I recently got back from Jakarta to settle some administrative matters in Singapore. While working on my pile of paperwork, I also got the chance to meet up with several friends. Somehow, Rocket Internet seems to be the common talking point nowadays in the Singapore tech scene.
Many pointed to this article which I wrote about Zalora, one of the many e-commerce sites managed by Rocket Internet in Southeast Asia. That post, I think, gave readers the impression that I dislike the guys at Rocket Internet. But the truth is, I actually admire them. A lot. Feel the love, Rocket Internet.
There is a lot of negative buzz surrounding Rocket Internet, mainly because it is a clone factory. But seriously, it doesn’t really matter in today’s practical world. In fact, many of us in Asia are guilty of cloning/copying ideas from the U.S. There’s really nothing shameful about that, especially if the service or product is localized to suit a particular market. We can argue all day on this but I believe there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel. Pixel-by-pixel copying is of course not cool but if it happens — and it does happen. But ultimately consumers will be the judge. It’s the survival of the fittest.
Like it or not, Rocket Internet has been pretty good at cloning successful U.S business models over to Europe. Whether the German Samwer brothers can find the same success in Southeast Asia remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure, the folks at Rocket Internet have dropped a bomb in the Southeast Asia startup community – and I kinda like it.
It’s good because it brings more tension and competition. We need that. Competition, in some way, is good for startups. The pressure will get founders in the e-commerce space to think deeper and work harder. With Rocket Internet around, it does help as it splashes marketing dollars to educate the market and encourage more online purchasing in this region. It’s good for the industry.
I also like how Rocket Internet has been aggressive with its market expansion. It’s crazy ambitious. For example, Foodpanda, in a span of weeks, has folks running operations in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok. Yes, it is a huge advantage that Rocket Internet has deeper pockets than most startups but the aggressiveness of their expansion is admirable. It might not be the correct strategy moving forward, or it could be a blunder that spreads its resources and focus too thinly. But at least the Rocket Internet folks are taking the risk in this market. And I’m sure the founders have their own formula and vision to make the range of services work in Southeast Asia. Regardless of whether Rocket Internet fails or succeeds, it will become a case study for all of us in Southeast Asia.
It will bring the game one level higher and you can’t deny that Rocket Internet has made Southeast Asia a more fun space to be in right now. We should thank them for bringing in the needed energy into our community.