BANGKOK -- Chinese e-commerce company JD.com said Thursday that it will open an online shopping site in Thailand through a tie-up with local retail giant Central Group.
With the move, China's No. 2 online shopping service will take on bigger rival Alibaba Group Holding in Southeast Asia, a key battleground. While Alibaba has been expanding in the region through group company Lazada, JD.com is banking on its own e-commerce platform, which has already been brought to Indonesia.
JD Central, as the site will be called, is expected to open in April 2018. Foreign clothing and cosmetics brands sold in Central's department stores will be available, alongside Thai produce and regional specialty foods and goods. In addition, Thai shoppers will have access to Chinese products such as electronics.
JD.com also looks to bring digital payment services to Thailand, where the most popular payment method for online orders is still cash on delivery. The Chinese company plans to enable smartphone-based payments and other alternatives using technology from Tencent Holdings, a shareholder of JD.com.
JD.com and Central are expected to invest 17.5 billion baht ($528 million) in all setting up the site and related services, including payments and shipping services.
The Chinese company looks to expand its e-commerce platform across Southeast Asia. It plans to make Thailand a regional hub for product supply and distribution, CEO Richard Liu Qiangdong told reporters here Thursday, citing Thailand's large population and established infrastructure.
The e-commerce market in Southeast Asia is poised to grow from just $5.5 billion in 2015 to around $88 billion in 2025, according to research by Google and others. Lazada now sits on the top perch. But the market is still small, so "the winner has yet to be decided," an official at Central said.