E-commerce offering more long-term career opportunities

The study looked at e-commerce giants such as Shopee, Lazada, Zalora, Tokopedia and Bukalapak.
The study looked at e-commerce giants such as Shopee, Lazada, Zalora, Tokopedia and Bukalapak.PHOTO: ST FILE

While jobs in South-east Asia's e-commerce sector used to be viewed as short-term, the sector is now offering more long-term career opportunities, experts have told The Straits Times.

They were responding to a study released by e-commerce company iPrice Group last month, which said the number of employees in the biggest e-commerce firms in the region grew by around 40 per cent over the last two years.

The study was conducted through LinkedIn and covered Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. It looked at e-commerce giants such as Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Tokopedia and Bukalapak.

It found that the workforce of these largest players grew by an average of 808 employees per quarter between the end of 2016 and the third quarter of last year, equivalent to around 40 per cent over the two-year period.

These figures come amid reports of a growing Internet economy in South-east Asia, which is on track to exceed US$240 billion (S$326 billion) by 2025, according to a report released last November by Google and Temasek. This economy now stands at US$72 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV).

However, while people think of short-term roles such as delivery drivers in the e-commerce hiring space, experts said the sector is hiring employees for long-term roles.

Associate Professor Tan Hwee Hoon from the Singapore Management University's (SMU) Lee Kong Chian School of Business said: "The perception (of short-term hires) may have been so five years ago, but now, it is clear that (the industry) is here to stay. Particularly, e-commerce firms need the same types of functions in any organisation such as marketing, finance, research and development, human resources and operations.

"So clearly, e-commerce as an industry is no different from other industries, except for the fact that its development and scale has grown in leaps and bounds over the last three years."

According to the iPrice study, operations is the department with the most employees in e-commerce firms, followed by marketing and engineering. The firms also require long-term and specific talents.

Associate Professor Sarah Cheah from the National University of Singapore Business School said: "To stay ahead of competition, in-house expertise such as digital marketing, e-commerce analytics, supply chain and logistics are essential for sustaining the performance of e-commerce business in the long run.

"The building of these capabilities in Singapore is certainly important for developing professionals with the relevant expertise to fill the long-term job opportunities."

Hires for the e-commerce space can range from fresh graduates to professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who have been re-skilled, experts said.

Associate Professor Trevor Yu from Nanyang Technological University's business school explained: "Because the demand for such talent is high, it is always a challenge to hire and retain such people. Most are hired right out of school or literally from competing employers or industries.

"More and more re-skilling opportunities for displaced PMETs are also catered towards such jobs."

SMU's Prof Tan added: "The key is to re-tool folks who have good understanding of the different areas so that they are able to inform on the current rapid developments of the e-commerce industry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'E-commerce offering more long-term career opportunities'. Subscribe