Alibaba has always aspired to bring its e-commerce service to customers outside China. Its strategy is multi-thronged. The giant's house-developed AliExpress has found success in Russia in recent years. In 2016, it bought Lazada, which came out of the Rocket Internet empire, and has helped the Southeast Asia-focused marketplace compete.
Lazada grew 80% to hit 130 million annual active consumers in the 18 months ended September, according to a presentation at Alibaba's investor day on Thursday. Its monthly active users as of September were 159 million -- larger than its AAC likely because not every user on Lazada ends up purchasing things.
Like its Chinese sister app Taobao, Lazada has introduced entertainment features like livestreaming and games that try to lock users in, making it more than a pure shopping app.
Lazada wrapped up 2021 with $21 billion in gross merchandise value, the amount of sales before expenses are deducted. And 922,000 sellers, many of whom are from China, were active monthly on the marketplace as of September, more than doubling the pool size from a year ago.
Alibaba is hardly the only Chinese tech titan wrestling for a slice of Southeast Asia's flourishing digital economy. Its nemesis Tencent is one of the main investors in Sea Group, which operates Lazada's rival platform Shopee. In 2020, Sea logged $35.4 billion in GMV.
Alibaba's other Chinese competitor, JD.com, saw its Indonesia e-commerce unit JD.ID rise up to unicorn valuation in early 2020, TechCrunch learned.