ADA acquires Awake Asia to roll out eCommerce practice

Axiata Group’s subsidiary ADA has launched an integrated eCommerce practice through the acquisition of regional eCommerce enabler Awake Asia. The latter operates in six Southeast Asian countries - Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam - according to its LinkedIn. Awake has more than 165 employees and with combined forces, the team at ADA will be approximately 800 strong, targeting the six Southeast Asian markets as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and South Korea. CEO of Awake Asia, Simon Paterson, joins ADA as chief of eCommerce enablement to lead the new division.

While ADA declined to reveal the monetary value of the acquisition, CEO Srinivas Gattamneni (pictured) told A+M that discussions have been ongoing since late 2020. Prior to the merger, ADA and Awake Asia have collaborated over the last six months. As a result, ADA saw an increased demand for eCommerce enablement across all its clients and has accelerated the acquisition discussion. In March this year, ADA announced the launch of a new business line combining data-driven marketing strategies with end-to-end eCommerce solutions but did not reveal more back then.

The newly integrated eCommerce practice brings together Awake Asia’s  eCommerce expertise with ADA’s media, creative, and analytics solutions to drive online sales for brands. It plans to do this through three avenues:

1. Digital marketing: Digital media execution integrated with eCommerce operations; customer-centric strategies and activations; performance linking external media spend to online sales.

2. Consumer data and analytics: Utilise client’s customer data and third-party data sets to derive shopper insights, personalise content and cross and upsell via eCommerce channels.

3. Reach audiences in super apps and marketplaces: Optimise customer touchpoints across super apps and owned apps and websites; deploy martech solutions such as customer data platforms and attribution tools to track and optimise conversion funnel.

The merger also opens a new market for ADA in Vietnam, with clients such as P&G, Unilever, BMW, Wyeth, Shopee, Tokopedia, and Lazada, among others. According to Gattamneni, Vietnam is a large and high growth market for ADA, with a population size of 96 million. With an expected digital media spending of over US$300 million, it presents a significant opportunity.

"ADA has been serving some brands in Vietnam via our regional office. Now with a local presence and local teams, we will be able to offer more services to brands as part of their digital transformation needs. The current Awake Asia team of 60 employees gives us a significant competitive advantage to scale from and capture market share in Vietnam," he added.

Like ADA's clients across Southeast Asia, Vietnam clients are looking for integrated insights, creative, media, marketing tech and eCommerce enablement solutions. Gattamneni said ADA has plans to expand the operations in Vietnam with all digital marketing services alongside eCommerce enablement. When asked about the clients it is targeting post-merger, he said the industries of focus are consumer foods, telcos and financial services.

This merger comes weeks after ADA’s alliance with SoftBank last month, which saw the latter invest approximately US$60 million to expand and accelerate ADA's group’s analytics, data and AI digital marketing business in the region.  Following the investment, SoftBank will hold 23.07% shareholding of ADA, establishing ADA’s valuation at RM1.07 billion (US$260 million). Axiata Digital Services will remain the majority shareholder of ADA at 63.47%. Gattamneni  declined to comment on how much of SoftBank's investment will go into the new eCommerce practice. 

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