Friday Notes: Tiki – The E-commerce wonder of Vietnam

In this episode (FN.004): Tiki – the fastest-growing retail E-Commerce company Vietnam who is well-positioned to be an industry winner.

Tiki is the fastest-growing retail E-Commerce company Vietnam

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

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Overview of Tiki

Granger: Good morning and happy Friday! And, welcome! Today on Friday Notes, let’s follow up on the topic of E-commerce in Vietnam and I want to talk about Tiki. Tiki is the fastest growing retail E-commerce company in the country, and it’s well positioned to be an industry winner. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s begin!

Granger: Let me start off with an overview of Tiki Corporation. Tiki was formed in 2010. Its headquarter is in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a late stage venture company. The last round of funding was a Series C funding. It has about a thousand employees. And you can go to the website tiki.vn. Now, it was originally founded as an online bookseller. Cam, I know you know all about Tiki because you use that thing all the time. 

Cameron: It’s like a trifecta. You know, you have Timo to pay all the bills, and then you have Grab deliveries food, and you have Tiki to… get any type of good in two hours…

Granger: Do they have their own delivery service?

Cameron: Yeah. They have drivers and everything.

Granger: If that’s true, let’s talk about that in just a second. Sorry, we had to scrap it, but I was just telling you our listeners a little bit of background. So, Tiki is a business-to-consumer eCommerce website and it’s the fastest-growing retail company in Vietnam, according to them… It was originally an online bookseller. Did you know that?

Cameron: No. Sounds very Amazonian?

Granger: Yeah. I know, it’s all Amazon store, right? You know, because Jeff, and I know Jeff obviously, but he kind of looks like a guy who might run a bookshop, doesn’t he?

Cameron: Now, he’s a lot cooler. He’s got a huge transition from, you know.. I think this 60 minutes interview in him within early 2000, he looked like a librarian. Now he looks like a billionaire. 

Granger: And I remember taking Jeff riding in a Tomcar once. We were out in the park right by Ellis Island, and we were doing this event.  Jeff was there, and he jumped into the Tomcar with me. I took him around with a Tomcar, which was an off-road Israeli military vehicle. And you know, the park was all closed down because we had this big event, very private event. But anyway, we were blasting around on Tomcar and laughing our butts off. And we came around the corner, of course, there was a crowd of people waiting, not for me, for Jeff obviously, and making sure that I wasn’t going to kill him right in this Tomcar… Anyway, he was cool in that ride, for sure. He didn’t get scared. And that was the time when he was staring Blue Origin, which is the space company. That was back when I was doing Rocket Racing, Rocket Racing League and the X Prize. So anyway, he’s a very cool guy. Bookstore guy to billionaire. Now we have Tran Ngoc Thai Son, who is the founder of Tiki. I know, Sir, I just bashed your name. I don’t speak Vietnamese. Can you say that better than I do?

Cameron: Probably no…

How is Tiki doing in Vietnam?

Granger: So, Tiki sells about 300,000 to almost 400,000 products now in 12 categories from electronics to lifestyle. Their values are about a quarter of a billion dollars of products. They have a huge customer satisfaction rate, growing every day. They have attracted a lot of investors, even though they’ve lost about 27 million dollars over the last three years, which is amazing. But you know, most of these companies lose money as we know, right? It’s part of their long term strategy, according to this CEO, Mr. Thai Son, who we just spoke about. And specifically, because they have to build infrastructure, warehouses, and then you need technology to run it and then you need to really grab market share. We all know that it takes a lot of money to build a brand and to get market share. 

Cameron: Especially when it comes to the busy industry of E-commerce. You have to have all that infrastructure in place. You have to have so many team members working on it just to even build all those factors. I mean if your website interface is terrible…

Granger: You’ve got to constantly update it…

Tiki is one of the most prominent E-commerce players in Vietnam

Is it easy to use Tiki as an expat?

Granger: Tiki, do they have an English version? I think I have to use Google Translate for Tiki.

Cameron: Yeah, you do. And that’s the case for a lot of these platforms. And obviously, Google Translate is good, but you can have some very funny mistranslations. So that’s part of the issue when it comes to an expat navigating these sites. You know, I’m trying to understand how do I use this interface because this interface was made in a different way… If you’ve used to Amazon, it’s kind of foreign in some respects, trying to understand it. So, that was my first barrier.

Granger: If you’re used to using Amazon in the U.S like you are, and coming over to use Tiki… Is that what you mean? But it’s much more simple, Tiki, though. It’s a pretty flat program.

Cameron: Yeah, really! All you have to do is type something in and you will probably get what you want.

Granger: Yeah, I mean Amazon has Amazon Movies and Amazon Prime and all kinds of shipping. And quite frankly, I don’t like amazon.com from a user experience or I didn’t for a long time. I had to kind of get ticket, take a class and get a small degree in how to use Amazon back home, back in the day.

Cameron: And now that’s so great because they have such great search engine optimization. They can just queue up anything and you’ll find the keywords instantly, which is one of the big barriers here as well.

Is Tiki on the track to become the Amazon of Vietnam?

Granger: Well, I think Tiki, we’re comparing that to Amazon. Is it really on track to become the Amazon of Vietnam? I mean Lazada did phenomenally well here. And of course, it was bought by Alibaba three years ago? 4 billion dollars over a couple of transactions, right? That was Chris and all those guys who were part of that and Khang…  And those guys went on to start Intrepid group here. And then Intrepid was managing those Lazada stores, and Tiki stores, and Shopee stores. So you’ve got Tiki, Shopee, Lazada… Tiki really has become the fastest on the track now, the leader in Vietnam.

Cameron: I think it’s between them and Shopee. So I think it’s Shopee, Tiki, Lazada, Sendo and the other horizons of E-commerce.

Granger: All right, so who’s number one?

Cameron: I think it’s Shopee at the current moment…

Granger: Really? Bigger than Lazada? I would find that hard to believe. But then you got Zalo. So, you can buy stuff on Zalo now?

Cameron: I’ve never used the platform. See, I mean there’s just so many… I mean I’ve looked at E-commerce listings and I think there’s over 50, 40, something along those lines.

Granger: Is that right? Just in Vietnam or Southeast Asia?

Cameron: I think just in Vietnam as well.

Granger: Right. Now, is Tiki expanding out to Southeast Asia, to the greater Asian market? Do we know? Lazada certainly is all over Asia…

Cameron: I don’t know enough about Tiki to say

Granger: So, what do you like most about Tiki? Convenience?

Cameron: They were the first one to release the Tiki now, two-hour delivery.

Granger:  Is that what you like? Let me see if I can get it right now. I hear you do that sometimes.

Cameron: It’s like instant gratification. You know, you’re like: Oh, I have my object instantly and happy again… It’s also like if you’re on the weekend and you’re like: Ah, I need a Nintendo Switch…

Granger: Oh yeah, because everyone just says “I need a Nintendo Switch.” This is the geek monster, everyone. Cameron is the geek monster. No, but if you needed a set of towels or something because you want to go to the beach. Or you know, we needed a whiteboard one day, and I said “Cam, get us a whiteboard” and you were like “Okay! Boom!” And in two hours, it was there, right? With things like that, Tiki really is the leader. Now, Lazada has Lazada delivery, called rapid delivery now, or rapid express or something…

Cameron: I’m not too positive.

Granger: Yeah, we’ll have to talk about that later. But Tiki, I don’t think has the same infrastructure. Are they using Lalamove or somebody else? 

Cameron: Yeah, they use Ahamove, Lalamove, all those other third party delivery.

Granger: So, they are using them. That’s what I thought.

Revisiting Thought of the Week

Granger: I hope you learned something here on Friday, on our little profile on Tiki today. If you want to know more, please write us. Let us know your questions and thoughts.

Granger: Is it really rewarding to start an E-commerce business in Vietnam? That’s the question, really. With all the competition going on, how do you make money in E-commerce in Vietnam? Look at Tiki. Look at some of the others. Do your homework before you jump in.

Granger: That’s all for now.  See you next time.

Cameron: Tạm biệt!

The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group. This episode was produced by Granger Whitelaw, Cameron Lynch and Toan Tang.

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