Rocket Internet launches Zalora in M’sia and S’pore, on mass hiring spree in Southeast Asia
December 28, 2011 by Terence LEE
Updated: 18th April 2012
If you don’t know Rocket Internet, you should. This German startup incubator, founded by the famous Samwer Brothers, has a knack for copying business models from Silicon Valley and replicating them successfully elsewhere.
Now, they are conquering Southeast Asia.
SGE got wind from Raphael Strauch, managing director of Rocket Internet, that they have started Zalora.com, a Zappos clone, in Malaysia and Singapore. Zalora is an online fashion retailer that stocks clothing and accesories from indie brands around the region.
Besides an online fashion business spanning the region, a check with various online recruitment sites has revealed that Rocket Internet is also embarking on an online food delivery venture and a furniture business called Home24.sg. Raphael declined to reveal more details at the point of time.
What we do know is that the company has embarked on a massive recruitment drive in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with the aim of taking Southeast Asia’s online retail market by storm, as their job ads put it.
Based on what we’ve seen, the company is in the midst of creating multiple localized e-commerce websites utilizing a common logistical and operational backbone, each focusing on different verticals.
Rocket Internet is not new to the online retail scene. They already operate multiple e-commerce companies for shoes and fashion worldwide: www.zalando.de in Germany, www.locondo.jp in Japan, and www.theiconic.com.au in Australia. Last November, they announced plans to do something similar in India.
Think about that for a moment.
In Singapore, the online fashion scene has been dominated by LiveJournal bloggers — some of whom have branched out to create their own online stores and even physical stores. Many of these stores import their items from places like Thailand. Few design their own clothes.
Could the wildly successful Rocket Internet come in and massively disrupt the e-commerce scene in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia? It’s certainly possible.
After all, the Samwer Brothers have a stellar track record.
Founded in 2007, Rocket Internet’s successful ventures include CityDeal, which was purchased by Groupon for US$126M; short terms rental site Wimdu, which has raised US$90M; Alando, an online auction house that was sold to eBay for US$50M, and more.
With that much capital, they can afford to start another giant and give fashion blogshops a run for their money. It’s only logical that they expand to Southeast Asia, which is a lucrative market.
So just how big is this recruitment drive? Let’s look at the job vacancies they have available.
In December 2011, SGE reported that they’re looking to hire more than 20 positions in the next two months in Singapore. They were seeking an administrative assistant, and are still looking for business development interns.
A new job posting, put up on 25th January, is seeking a Call Centre Team Leader to ”lead a team of call centre agents and oversee day-to-day functioning of call centre operation.”
On the JobsDB Singapore site, they have placed ads for a business development manager, a finance manager, and six other positions. In Thailand, they are seeking a business development analyst and many other positions. Most of these jobs were posted on Jobsdb as early as 14th January, with the bulk of them appearing on 20th January.
And that’s very likely a partial list.
According to tech blog DailySocial, Rocket Internet has already hired a vice-president of digital product and online marketing in Indonesia, and are “desperately” seeking an internal recruit for a “fashion e-commerce giant”. The writer speculated that ‘Zamoda’ could be the name for the Indonesian venture, based on a reverse IP lookup.
In total, about 50 jobs have been listed so far, but more are likely to come. We estimate that about 300 staff have been hired in Singapore alone, a large number of them interns.
For blogshop owners who stocks items from elsewhere, it’ll be interesting to see whether they will be rendered obsolete by the economies of scale enjoyed by large companies like Rocket Internet. Or perhaps their branding would be strong enough to resist the tide.
Zalora.com is essentially in the same business of aggregating fashion items as these blogshops, except that Rocket Internet has much more resources and money. Based on what we’ve seen on the Malaysian website, the brand is positioning itself as a direct competitor to these smaller, local enterprises.
While there’s certainly a lot the Samwer Brothers can gain by leveraging on the brand recognition that local online retailers enjoy, I’m not sure if that’s even happening.
For independent fashion labels though, sites like Zalora are certainly beneficial as it gives them an additional retail platform.
What all this shows is that in the new Internet economy, the import and distribution business is ripe for disruption by massive Internet companies who have the financial muscle to ship goods at lower prices.
Which means in order to survive, smaller blogshops and import businesses must invest in intellectual capital too. By designing and creating their own fashion items (good example here), fashion entrepreneurs stand a better chance of prospering in a new economy by getting their goods distributed to every channel available.
While prominent tech journalists like Sarah Lacy are highly critical of the Samwer brother’s worldwide rampage, I am not one to complain.
Besides being a boon to creative fashion designers, sites like Zalora.com could widen the e-commerce pie in the region, which will benefit other Internet businesses.
In addition, aspiring entrepreneurs seeking job exposure in a startup environment will surely benefit from a stint at Rocket Internet. Ideation, after all, is just one part of the equation.
Execution matters a whole lot more. And the Samwer brothers are good at it.
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Are the Samwer Brothers, a.k.a Rocket Internet really that bad for Southeast Asia?
Company: Rocket Internet
Rocket Internet is a Berlin headquartered company that is well-known for cloning successful online startups (usually from the US), replicating them elsewhere, and turning them into large, profitable businesses. It is active in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, India, and Pakistan.View profile: RocketInternet More articles: RocketInternet
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE