Data Analytics and Business Intelligence: Opportunities and Challenges in Southeast Asia

Big data has been a buzzword in the technology scene these past few years, aided by increased marketing budgets of software companies and the general interest around privacy issues from social media data. Within the enterprise space, interest cuts across verticals, from retail, agriculture to healthcare and manufacturing – but what does it really mean?

For fear of oversimplification, it refers to the amount of data points:- which can be anything ranging from the price of your lunch set to the time needed to restart a machine in a manufacturing plant. There is no definite and strict definition of big data but according to Gartner, the definition revolves around the 3 “V’s”:

  • Volume – large datasets (Terabytes and above)
  • Velocity – needs to be processed quickly
  • Variety – data of different formats, sources, etc

The rise of big data can be attributed to many factors but mostly because of the ever-increasing usage of mobile devices and applications, adoption of cloud services and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). Many industry players have recognized the potential of implementing IoT in their daily operations, connecting devices and collecting the information from those devices. However, data alone is useless if it is not processed into useful insights which can help business owners to strategically navigate their business. This is where data analytics and subsequently business intelligence (BI) offer some value-add.

Strictly speaking, BI is a subset of data analytics, but many industry experts are using it interchangeably for practical reasons. It is understood that both describe a practice of utilizing data to drive better business decisions.

Business Intelligence Market Outlook

The big market for BI and data analytics is expected to grow even more due to the rise of big data. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the revenue for big data and business analytics will reach $150.8 billion by the end of this year and expected to surpass $200 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9%. Further, the industries which will make the largest investment in big data and business analytics would be banking and finance industry, manufacturing and the public service sector. Banking, healthcare, insurance, securities and investment services and telecommunications are expected to record the fastest growth in terms of spending on BI tools and software, each with CAGR of 13%.

America remains to be the leader in term of market size in the projected period, but according to Stratistics MRC, Asia will have the highest growth rate. Growing adoption of technologies and high economic growth in the region are the main contributors to the high growth rate of data analytics and BI in Asia.

Adoption of Business Intelligence in Southeast Asia

From our past activities in various countries across the region, I have witnessed several BI projects undertaken by enterprises and governments. Many of them are in the middle of pursuing digital transformation to modernize their operations and data analytics and BI are an integral part of the digital transformation.

Thailand is one of the countries in Southeast Asia with an adequate level of maturity for technology. The banking sector in Thailand has started to implement data analytics and BI to gather valuable insights from their customers and in turn, develop a better customer service and marketing strategy. One example would be Bank of Ayudhya, also commonly known as Krungsri. The result is very positive. The personalized marketing and service individualization has helped them to achieve 50% increase in campaigns response rate with less expense on lead generation.

In the agricultural sector, Malaysian Sime Darby Plantation has also embraced the power of data analytics and BI. Sime Darby Plantation has managed to reduce the need for greenfield expansion and to improve their productivity. They have set up an online dashboard called Open Palm to optimize their supply chain operation. They have also offered the access to Open Palm to their key clients where commercial information such as data on products and purchasing patterns will be presented. A snapshot of the dashboard is shown below.

Krungsri Consumer and Sime Darby Plantation were awarded the Enterprise Innovation Award in 2017 in recognition of their digitization efforts.

Telcos have also started to utilize data analytics and BI to further their business development activities. Starhub, one of the main telcos in Singapore, has just launched digital and social analytics hub called Curiosity. Curiosity has the ability to gather data and monitor the social media conversation which will be further analyzed to become valuable insights for themselves and their clients.


Even though it is apparent that there are strong opportunities in Southeast Asia, there are some challenges too for the data analytics and BI industry. One of the main challenges would be the high capital investment needed by enterprises. Many enterprises, especially in the developing countries, are still reluctant to invest in BI due to the high upfront cost. They haven’t fully understood the value BI can bring which can easily compensate the capital investment. Hence, I think it is important to educate these enterprises about the real benefit of utilizing data for them. Success stories from other industry players, such as mentioned above, would be a great tool to do so.

Security concerns are echoed strongly too. Many people are afraid of diving in the world of data and BI due to security reasons, especially with more sophisticated hackers and malware in the recent years. This year, many developing countries in the region such as Vietnam and Indonesia were identified as vulnerable targets in the recent ransomware outbreak. Thus, it is also important to ensure that strong data and cyber protection are implemented to assure a sustainable transformation for the enterprises.

Drop me a note at [email protected] if you are interested to be involved further in the discussion or to learn more details on digital transformation in Southeast Asia.

Felix Fernando

16 November 2017

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