THAI online retailer iTrueMart says the Philippnes is only the first stop on the company’s $150-million expansion plan, which will cover much of Southeast Asia into 2016.
“From 2015, we already invested $4.5 million, and that’s just for the end of the year. We have announced an investment of $150 million for our expansion next year. What that means is that since the Philippines is the first [new] market in the [region]… a big part of that investment will be going to the Philippines. At this stage, [we’re earmarking] $50 million for 2016,” Dean Krstevski, regional COO of e-commerce, Ascend Group (under which iTrueMart is a business unit), said during the Nov. 24 launch at the Discovery Primea in Makati City.
The $150-million investment is said to be set for “e-commerce-optimized fulfillment centers, logistics hubs, expansion of the feel, marketing, and ramping up assortment and inventory,” according to a company press release.
Mr. Krstevski had said in the press release that there was still plenty of opportunity for new players in Philippine e-commerce.
The online business-to-consumer platform, whose Philippine Web site was launched a week before the event in Makati City, carries mobile and electronic merchandise, much of it from local players such as Cherry Mobile. Mr. Krstevski told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the Nov. 24 launch that the site currently has 600-700 products, and “by the end the end of the year, we’re looking at a minimum of 2,000 products,” mostly from the same category (gadgets and electronics), while they plan to expand to other categories (such as mom-and-kids’ merchandise) starting January.
Mr. Krstevski also noted that iTrueMart found local mobile phone brands popular in the Philippines, hence the number of items offered from said brands.
In Thailand, smartphones and gadgets account for 70% of total sales, according to the press release. The company reported 4.6 million visits per month in its home country and a sales conversion rate of 4.20%, compared with an industry average of 2%.
“iTrueMart started in 2013… In the beginning, in Thailand, we only had about 400 orders a day, and now we get up to 17,000 orders per day. And we want to replicate that success in the Philippines. We know that with the market readiness — the characteristic of the shoppers here — we will absolutely get there,” said Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Group and TrueMoney.
Mr. Punnamas added that the company is introducing alternative payment options such as TrueMoney, Ascend Group’s online payment brand, which will function much like a PayPal account. Payment can also be done in convenience stores, as the company has partnered with the Massachusetts-based payment organization, RocketPay.
Aside from iTrueMart, the group will also be introducing WeLoveShopping — Thailand’s “first and largest” e-commerce marketplace — in the near future.
After the Philippines, iTrueMart is set to expand into Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia next year. — Zsarlene B. Chua