Garena has just raised $550 to rebrands itself to SEA which stands for South East Asia to consolidate it’s position in the local market. This fund raise comes prior to its plan of raising $1 billion from its upcoming IPO. Its major services include ecommerce, gaming and financial services. It majorly fights with Alibaba’s Lazada and has Tencent as one of its major investor. Garena was founded in 2009 as an online gaming platform and its games business will retain that name. Its other main products are Shopee and AirPay, an e-wallet service. Sea also said that it will add former Singaporean foreign minister George Yeo, former Indonesian trade minister Mair Pangestu, and Pandu Sjahrir, a director of Indonesian coal and palm oil company PT Toba Bara Sejahtra, as advisors.
But what is ironical in this is news is the new name of the company which instead of being based on some product or technology or abstract idea is based upon the name of the region in which it operates ! Last 10 years have seen an unprecedented rise of local geographical leaders in tech. The premise of a flat global Internet world of level playing field where the best product wins is fading out to give rise to giant corporate monstrous entities with complex suite of localized ( pst mediocre ) products offered in their protected local turfs. Most of these companies play under the pseudo protection of their government’s protectionist policies which play out by either hindering the entry of foreign entities into their regions or by favouring the local players. This trend, if anything, is alarming and directs the evolution of single best invention of human kind in last 5 decades to a direction from where there is no coming back. There was a reason why internet was named World Wide Web. It cuts across the artificially constructed boundaries of countries, race , developed, developing and democratises information in a way which reflects the true ethos of an egalitarian society. But it is hear breaking to see internet more fragmented than ever. The biggest utopian alternate world which had potential to make an alternate non zero sum field for the world has fallen prey to the petty politics and everyday has started to mirror more of our real fragmented world.
Companies in China and rise of BAT trio which virtually control the entire internet economy of china with their own products and investments is the perfect example of how this trend of fragmented internet will lead to development of monopolies because of wrong reasons. What happened to Uber in China reflects a paradigm shift is required in the Silicon Valleyesque ‘Blitzcaling’ philosophy. Now Indian companies like Flipkart and Ola have started pleading to their governments to provide protectionist incubation to them from the onslaught of foreign players like Amazon and Chinese companies. But Indian government has stuck to its principles and is committed to build the local business environment as a global free trade market. Adam Smith must be smiling from heaven looking at this.
These are best of times because of all that technology has did to enrich our lives and these are worst of times for what some crony people are doing to control it. But I am sure sanity and free market will prevail.
Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times
Welcome to the final show
Hope you’re wearing your best clothes
You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky
You look pretty good down here
But you ain’t really good