Tesco is secretly setting up their online S'pore store, gearing up to fight Amazon and Redmart

Tesco is secretly setting up their online S'pore store, gearing up to fight Amazon and Redmart
The head office of Tesco is seen in Cheshunt, Britain, January 8, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

Tesco is the venerable British supermarket chain who are the market leaders in grocery shopping in the United Kingdom.

Much like NTUC Fairprice in Singapore, Tesco is literally everywhere in the UK, from convenience stores, to supermarkets, to standalone hypermarkets. If you have visited the UK before, you would most definitely have visited and shopped in one at least once.

Shoppers arrive at a Tesco superstore in Altrincham, Britain, February 5, 2015.Photo: Reuters

They are also not limited only within the UK.

In the 1990s, they began their expansion into Central Europe, and in the 2000s, started appearing in Asia as well. Frequent Singaporean visitors to Malaysia would have probably visited one of their 57 stores in the country. The only other Asian countries that Tesco has a presence in are Thailand (largest in Asia with 1,092 stores), China, and Japan.

Tesco Digital Ventures (Singapore)

What if we told you that Tesco has already started to covertly build a presence in Singapore, in preparation for a possible appearance in the country?

Sure, you don't see any Tesco outlets out on the streets right now - but because it's precisely what they are not going to do.

It seems though, that Singapore will be Tesco's testbed to go all-out online, and powering this initiative will be a subsidiary called Tesco Digital Ventures.

As the name suggests, the usual Tesco shopping experience that you know and love may not come to Singapore. Instead, being a "Digital" venture, it may be a sign that Tesco will be going online here.

Don't believe us? Here's some digging that we did.

The best way to prove the existence of any business entities in Singapore is, of course, through Bizfile, by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the national regulator of business entities in Singapore.

Photo: Bizfile.gov.sg Screen Capture​

Here's what a quick search on Bizfile turned up for a certain "Tesco Digital Ventures". We see that the company is most definitely alive since its status is marked as a "Live Company".

Furthermore, we have an address located around Tanjong Pagar too. Maybe we should drop by for a visit since our office is nearby.

Not convinced? There are some of the top level people working there right now, and we headed to LinkedIn for some "research".

Julia Atwood – Chief Executive Officer, Tesco Digital VenturesPhoto: Linkedin

We start right from the very top with Julia Atwood, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the new subsidiary. From her profile, we could also see when Tesco Digital Ventures started operations in Singapore, which in this case was since August 2016.

Miss Atwood was previously the Head of Strategy and Business Development, Asia for Tesco, and was based in their Hong Kong office, and it seems that she has been moved to Singapore to take lead on the company's new initiative.

Binoo Joseph – Technology Head, Tesco Digital VenturesPhoto: Linkedin

Another Tesco employee who made the move to Singapore is Binoo Joseph, as the Technology Head for Tesco Digital Ventures. He is a later addition to the team, coming in only since October this year.

Formerly Head of Technology Programme for Tesco in their Shanghai office in China, he has been a somewhat longtime employee in the Tesco family, having first worked in their Bengaluru office in India, before going on to the United Kingdom, and then China.

The fact there there is a Technology Head right here in Singapore serves to adds credibility to Tesco unleashing an e-commerce platform in Singapore.

Next, we have some also talent acquisitions from Singapore.

Heejeong Hong – Chief Customer Officer, Tesco Digital VenturesPhoto: Linkedin

First up is Chief Customer Officer of Tesco Digital Ventures, Heejeong Hong.

She was previously the Change Management Director at Diageo for Singapore and South Korea. Diageo, if you didn't know, is the company behind some of your favourite alcohol brands such as, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Baileys, Guinness and many more.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Miss Hong has been working in Singapore since 2011, where she first worked as an Associate Director at Standard Chartered Bank, before moving on to Diageo.

Corrinne Koh – Chief Marketing Officer, Tesco Digital VenturesPhoto: Linkedin

The last profile we could find of Tesco Digital Ventures employees at the moment belongs to Corrinne Koh, their Chief Marketing Officer.

Her career in Singapore started as an entrepreneur, co-founding an interactive company which specialises in web and application development, as well as e-business solutions. The company was later acquired by Leo Burnett Worldwide, later re-branding to become Arc Worldwide.

Later on, her career brought her to other companies such as OSIM, AsiaRooms, Expedia, and Eu Yan Sang, in e-commerce and marketing leadership positions. Prior to joining Tesco, she was also the Chief Marketing Officer of the now defunct Ensogo Group.

The Current State Of Grocery Shopping In Singapore

Singapore has seen some prominent foreign supermarket chains come and go in its lifetime. The one in most Singaporean's recent memory would probably be French hypermarket Carrefour, who pulled out of the country in 2012.

In itself, Singapore is already home to a dense cluster of supermarket chains, with NTUC Fairprice, Cold Storage, Giant, and Sheng Siong all competing for the consumer dollar in groceries and household essentials.

For online retailers though, there is Redmart (recently acquired by Lazada), who is a prominent figure for virtual grocery shopping in Singapore.

Notwithstanding the online stores that some of the supermarket chains may have set up, there is currently no one else like Redmart with their own supply chain of goods, warehouse, and delivery vehicles. Honestbee works with retailers to get your grocery delivered to you, but they don't have any actual inventory.

Seems though, that the online grocery marketplace may soon see another entrant, and last we heard, Tesco is readying to start selling online as soon as possible.

As of now, we haven't heard of anything such as a warehouse lease or delivery vehicles being acquired unlike Amazon. But if we did, you will be the first to know here.

Right now, though, we are going to assume that if any e-commerce marketplace is going to be launched by Tesco in Singapore, they will probably leverage on their existing Asian supply chain (especially in Malaysia and Thailand) to get goods into Singapore.

Redmart(Lazada) VS. AmazonFresh VS. Tesco in 2017…maybe? Regardless, we're ready for you all!

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