Platformization is a term in technology that I haven’t heard used much, at least not until I came to Bangkok to speak at a TechSauce event focused on the growing opportunity in Southeast Asia.
I moderated a panel with a group of platform innovators from the region — Go-Jek and Line — with brands that cross many vertical sectors from gaming and chat to ride-hailing and shopping.
These two companies have expanded far beyond their core service. And that makes sense to keep their users coming back for more from their brands no matter the service, said my panelists Ajey Gore, CTO of Go-Jek and Ariya Banomyong.
It’s also a defensive move. If they don’t extend to new areas, someone else. That someone else could very well be the Chinese tech giants who see Southeast Asia as the next opportunity. With a market size of 665 million and a culture that is more similar to China than western markets, China’s largest technology companies are entering the region, snapping up shares in the region’s rid-sharing and payment upstarts such as Go-Jek, Grab, Ola and Paytm.
So it can amount to a strategy of building a moat around your business to ward off rivals. It’s survival of the fittest, explained Go-Jek exec Gore.
This platform is well played by Go-Jek and Line, which can simplify the name of their services with Go and Line, just like Alibaba has done with so many of its offerings such as AliPay, AliCloud, AliHealth and so on.
How do startups fare in an environment where so much of the action is centered on these platform players?
Grace Xia, a venture investor with Jungle Ventures and former Tencent executive, says that startups aren’t cut out. They can become innovation pipelines to these platform companies. That could even lead to an acquisition by the biggies, which certainly is not unheard of in this fast-emerging tech innovative region.
Rebecca A. Fannin is founder/editor of news, events and research group Silicon Dragon. She is an author of three books on innovation and venture trends, and is a public speaker.