce journey in our markets, but we have still only scratched the surface of the potential.”
“In Daraz, we found a great team that espouses our values and believes that a technology-enabled commerce ecosystem will play a critical role in driving the long term economic development in South Asia,” added Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang.