Type to search

TikTok to Spend Billions in Southeast Asia, Focus on E-Commerce

Chinese tech giant said it would invest ‘billions of dollars’ – in training, advertising, supporting small vendors looking to join its e-commerce platform TikTok Shop, and more

TikTok says it will invest billions in Southeast Asia.
TikTok TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew addresses the Southeast Asia forum at Ritz Carlton in Jakarta (Reuters).


TikTok said on Thursday it would invest billions of dollars in Southeast Asia over the next few years.

The announcement by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew at a forum in Jakarta, comes as the social media giant owned by China’s Bytedance focuses on the region amid intensifying scrutiny in the US and EU over its data security.

Southeast Asia is a region with a collective population of 630 million – half of them under 30 – and one of TikTok’s biggest markets in terms of user numbers.

The booming short-video app has been attracting more than 325 million visitors to the app every month.

But the platform has yet to translate that large user base into a major e-commerce revenue source in the region as it faces fierce competition from bigger rivals of Sea’s Shopee, Alibaba’s Lazada and GoTo’s Tokopedia.


TikTok Emerges as Preferred News Platform of Young Adults


Push for vendors to join e-commerce site

“We’re going to invest billions of dollars in Indonesia and Southeast Asia over the next few years,” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said at a forum it organised in Jakarta to highlight the social and economic impact of the app in the region.

TikTok did not provide a detailed breakdown of the spending plan, but said it would invest in training, advertising and supporting small vendors looking to join its e-commerce platform TikTok Shop.

Chew said content on its platform was becoming more diversified as it adds more users and expands beyond advertising into e-commerce, allowing consumers to purchase goods through links on the app during livestreaming.

TikTok has 8,000 employees in Southeast Asia, and 2 million small vendors selling their wares on its platform in Indonesia, the region’s biggest economy, he added.

E-commerce transactions across the region reached nearly $100 billion last year, with Indonesia accounting for $52 billion, according to data from consultancy Momentum Works.

TikTok facilitated $4.4 billion of transactions across Southeast Asia last year, up from $600 million in 2021, but it still trailed far behind Shopee‘s $48 billion of regional merchandise sales in 2022, Momentum Works said.


Intense scrutiny over user data harvesting

TikTok’s investment plan comes as the Chinese-owned company faces scrutiny from some governments and regulators because of concerns that Beijing could use the app to harvest user data or advance its interests.

Countries including Britain and New Zealand have banned the app on government phones, moves TikTok said it believed were based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by wider geopolitics.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it has ever shared data with the Chinese government and has said the company would not do so if asked.

The app has not faced major bans on government devices in Southeast Asia, but it has been under scrutiny over its content.

Indonesia presented one of its first major global policy challenges in 2018, after authorities briefly banned TikTok for posts they said contained “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.”

In Vietnam, regulators said it would probe TikTok’s operations in the country because “toxic” content on the platform poses a threat to its “youth, culture and tradition.”


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




TikTok Facing US Ban if Chinese Owners Don’t Sell Stakes


US and Canada Order TikTok Cut From All Government Phones


China’s TikTok Sues Montana Over Statewide Ban


TikTok CEO to Tell US Lawmakers: ‘We’ve Never Shared Data’


CCP Could See Hong Kong Protesters’ TikTok Data – Guardian


Lawsuit Says China Officials Had Access to TikTok’s US Data – CNN


Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond