Naver, the South Korean web giant, plans global growth

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Korean web portal Naver – which has 18% of the search market in its home country – has unveiled plans to expand its commercial product portfolio and secure one billion users worldwide.

Naver debuted in 1999 as South Korea’s first local service combining a portal and a search engine – a combo made popular by Yahoo.!. He has gained a substantial market share in his country and remains a force even though Big Tech has expanded worldwide. While prized for its distinct local identity, Naver has also been unafraid to borrow ideas from others – for example, it operates a public cloud company that generated a modest income of $234 million in 2020.

Now the company wants more. Newly appointed CEO Choi Soo-yeon used a corporate event yesterday to outline plans for a new stage of global growth. Choi said Naver would grow both through mergers and acquisitions and by creating new businesses, and named Japan, North America and Europe as targets for a five-year campaign aimed at to reach £15 trillion ($12 billion) in revenue. The company recorded £6.8 trillion ($5.6 billion) in revenue last year. The CEO also wants to expand the company’s customer base, already at 700 million, exceeding one billion.

CFO Kim Nam-sun added that Naver’s global expansion ambition will see it seek more users for search, e-commerce, entertainment, fintech, cloud and robotics.

For starters, Naver will bring its entire B2B portfolio to Japan this year. Naver Cloud, LINE WORKS cloud-based chat tool and smart personal assistant Clova will be front and center.

To recruit consumers, the company will use memes and cartoons. Choi said the company will invest one trillion won in content-producing companies every year.

Naver currently has its own online publisher of compact digital comics, called Webtoon – which it calls “the most powerful creator compensation model in the world” – and a social platform for reading and writing stories online, called Wattpad. .

In Europe, home to Naver’s AI R&D lab, the company plans to build SME ecosystems and IP content value chains for its e-commerce and content verticals.

Western tech companies have often done very well when heading east – companies like YouTube and Facebook have massive audiences in Asia. Likewise, South Korean popular culture enjoyed a very strong decade in the West, with its films, television and pop music attracting unprecedented attention beyond its borders.

Asian tech products have also shown they can succeed elsewhere. ByteDance’s TikTok is probably the standard bearer, having become the most popular website in the world in 2021 and forcing Facebook to catch up.

Chinese tech titan Tencent’s games are hugely popular outside of China, and its WeChat tool also has a large audience offshore.

Alibaba has had some success with AliExpress in Europe and Trendyol in Turkey, and in 2021 had 140 million active consumers overseas. The company split into two divisions – one focused on China, the other overseas.

Naver will have to fight to find its next 300 million users and to gain a foothold in a market crowded with cloud and collaboration products. But if the likes of BTS, Squid Game and Best Picture winner Parasite can pull it off, why can’t Naver pull it off too? ®

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