Not content with its Latin America ambitions, with a Mexico launch set for December, and a Brazil launch looking likely in the New Year, Storytel has announced the next stage of its Asia expansion is underway.
To start with it’s an office in Bangkok, which will be used to coordinate expansion across the continent as well as, presumably, a base for a Storytel Thailand operation.
Currently Storytel has Asia operations in India, in the Eurasian countries Russia and Turkey, and (if we use the out-of-fashion appellation Asia Minor) we can also include the UAE.
But now Storytel is ready to get serious in Asia.
Stefan Tegenfalk, Head of Expansion at Storytel explains,
Asia as a region is very attractive to us for several reasons. For one thing, many Asian countries are technologically ahead of the game in terms of mobile services with various payment models, including consumer behavior we’d like to become more acquainted with. It also has great potential, in most countries untapped, as a market for audio-books.
Storytel will also be co-sponsor of the fiftieth anniversary conference of the Singapore Book Publishers Association September 21–23, which must put Singapore in the frame for one of Storytel’s early Asian projects.
Thus far Storytel operates in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, India, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Italy, with imminent launches in Bulgaria and Mexico, and a Brazil launch unconfirmed but looking likely.
UPDATE – Sweden’s Boktugg asked Storytel about the Brazil plans but received a “No comment” response.
The expansion into Asia presents untold possibilities for Jonas Tellander as he pursues a path of least resistance by focusing, with few exceptions, where the only serious audiobook rival, Amazon’s Audible, is notable for its absence.
Storytel beat Audible to India, where Audible is still working towards a launch, and the only other Asian countries Amazon has publishing-related operations in are China and Japan (Amazon also has token operations in Singapore and Vietnam, but has shown no interest in books in any format).
Storytel already has China and Japan showing as target countries on its international site – but entry to China may be more hope than realism right now, and Japan would be heading into an Amazon stronghold.
As per Stefan Tegenfalk, above, “many Asian countries are technologically ahead of the game in terms of mobile services with various payment models.” So where might Storytel be looking closely at?
Apart from Thailand (57 million internet users) and Singapore, prime contenders for Storytel must be Malaysia (25 million internet users), Indonesia (143 million), the Philippines (67 million), South Korea (20 million), Taiwan (20 million), and Vietnam (64 million), which have not just the online numbers but also advanced engagement with e-commerce and online payments.
Runner-up contenders will be countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh which have the internet users (44 million and 80 million respectively) but not the e-commerce infrastructure and familiarity with online buying to make them priority targets.
Asia can also offer Sri Lanka (6 million internet users), Myanmar (18 million), Nepal (16 million) and Kazakhstan (14 million), all of which are bigger than the 5 million internet user markets of Finland and Norway where Storytel began its expansion beyond Sweden.