Ascend Group adopts Amazon unit's cloud network

Economy October 20, 2015 01:00

By NOPHAKHUN LIMSAMARNPHUN
THE N

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THAILAND'S Ascend Group has turned to Amazon Web Service's cloud computing network for e-commerce, payments and other Internet-based business expansion in several Asean markets.



Chaiwat Ratanaprateepporn, chief technology office of Ascend Group, which includes True Money, iTrueMart, and WeLoveShopping, said the cloud technology had opened up new opportunities for the group’s digital businesses.
“For me, cloud service saves time and money. It’s like buying electricity from the electricity authority and we pay what we actually use as an expense, so there is no capital investment upfront for the expensive IT infrastructure required to facilitate Internet-based businesses,” he said.
Ascend Group has focussed on e-commerce, electronic payment and other financial services in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia while preparing to expand into Vietnam and the Philippines shortly.
For payment services, the group allows customers to pay their bills for merchandise and other services by topping up their mobile-phone credit. 
In Thailand, there are about 65 million prospective customers, while Myanmar has about 10 million potential customers and in Cambodia, there are 14 million smartphone users.
In Vietnam, Ascend is in the process of setting up a subsidiary to provide similar services. 
“Overall, our target group is more than 600 million consumers in the 10-country Asean market. Besides e-commerce payment, we’re working on banking services for the vast majority of Asean consumers who do not have bank accounts or are not qualified to open one.
“For example, only 30 per cent of the Philippines’ 100 million population have bank accounts. It’s similar in Indonesia, which has more than 200 million people, but only about 30 per cent have bank accounts.
“We’re working on e-wallets and e-money transfer for these people by using the mobile-phone top-up payment method. At this stage, we’ll expand into the Philippines first by opening a subsidiary later this year.
“The business model is similar to what we have offered in Thailand via iTrueMart and WeLoveShopping. The Thai e-commerce market is estimated to be worth about Bt20 billion per year. At present, you can top-up your account at 7-Eleven stores, ATMs or credit cards, such as MasterCard, to pay for purchases on the Internet,” Chaiwat said.
Regarding the Philippines, the market outlook is good because competition is less than in other Asean countries as Filipinos are more familiar with cash-on-delivery (COD) and counter-service payment methods.
According to Chaiwat, Amazon Web Service’s cloud network allows Ascend to expand quickly with low investment risks.
“Suppose our e-commerce business hits the right spot and grows exponentially, we wouldn’t be able to scale our infrastructure fast enough to meet 1,000-per-cent demand growth within a short time. It usually takes at least three months to install extra data-centre capacity.
“However, we could use the cloud service and do that within one day while paying for the service according to what we actually use on a monthly basis. We also plan to use cloud for our business set-up in the Philippines to save time and avoid upfront capital investment.”
Andy Jassy, senior vice president of Amazon Web Service, told “AWS re:Invent 2015”, the company’s annual conference in Las Vegas this month, that cloud computing had become the new normal for digital businesses.
Jassy said its cloud-based Web service, launched in 2008, now generated US$7 billion (Bt247 billion) for AWS annually, with a year-on-year growth rate of 81 per cent.
Entrepreneurs benefit from increased agility and lower expenses that are not possible to achieve on their own, he said, adding that customers also did not to have to guess their capacity and could use the cloud network in a matter of minutes.
No more “not possible”, “maybe next year” “we don’t support that”, in the journey from ideas to completed project, because it’s quick to provide, with vast infrastructure, agility covering computing, databases and encryption for security and access control.
Large customer data are set for transfer in 50-terabyte boxes, shipped end-to-end by courier for loading in another place, he concluded.