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Digital dragons: Asia’s internet giants are rising

Discover the five multibillion-dollar digital businesses you’ve never heard of, but need to know all about.

Digital technology is leading to a massive, rapid growth in opportunities for businesses throughout the global economy, and nowhere is this growth faster or more dynamic than in Asia.

Digital dragons: Asia’s internet giants are rising

These opportunities will only escalate throughout the region due to the diversity of countries, cultures and scope, says Telstra’s head of global enterprise, Andrew Wildblood.

“Technology breaks down many of the borders and barriers between the different cultures, creating great opportunities for Australia,” says Wildblood. “You’ve just got to be respectful of cultures when trying to do business in Asia, and understand it’s not a homogenous region.”

The chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australia China Business Council, James Hudson, says Australian companies should already have an entry strategy to take advantage of rising disposable income and booming demand for Australian goods and services.

“Having an effective online retail presence is becoming an increasingly important component of any entry strategy into the region,” Hudson says.

The first step in any Asian growth strategy should be to understand what is already there, because the next digital giant is just as likely to surface in New Delhi or Shanghai as it is in Silicon Valley.

Here are the digital dragons that are currently outsmarting, outselling, and effectively outgrowing their global competition.

Baidu

The Chinese search engine, founded in 2000 by Robin Li, is today worth some $US75 billion ($102 billion) with more than half its revenue generated from mobile platforms.

With (unaudited) profits nearing the $US350 million mark for the last quarter, much credit is due to Baidu’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Li, who also heads up the company’s growing marketing and communications team, as the giant knocks on the door of Google’s global dominance.

Tencent

China’s Tencent is the mobile-first company responsible for the popular mobile text and voice-messaging service, WeChat. With a market cap of $US200 billion, it is one of the 10 biggest internet companies in the world.

With its diverse portfolio of investments, including social networks, web portals and advertising, Tencent is on par with the likes of Amazon and eBay in retail, and Google in advertising.

JD.com (Jingdong Mall)

E-commerce outlet JD.com has almost doubled its market cap in the 12 months since it listed on the stockmarket, making it one of China’s biggest, if not the biggest, direct sales retailer.

With a model that allows retailers to distribute goods via a same-day or next-day delivery service, this platform is proving incredibly popular and has formed partnerships with some of the region’s biggest brands, such as Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo.

Flipkart

With a mobile-only strategy and plans to remain private for at least three more years, Flipkart is India’s biggest online retailer, estimated to be worth $US8.7 billion.

The recent acquisition of Appiterate, a New Delhi-based mobile engagement and marketing automation company, will soon see Flipkart execute an integrated targeting strategy for its mobile users.

Daum Kakao

Valued at close to $US6 billion, Daum Kakao is the social networking and gaming giant used by 93 per cent of South Korea’s smartphone owners.

Formed in 2014, when Daum Communications and Kakao merged, Daum Kakao plans to expand its already 140 million-strong app-user base via strategic partnerships in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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