Interview with Susie Sugden, Co-Founder and Joint Managing Director, Vela
How would you define the current momentum of the retail sector in Asia?
Retail is a growth sector across Asia, as the number of middle class consumers grows strongly across the region. Vela works in Indonesian e-commerce, where the trend is even more extreme. We get to piggyback on two complementary trends - increasing wealth and increasing access to technology.
Where are the growth areas for the retail sector in Asia?
Vela's focus is on Indonesia, and particularly regional Indonesia. While the entire country has experienced annual growth of around 6% for decades, these trends are even stronger in Tier 2 Indonesian cities like Medan, Makassar and Surabaya. Many so-called "Tier 2" cities are forecast to grow over 20% per annum through to 2020.
What are the challenges and issues?
Challenges in retail, and particularly in e-commerce, are mainly in operations. Vela needs to be creative to resolve challenges with low credit card usage, poor logistics infrastructure and complex regulations governing importation. Fortunately, the industry is addressing these challenges head on. Each year brings big improvements.
Susie started her career with the Boston Consulting Group, where she was a Senior Associate working predominantly in bricks-and-mortar retail. She spent three years with BCG in Australia before transferring to their Jakarta office. Susie left BCG in 2011 to co-founder Zalora and Lazada Indonesia, now the two largest e-commerce players in the country. She developed the full marketing capability for both companies, before leaving to run the Indonesian contextual advertising company, SITTI. She left SITTI in early 2013 to co-found Vela with Bede. She originally hails from Tasmania, Australia. She grew up in various parts of the world, including extended stints in Thailand and Taiwan. She attended the University of Melbourne, where she received a combined Law (Honours) and Economics degree, and also a Diploma in Political Science.