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“东南亚版腾讯”的崛起之路

“东南亚版腾讯”的崛起之路

Simon Willis 2021年07月04日
游戏在2020年为Sea创造了超过20亿美元的利润,为其提供了战胜竞争对手的财力。

2017年10月20日,Sea Limited在纽约市上市,行人经过纽约证券交易所外带有该公司标识的招牌。图片来源:Michael Nagle—Bloomberg/Getty Images

2020年2月,全球最受欢迎的手机视频游戏《Free Fire》的开发商推出了新功能。《Free Fire》是一款非常刺激的生存游戏,玩家的角色在虚拟世界中四处奔突,用Vector Akimbo(一款冲锋枪)和Katana(武士刀)之类的复杂武器互相厮杀。而新加入的训练场功能则提供了不同的玩法。在这里玩家可以远离刺激的竞争,专心练习技能,或者只是跟朋友们一起玩。能够骑摩天轮或者玩滑板,可以放焰火,也能够去私人电影院。训练场来得正是时候,在现实世界因为新冠疫情而被封锁之际,虚拟世界趁机开放,为玩家提供虚拟角色社交的机会。玩家在游戏中花费的时间越多,花钱的可能性就越大,购买服装、枪支和宠物打扮自己的角色都要花钱。2020年,《Free Fire》游戏为开发商Sea Limited创造了32亿美元游戏收入。

Sea的总部位于新加坡,2017年在纽约证券交易所(New York Stock Exchange)上市,除游戏外还经营其他业务,包括Shopee[类似亚马逊(Amazon)的电商网站,销售从电子产品和家用电器到食品和美容等多种商品]和SeaMoney(数字金融服务公司)。Sea投资组合相当多元,为抢先打造称霸东南亚的超级应用程序,与两家网约车、食品配送和金融科技巨头Grab和GoTo展开了激烈竞争。各家公司都想成为本地最受欢迎的一站式数字商店,提供各种服务。Sea的游戏部门叫Garena,看起来可能像比赛中的配角。但在疫情期间,该部门的业绩亮眼,2020年创造利润超过20亿美元,也为Sea提供了战胜竞争对手的财力。

疫情时代Sea的优势

分析一下Sea的游戏是如何支撑其电商业务的。由于疫情期间很多白领在家登录,Shopee业务势头良好。但Sea向平台大举投资希望抢占市场份额,提供免费送货和现金返利等优惠措施吸引用户,还降低销售佣金吸引新的零售商。Shopee亏损了13亿美元,不过2020年订单同比增长130%达到28亿笔,收入增长160%达到22亿美元。Shopee首次战胜当地主要竞争对手,也是中国阿里巴巴旗下的Lazada,成为东南亚最受欢迎的电商网站。

数字支付也是同样模式。2019年,与Grab合作的电子钱包公司Ovo,还有GoTo的金融科技平台GoPay在东南亚最大的市场印尼都是领先平台。然而,益普索(Ipsos)的一项研究显示,12个月后 Sea旗下ShopeePay的用户量已经超过了这两家公司。Shopee在印尼用户数量本就庞大,带动了ShopePay用户增长,毕竟平台内钱包是电商网站最灵活的支付方式,况且Sea为ShopeePay客户提供购物现金返还。用户也可以在谷歌(Google)Play应用市场,以及Wendy's和Krispy Kreme等大型连锁店使用ShopeePay。

随着Shopee加入,Sea也顺利打进食品配送领域,之前该领域一直受到忽视。2020年,Sea在越南的食品配送服务公司超过了Grab。在雅加达的街头,ShopeeFood身着橙色衣服的车手赶上了Grab和GoTo的绿色车队,原因是公司在当地提供60%的折扣。虽然Shopee的食品配送业务尚处于起步阶段,母公司的规模和财富提供了巨大优势。今年早些时候,Sea的首席企业官王彦君(音译)在一次财报电话会议上告诉投资者:“我们自然就变成市场上的领导者。”

投资者显然已经注意到了这一点。疫情之前,Sea股价一直徘徊在45美元左右,如今股价已经超过280美元,涨幅超过了同期的亚马逊和腾讯,Sea也由此成为东南亚市值最高的公司,目前市值约为1470亿美元。

2017年10月20日,Sea的董事长、首席执行官及联合创始人李小东在纽约证券交易所为公司IPO敲钟。图片来源:Michael Nagle—Bloomberg/Getty Images

2020年,Grab和GoTo利润微薄,由于核心网约车服务陷入低迷,不得不一轮又一轮向私人投资者筹集资金。Sea集团也尚未实现盈利,2020年净亏损约为16亿美元。但Garena部门的利润为公司整体超常增长提供了资金,目前投资者似乎比较满意该策略。

去年5月,Sea出售可转换债券筹集了超过10亿美元,12月通过股票二次发行筹集了30亿美元。到2021年第一季度末,几次募资增加了57亿美元的现金储备。

多数分析师认为,Sea超常增长加速推动了Grab与SPAC(特殊目的收购公司)合并上市进程(今年早些时候两家公司宣布了该决定)。GoTo的情况也一样,2021年5月网约车公司Gojek和印尼电商公司Tokopedia合并。合并后的公司高管表示,计划最早今年在雅加达和纳斯达克(Nasdaq)联合上市。

Grab的SPAC合并预计将于年底结束,股权价值估计为396亿美元,而2019年10月公司最新一轮融资后公布的估值为140亿美元。GoTo的投资者认为两家公司合并后的总估值为180亿美元。总部位于雅加达的公司高管表示,公司上市后争取将估值提升到350亿至400亿美元。现在的问题是Grab和GoTo能否拦住Sea的浪潮。

Sea的游戏渊源

Sea的创始人及首席执行官是43岁的李小东,2006年到新加坡发展。根据彭博社(Bloomberg)的资料,他出生在中国天津,就读于上海交通大学,当时他无法理解当地方言,所以晚上泡在网吧玩电子游戏。毕业后,他在摩托罗拉系统公司(Motorola Solutions)和康宁(Corning)的中国分部工作,之后前往美国斯坦福大学(Stanford University)攻读MBA。他的同学中有新加坡人马丽倩(音译),后来成了他的妻子。2005年的毕业典礼上,李小东听到了苹果(Apple)的联合创始人史蒂夫·乔布斯著名的毕业典礼致辞,致辞中乔布斯告诫学生们“求知若饥,虚心若愚”。李小东曾经表示,乔布斯的演讲鼓励他“跳出企业界勇敢创业”。

李小东第一次创业尝试以失败告终。2006年,他和马丽倩在新加坡定居不久便创立了GG Game,主要开发单人游戏,而当时正是多人游戏蓬勃发展之际。最终公司倒闭。2009年,李小东走上了另一条路。

李小东在逐渐了解东南亚的游戏市场时,发现了市场上的问题。美国和中国的游戏公司都没有在东南亚投资搭建服务器基础设施,结果游戏往往速度慢,玩起来很麻烦。更重要的是,很多游戏为高性能的智能手机、游戏机和个人电脑设计,在发达国家智能手机很普遍,印尼和菲律宾等国却买不起,因为此类国家的游戏玩家都使用廉价设备,网速也很慢。

他的解决方案是成立Garena,当时利用Skype已故联合创始人托伊沃·安努斯的种子资金,在新加坡一家商店里创立了这家公司。随后,Garena推出了《英雄联盟》(League of Legends)和《FIFA足球世界》(FIFA)等国际热门游戏的本地版,其技术基础设施让雅加达的中档手机能够像洛杉矶的高端设备一样快速响应。李小东的策略为Garena赢得了数千万用户,也获得了腾讯等科技巨头的关注,腾讯成了早期投资者。2017年,李小东发布了《Free Fire》,Garena旗下的游戏玩家都变成《Free Fire》现成的用户。这款游戏并非原创,《堡垒之夜》(Fortnite)和《绝地求生》(PUBG)等已经普及了逃生游戏类型。李小东只是为业界忽视的新兴国家玩家提供服务。

Sea拒绝李小东和公司其他高管接受采访。

2015年,李小东开始关注电商领域并发现了类似机会。东南亚智能手机市场增长迅速,2013年18至35岁的印尼人当中17%拥有智能手机。统计公司皮尤(Pew)称,到2018年比例已经上升至66%。然而,现有电商网站都为电脑设计,而东南亚消费者很少拥有电脑。

李小东将Shopee开发成优先移动端的平台,并将游戏玩家吸引到平台上以降低早期获客成本。举例来说,Shopee是购买Garena Shells最便宜的地方,Garena Shells是玩家在Garena的游戏里使用的数字货币。李小东还在两个平台上整合了相同的数字支付系统,尽可能减少购买不流畅的感觉,确保用户可以购买想要的设备和商品。

现在Shopee向东南亚以外的新市场扩张时也在重复这一招。2019年,Sea在巴西推出Shopee应用程序,《Free Fire》一直是巴西最受欢迎的手机游戏。登录Shopee的玩家能够解锁密码以获得游戏物品。Shopee在巴西业务规模仍然较小,但根据分析公司SimilarWeb的数据,目前Shopee已经成为巴西下载量最大的购物应用程序。

Garena和Shopee之间互通不仅限于功能。新加坡的欧洲工商管理学院(INSEAD)副教授杰森·戴维斯认为,Garena让Shopee充满了“游戏DNA”。

“游戏公司发展非常迅速,有很多创新,客户对新产品的要求也非常高。”他说,“Garena的创新方式在电商行业同样适用。”

最重要的是,Sea已经掌握了注意力经济,通过精心策划的创新吸引了越来越多眼球。例如,《Free Fire》的开发者经常根据本土名人推出新角色,在各个国家专门调整。印尼的玩家可以扮演印尼武术家兼演员乔·塔斯利姆。印度的玩家能够扮演宝莱坞演员赫里尼克·罗斯汉。在巴西和埃及等新兴市场,Garena聘请巨星DJ制作只有游戏里才可以播放的独家歌曲。

Shopee还特别推出了本地意见领袖主持的现场测试。奖品是能够用于网站消费的Shopee Coins。平台还根据各国消费者口味调整商品。比如,印尼版Shopee就有叫Shopee Pilih Lokal的分区,意思是“Shopee选择本地”,专门出售蜡染和穆斯林时装等。Shopee并不是东南亚唯一采用相关策略的电商企业:去年Lazada推出了LazLive,主要推动直播售卖。不过新加坡风险投资公司Golden Gate Ventures的合伙人贾斯汀·霍尔表示,Shopee尝试的市场更多,策略也更成熟。他指出,Shopee成功主要因为“非常了解当地人的喜好和购物习惯”。尽管刚开始李小东用折扣吸引顾客,但之后也可以保持用户的活跃度。

Sea能保持热门吗?

经历了2020年大发展之后,Sea的发展之路上仍然存在三个潜在障碍。首先是游戏业务的不确定性。到目前为止,Sea主要依赖Garena的利润。但即便最流行的游戏也有生命周期。公司预计《Free Fire》至少还能够增长两年。问题是,之后会怎样?

为了开发出下一款像《Free Fire》一样的爆款,去年Sea向开发热门游戏《无畏》(Dauntless)的加拿大公司凤凰实验室(Phoenix Labs)支付了一笔未披露金额的资金。在《无畏》游戏中,玩家可以猎杀追捕全球大灾难幸存者的怪物。后续可能出现类似的投资。去年,Sea成立了名叫Sea Capital的投资部门,专门收购有盈利项目的小公司。虽然Sea很难复制《Free Fire》,但Garena资金相当充沛,不管是本地版权还是国际大作都能够轻易买下,确保后续盈利。

第二个问题关于忠诚度。如果Shopee为追求利润降低激励,用户还可以不离不弃吗?咨询公司RedSeer最新调研显示,确实有可能。RedSeer的东南亚主管罗桑·拉吉称,2019年参与调研的电商消费者最关注折扣。但到2020年秋,消费者的偏好发生了变化。“人们对价格关注降低,更在意安全和方便。”拉吉说。

这一趋势表明,只要Sea能够让用户满意顺畅的物流体验,就有空间降低优惠。Sea在中国台湾地区市场已经尝试,尽管削减了送货补贴,提高了每笔订单向零售商收取的佣金,Shopee在台湾地区市场仍然明显领跑。

第三个也是最大的问题是SeaMoney,也就是Sea旗下的金融服务部门能否赢得竞争。Sea在金融科技领域与Grab和GoTo的竞争最为激烈,主要因为潜在回报非常巨大。东南亚有近3亿人没有银行服务。在印尼和菲律宾,该比例高达70%。近几个月来,Sea等科技公司掀起了一股热潮,抢着收购印尼的银行,希望转为数字公司。

从预订出租车到预约按摩,东南亚仍然有数百万人使用Grab和 GoTo提供的各种服务,不过到目前为止还没有涉及金融领域。“人们认为Grab和GoTo不是金融服务公司。”戴维斯说,多年来他一直在研究东南亚的超级应用程序。“我还没有发现哪家公司品牌可以占主导地位。SeaMoney有机会。”

现金充沛将是决定性因素,这方面Sea赢得了早期领先优势。“公司的业绩铺好了跑道,接下来才有机会冲刺抢先。”戴维斯说道。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

2020年2月,全球最受欢迎的手机视频游戏《Free Fire》的开发商推出了新功能。《Free Fire》是一款非常刺激的生存游戏,玩家的角色在虚拟世界中四处奔突,用Vector Akimbo(一款冲锋枪)和Katana(武士刀)之类的复杂武器互相厮杀。而新加入的训练场功能则提供了不同的玩法。在这里玩家可以远离刺激的竞争,专心练习技能,或者只是跟朋友们一起玩。能够骑摩天轮或者玩滑板,可以放焰火,也能够去私人电影院。训练场来得正是时候,在现实世界因为新冠疫情而被封锁之际,虚拟世界趁机开放,为玩家提供虚拟角色社交的机会。玩家在游戏中花费的时间越多,花钱的可能性就越大,购买服装、枪支和宠物打扮自己的角色都要花钱。2020年,《Free Fire》游戏为开发商Sea Limited创造了32亿美元游戏收入。

Sea的总部位于新加坡,2017年在纽约证券交易所(New York Stock Exchange)上市,除游戏外还经营其他业务,包括Shopee[类似亚马逊(Amazon)的电商网站,销售从电子产品和家用电器到食品和美容等多种商品]和SeaMoney(数字金融服务公司)。Sea投资组合相当多元,为抢先打造称霸东南亚的超级应用程序,与两家网约车、食品配送和金融科技巨头Grab和GoTo展开了激烈竞争。各家公司都想成为本地最受欢迎的一站式数字商店,提供各种服务。Sea的游戏部门叫Garena,看起来可能像比赛中的配角。但在疫情期间,该部门的业绩亮眼,2020年创造利润超过20亿美元,也为Sea提供了战胜竞争对手的财力。

疫情时代Sea的优势

分析一下Sea的游戏是如何支撑其电商业务的。由于疫情期间很多白领在家登录,Shopee业务势头良好。但Sea向平台大举投资希望抢占市场份额,提供免费送货和现金返利等优惠措施吸引用户,还降低销售佣金吸引新的零售商。Shopee亏损了13亿美元,不过2020年订单同比增长130%达到28亿笔,收入增长160%达到22亿美元。Shopee首次战胜当地主要竞争对手,也是中国阿里巴巴旗下的Lazada,成为东南亚最受欢迎的电商网站。

数字支付也是同样模式。2019年,与Grab合作的电子钱包公司Ovo,还有GoTo的金融科技平台GoPay在东南亚最大的市场印尼都是领先平台。然而,益普索(Ipsos)的一项研究显示,12个月后 Sea旗下ShopeePay的用户量已经超过了这两家公司。Shopee在印尼用户数量本就庞大,带动了ShopePay用户增长,毕竟平台内钱包是电商网站最灵活的支付方式,况且Sea为ShopeePay客户提供购物现金返还。用户也可以在谷歌(Google)Play应用市场,以及Wendy's和Krispy Kreme等大型连锁店使用ShopeePay。

随着Shopee加入,Sea也顺利打进食品配送领域,之前该领域一直受到忽视。2020年,Sea在越南的食品配送服务公司超过了Grab。在雅加达的街头,ShopeeFood身着橙色衣服的车手赶上了Grab和GoTo的绿色车队,原因是公司在当地提供60%的折扣。虽然Shopee的食品配送业务尚处于起步阶段,母公司的规模和财富提供了巨大优势。今年早些时候,Sea的首席企业官王彦君(音译)在一次财报电话会议上告诉投资者:“我们自然就变成市场上的领导者。”

投资者显然已经注意到了这一点。疫情之前,Sea股价一直徘徊在45美元左右,如今股价已经超过280美元,涨幅超过了同期的亚马逊和腾讯,Sea也由此成为东南亚市值最高的公司,目前市值约为1470亿美元。

2020年,Grab和GoTo利润微薄,由于核心网约车服务陷入低迷,不得不一轮又一轮向私人投资者筹集资金。Sea集团也尚未实现盈利,2020年净亏损约为16亿美元。但Garena部门的利润为公司整体超常增长提供了资金,目前投资者似乎比较满意该策略。

去年5月,Sea出售可转换债券筹集了超过10亿美元,12月通过股票二次发行筹集了30亿美元。到2021年第一季度末,几次募资增加了57亿美元的现金储备。

多数分析师认为,Sea超常增长加速推动了Grab与SPAC(特殊目的收购公司)合并上市进程(今年早些时候两家公司宣布了该决定)。GoTo的情况也一样,2021年5月网约车公司Gojek和印尼电商公司Tokopedia合并。合并后的公司高管表示,计划最早今年在雅加达和纳斯达克(Nasdaq)联合上市。

Grab的SPAC合并预计将于年底结束,股权价值估计为396亿美元,而2019年10月公司最新一轮融资后公布的估值为140亿美元。GoTo的投资者认为两家公司合并后的总估值为180亿美元。总部位于雅加达的公司高管表示,公司上市后争取将估值提升到350亿至400亿美元。现在的问题是Grab和GoTo能否拦住Sea的浪潮。

Sea的游戏渊源

Sea的创始人及首席执行官是43岁的李小东,2006年到新加坡发展。根据彭博社(Bloomberg)的资料,他出生在中国天津,就读于上海交通大学,当时他无法理解当地方言,所以晚上泡在网吧玩电子游戏。毕业后,他在摩托罗拉系统公司(Motorola Solutions)和康宁(Corning)的中国分部工作,之后前往美国斯坦福大学(Stanford University)攻读MBA。他的同学中有新加坡人马丽倩(音译),后来成了他的妻子。2005年的毕业典礼上,李小东听到了苹果(Apple)的联合创始人史蒂夫·乔布斯著名的毕业典礼致辞,致辞中乔布斯告诫学生们“求知若饥,虚心若愚”。李小东曾经表示,乔布斯的演讲鼓励他“跳出企业界勇敢创业”。

李小东第一次创业尝试以失败告终。2006年,他和马丽倩在新加坡定居不久便创立了GG Game,主要开发单人游戏,而当时正是多人游戏蓬勃发展之际。最终公司倒闭。2009年,李小东走上了另一条路。

李小东在逐渐了解东南亚的游戏市场时,发现了市场上的问题。美国和中国的游戏公司都没有在东南亚投资搭建服务器基础设施,结果游戏往往速度慢,玩起来很麻烦。更重要的是,很多游戏为高性能的智能手机、游戏机和个人电脑设计,在发达国家智能手机很普遍,印尼和菲律宾等国却买不起,因为此类国家的游戏玩家都使用廉价设备,网速也很慢。

他的解决方案是成立Garena,当时利用Skype已故联合创始人托伊沃·安努斯的种子资金,在新加坡一家商店里创立了这家公司。随后,Garena推出了《英雄联盟》(League of Legends)和《FIFA足球世界》(FIFA)等国际热门游戏的本地版,其技术基础设施让雅加达的中档手机能够像洛杉矶的高端设备一样快速响应。李小东的策略为Garena赢得了数千万用户,也获得了腾讯等科技巨头的关注,腾讯成了早期投资者。2017年,李小东发布了《Free Fire》,Garena旗下的游戏玩家都变成《Free Fire》现成的用户。这款游戏并非原创,《堡垒之夜》(Fortnite)和《绝地求生》(PUBG)等已经普及了逃生游戏类型。李小东只是为业界忽视的新兴国家玩家提供服务。

Sea拒绝李小东和公司其他高管接受采访。

2015年,李小东开始关注电商领域并发现了类似机会。东南亚智能手机市场增长迅速,2013年18至35岁的印尼人当中17%拥有智能手机。统计公司皮尤(Pew)称,到2018年比例已经上升至66%。然而,现有电商网站都为电脑设计,而东南亚消费者很少拥有电脑。

李小东将Shopee开发成优先移动端的平台,并将游戏玩家吸引到平台上以降低早期获客成本。举例来说,Shopee是购买Garena Shells最便宜的地方,Garena Shells是玩家在Garena的游戏里使用的数字货币。李小东还在两个平台上整合了相同的数字支付系统,尽可能减少购买不流畅的感觉,确保用户可以购买想要的设备和商品。

现在Shopee向东南亚以外的新市场扩张时也在重复这一招。2019年,Sea在巴西推出Shopee应用程序,《Free Fire》一直是巴西最受欢迎的手机游戏。登录Shopee的玩家能够解锁密码以获得游戏物品。Shopee在巴西业务规模仍然较小,但根据分析公司SimilarWeb的数据,目前Shopee已经成为巴西下载量最大的购物应用程序。

Garena和Shopee之间互通不仅限于功能。新加坡的欧洲工商管理学院(INSEAD)副教授杰森·戴维斯认为,Garena让Shopee充满了“游戏DNA”。

“游戏公司发展非常迅速,有很多创新,客户对新产品的要求也非常高。”他说,“Garena的创新方式在电商行业同样适用。”

最重要的是,Sea已经掌握了注意力经济,通过精心策划的创新吸引了越来越多眼球。例如,《Free Fire》的开发者经常根据本土名人推出新角色,在各个国家专门调整。印尼的玩家可以扮演印尼武术家兼演员乔·塔斯利姆。印度的玩家能够扮演宝莱坞演员赫里尼克·罗斯汉。在巴西和埃及等新兴市场,Garena聘请巨星DJ制作只有游戏里才可以播放的独家歌曲。

Shopee还特别推出了本地意见领袖主持的现场测试。奖品是能够用于网站消费的Shopee Coins。平台还根据各国消费者口味调整商品。比如,印尼版Shopee就有叫Shopee Pilih Lokal的分区,意思是“Shopee选择本地”,专门出售蜡染和穆斯林时装等。Shopee并不是东南亚唯一采用相关策略的电商企业:去年Lazada推出了LazLive,主要推动直播售卖。不过新加坡风险投资公司Golden Gate Ventures的合伙人贾斯汀·霍尔表示,Shopee尝试的市场更多,策略也更成熟。他指出,Shopee成功主要因为“非常了解当地人的喜好和购物习惯”。尽管刚开始李小东用折扣吸引顾客,但之后也可以保持用户的活跃度。

Sea能保持热门吗?

经历了2020年大发展之后,Sea的发展之路上仍然存在三个潜在障碍。首先是游戏业务的不确定性。到目前为止,Sea主要依赖Garena的利润。但即便最流行的游戏也有生命周期。公司预计《Free Fire》至少还能够增长两年。问题是,之后会怎样?

为了开发出下一款像《Free Fire》一样的爆款,去年Sea向开发热门游戏《无畏》(Dauntless)的加拿大公司凤凰实验室(Phoenix Labs)支付了一笔未披露金额的资金。在《无畏》游戏中,玩家可以猎杀追捕全球大灾难幸存者的怪物。后续可能出现类似的投资。去年,Sea成立了名叫Sea Capital的投资部门,专门收购有盈利项目的小公司。虽然Sea很难复制《Free Fire》,但Garena资金相当充沛,不管是本地版权还是国际大作都能够轻易买下,确保后续盈利。

第二个问题关于忠诚度。如果Shopee为追求利润降低激励,用户还可以不离不弃吗?咨询公司RedSeer最新调研显示,确实有可能。RedSeer的东南亚主管罗桑·拉吉称,2019年参与调研的电商消费者最关注折扣。但到2020年秋,消费者的偏好发生了变化。“人们对价格关注降低,更在意安全和方便。”拉吉说。

这一趋势表明,只要Sea能够让用户满意顺畅的物流体验,就有空间降低优惠。Sea在中国台湾地区市场已经尝试,尽管削减了送货补贴,提高了每笔订单向零售商收取的佣金,Shopee在台湾地区市场仍然明显领跑。

第三个也是最大的问题是SeaMoney,也就是Sea旗下的金融服务部门能否赢得竞争。Sea在金融科技领域与Grab和GoTo的竞争最为激烈,主要因为潜在回报非常巨大。东南亚有近3亿人没有银行服务。在印尼和菲律宾,该比例高达70%。近几个月来,Sea等科技公司掀起了一股热潮,抢着收购印尼的银行,希望转为数字公司。

从预订出租车到预约按摩,东南亚仍然有数百万人使用Grab和 GoTo提供的各种服务,不过到目前为止还没有涉及金融领域。“人们认为Grab和GoTo不是金融服务公司。”戴维斯说,多年来他一直在研究东南亚的超级应用程序。“我还没有发现哪家公司品牌可以占主导地位。SeaMoney有机会。”

现金充沛将是决定性因素,这方面Sea赢得了早期领先优势。“公司的业绩铺好了跑道,接下来才有机会冲刺抢先。”戴维斯说道。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

In February 2020, the developers of Free Fire, the world’s most popular mobile video game, launched a new feature. Free Fire is a high-octane battle royale in which players’ avatars dash around a virtual world killing each other with elaborate weapons like the Vector Akimbo (a submachine gun) and the Katana (a Samurai sword). But the new feature offered something different. Called the Training Ground, it's a zone where you can practice your skills away from the adrenaline of competition or simply hang out with friends. You can ride a Ferris wheel or zip around on skateboards. You can set off fireworks and go to a private movie theater. The Training Ground couldn’t have come at a better time: Just as the real world was entering pandemic-era lockdowns, this virtual world was opening up, offering players new ways to socialize via avatar. The more time players spend in the game, the more likely they are to spend money, tricking out their characters with in-game purchases like costumes, guns, and pets. In 2020, Free Fire helped generate $3.2 billion in gaming revenue for its maker, Sea Limited.

Sea is a Singapore-based tech company that went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017. In addition to gaming, it operates other business lines, including Shopee, an Amazon-like e-commerce site that sells a variety of goods, from electronics and home appliances to food and beauty products, and SeaMoney, a digital financial services arm. Sea’s diverse portfolio puts it squarely in competition with Grab and GoTo—two ride-hailing, food-delivery, and fintech giants—in the intensifying battle of Southeast Asia’s super-apps. Each company is bidding to become the region's most popular one-stop digital shop for an array of services. Sea’s gaming division, called Garena, may seem like something of a sideshow in this contest. But during the pandemic, the profits that division generates—more than $2 billion in 2020—are giving Sea the financial firepower to outgun its rivals.

Sea’s pandemic-era edge

Consider how Sea's gaming prowess has bolstered its e-commerce business. With many white-collar workers logging in from home, Shopee was always poised to do well during the COVID crisis. But Sea lavished investment on the platform to gobble up market share, luring customers with tasty offers of free shipping and cash back, and attracting new retailers by reducing its commission on sales. Shopee lost $1.3 billion in doing so, but orders were up by 130% year on year in 2020 to 2.8 billion, and revenue rose by 160% to $2.2 billion. For the first time, Shopee overtook its main regional competitor Lazada, owned by China’s Alibaba Group, as the most popular e-commerce site in Southeast Asia.

The pattern repeated itself in digital payments. In 2019, Ovo, an e-wallet company that partners with Grab, and GoPay, GoTo’s fintech platform, were the clear leaders in Indonesia, the region’s largest market. Yet 12 months later, Sea’s ShopeePay had more users than either of them, according to a study by Ipsos. Shopee’s large customer base in Indonesia boosted ShopeePay’s user numbers—the in-house wallet is the slickest payment option on the e-commerce site—but Sea also offered ShopeePay customers cash back on purchases. They can also use ShopeePay on Google Play and at big chains like Wendy’s and Krispy Kreme.

With Shopee, Sea is also moving into food delivery, a sector it until recently has ignored. The food delivery service it runs in Vietnam, called Now, overtook Grab in 2020. Orange-clad riders from ShopeeFood are catching up with the green-uniformed fleets of Grab and GoTo on the streets of Jakarta, where the company is offering 60% discounts. Although it's early days for Shopee’s food delivery business, the parent company’s scale and wealth give it a huge advantage. As Yanjun Wang, Sea’s chief corporate officer, told investors on an earnings call earlier this year, “We do become the market leader naturally.”

Investors are taking note. Before COVID-19, Sea’s share price was hovering at $45. It now trades at over $280—a gain that outperforms that of Amazon and Tencent over the same period and makes Sea, now worth around $147 billion, the most valuable company in Southeast Asia.

In 2020, Grab and GoTo, both of which are unprofitable, had to raise money through round after round of appeals to private investors as they suffered a downturn in their core ride-hailing business. Sea, as a group, has yet to turn a profit either; net losses in 2020 totaled roughly $1.6 billion. But Garena's divisional profits are funding exceptional growth for the company overall, and investors seem satisfied with that strategy for now.

Last May, Sea raised over $1 billion from a sale of convertible notes, followed by another $3 billion through a secondary share offering in December. The sales added to a cash pile that amounted to $5.7 billion by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Most analysts agree that Sea’s extraordinary rise accelerated Grab’s decision to go public with a SPAC merger, announced earlier this year. The same goes for GoTo, the result of a May 2021 merger between the Indonesian ride-hailing business Gojek and Tokopedia, an Indonesian e-commerce company. Executives of the combined entity say they plan to take it public in a joint listing in Jakarta and on the Nasdaq that could come as early as this year.

Grab's SPAC merger, which is expected to close by year-end, presumes an equity value of $39.6 billion, up from a reported valuation of $14 billion following the venture's most recent funding round in October 2019. GoTo's investors assumed the two companies had a combined valuation of $18 billion when they merged; executives of the Jakarta-based venture say they will seek a valuation of $35 billion to $40 billion when the company goes public. The question is whether Grab or GoTo can hold back Sea’s great wave.

Sea’s gaming origins

Forrest Li, Sea's 43-year-old founder and CEO, arrived in Singapore in 2006. Born in the Chinese city of Tianjin, he attended Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where, according to Bloomberg, his inability to understand the local dialect drove him to spend his nights playing video games in an Internet café. After graduation, he worked in the China divisions of Motorola Solutions and Corning, before heading to the U.S. for an MBA at Stanford. Among his classmates was Liqian Ma, the Singaporean woman he would later marry. At her graduation ceremony in 2005, Li heard Steve Jobs’ famous commencement address, in which the Apple cofounder exhorted students to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” Li has said Jobs’ speech encouraged him “to jump out of the corporate world and turn myself into an entrepreneur.”

Li’s first attempt failed. Shortly after he and Ma settled in Singapore in 2006, he founded GG Game, which focused on developing single-player video game titles at a time when multiplayer games were booming in popularity. It eventually shut down. In 2009, Li went in a different direction.

As Li got to know Southeast Asia’s gaming market, he realized it had a problem. Gaming companies from the U.S. and China hadn’t invested in server infrastructure in the region, which meant their games were often slow and cumbersome to play. What’s more, they were designed for the high-powered smartphones, consoles, and PCs that were ubiquitous in the rich world but unaffordable in places like Indonesia and the Philippines, where gamers used cheap devices with lower bandwidth.

His solution was Garena, which he set up in a Singapore shophouse with seed money from Toivo Annus, the late cofounder of Skype. The company launched local-language versions of international hits like League of Legends and FIFA, with a technical infrastructure that made the games as fast and responsive on a mid-range phone in Jakarta as they would be on a high-end device in Los Angeles. Li's strategy won Garena tens of millions of users, as well as the attention of tech giants like Tencent, which became an early investor. Garena’s gamers formed a ready-made audience for Free Fire when Li unveiled it in 2017. It wasn't original: Fortnite and PUBG had already popularized the battle royale genre. Li simply made it available to players in emerging economies who had been ignored by the industry.

Sea declined to make Li and other company executives available for interviews.

Li turned his attention to e-commerce in 2015, spotting a similar opportunity. The market for smartphones in Southeast Asia was growing fast: In 2013, 17% of Indonesians ages 18 to 35 had one. By 2018, that number was 66%, according to Pew. And yet the existing e-commerce sites were designed for computers, which few Southeast Asian consumers owned.

Li developed Shopee as a mobile-first platform, and he lured his gamers to it to reduce the cost of acquiring early customers. For example, Shopee is the cheapest place to buy Garena Shells, the digital currency players use for purchases in Garena’s games. Li also incorporated the same digital-payments system on both platforms to make purchases as frictionless as possible, and made sure they could buy the kinds of devices and merchandise they wanted.

Shopee is now repeating this trick as it expands into new markets outside Southeast Asia. In 2019, Sea launched the Shopee app in Brazil, where Free Fire was—and remains—the most popular mobile video game. Players who log in to Shopee can unlock codes to acquire in-game items. Shopee’s Brazilian operation remains small, yet according to analytics firm SimilarWeb, it's currently the most downloaded shopping app in the country.

The crossover between Garena and Shopee is more than merely functional. Garena imbued Shopee with what Jason Davis, an associate professor at Singapore's Insead business school, calls “the DNA of gaming.”

“Gaming companies move very fast, with a lot of innovation and very high demands from customers for the latest thing,” he says. “There’s something about the way Garena does innovation that works well in e-commerce too.”

Above all, Sea has mastered the attention economy, drawing ever more eyeballs with carefully targeted novelties. Free Fire’s developers, for example, tailored the game to particular countries by introducing new characters based on local heroes. Gamers in Indonesia can play as Joe Taslim, an Indonesian martial artist and actor. In India, gamers can appear in the guise of Hrithik Roshan, a Bollywood actor. In newer markets like Brazil and Egypt, Garena has hired superstar DJs to create exclusive songs accessible only through the game.

Likewise, Shopee has featured live quizzes hosted by local influencers. The prizes are Shopee Coins to be spent on the site. The platform tailors other initiatives to national tastes. The Indonesian version of Shopee, for example, features an area called Shopee Pilih Lokal, meaning “Shopee chooses local,” which is dedicated to products like batik and Muslim fashion. Shopee isn’t the only e-commerce business in Southeast Asia to adopt these tactics: Lazada last year launched LazLive, a section dedicated to livestreaming. But Justin Hall, partner at Singapore venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures, says Shopee has done it in more markets and with more sophistication. Shopee’s success, he says, is due to “a better understanding of local preferences and shopping habits.” Although Li has enticed customers with discounts, he has also made sure to keep them engaged.

Can Sea stay hot?

After its performance in 2020, what can stand in Sea’s way? There are three potential obstacles. The first is the uncertain nature of the gaming business. So far Sea has relied heavily on Garena’s profits. But even the most popular games have a shelf life. The company expects Free Fire to grow for at least another two years. The question is, what comes next?

To increase its chances of developing a successor to Free Fire, Sea last year added to its in-house expertise by paying an undisclosed sum for Phoenix Labs, the Canadian company that makes the hit game Dauntless, in which players kill monsters that prey on survivors of a global cataclysm. Similar investments are likely to follow. Sea last year launched an investment arm called Sea Capital that will help the company acquire smaller outfits with profitable titles. Even if Sea fails to replicate Free Fire, Garena's pockets are so deep that it could simply buy regional publishing rights to international hits to keep its coffers full.

The second question is about loyalty: Will customers stick with Shopee even if it reduces incentives in search of profitability? Recent research by consulting firm RedSeer suggests they may. According to Roshan Raj, RedSeer’s head of Southeast Asia, discounts were the top priority for e-commerce consumers surveyed in 2019. But by the fall of 2020, sentiment had changed. “It was less about pricing, more about safety and convenience,” Raj says.

That trend suggests Sea has room to reduce the offers it dangles in front of customers so long as it can keep them satisfied with a streamlined logistical operation. It is already doing so in Taiwan, where Shopee remains the clear market leader despite cutting its shipping subsidies and increasing the commission it charges retailers on each sale.

The third question, and the biggest, is whether SeaMoney, Sea’s financial services division, can conquer the competition. Sea’s battle with Grab and GoTo will be fiercest in fintech, not least because the potential rewards are so enormous. Almost 300 million people in Southeast Asia are unbanked. In Indonesia and the Philippines, the proportion is as high as 70%. In recent months, tech companies, including Sea, have engaged in a feeding frenzy, buying up Indonesian banks in hopes of turning them into digital firms.

Although millions of people across the region use Grab and GoTo for a plethora of services, from ordering taxis to booking massages, so far finance hasn’t been one of them. “People don’t think of Grab and GoTo as financial services companies,” says Davis, who has been studying Southeast Asia’s super-apps for years. “I don’t see any one company having a dominant brand yet. There’s an opportunity for SeaMoney to build one.”

Access to cash will be decisive, and here Sea has an early lead. "Their performance," Davis says, "gives them a runway to push hard and get ahead.”

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