Groupon beefing up staff in Thailand ahead of likely 2012 launch

Groupon beefing up staff in Thailand ahead of likely 2012 launch

Group buying giant Groupon looks likely to launch a service in Thailand next year after advertisements seeking candidates for a range of executive level positions with the company emerged online.

The ads for account executives and editorial/content specialists, which appeared in a popular local job listings site, suggest that the company is filling its staff roster having already hired a core management team in Bangkok. If Groupon’s hiring is indeed that advanced, then the service may roll out in early 2012.

As we exclusively revealed last month, Groupon has already hired a country manager — having brought in former Gallup consultant Jay Neesanant as its head of national sales and strategic operations — and it was seeking a number of management executives back in October.

Groupon’s approach to entering new markets has usually been through acquisition or partnership but, at this stage, no details of any deal have been forthcoming.

A tie-in with Sanook, Thailand’s largest Internet content firm, would seem most likely as the Thai company has a number of factors going for it. Sanook boats a strong brand in the country, it already runs a coupon service and it has links with Tencent — Groupon’s partner in China — which owns 49 percent of the firm.

A move to Thailand makes sense for Groupon given that it has services in most of Southeast Asian’s significant markets – including Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines (as Beeconomical), Indonesia (under recently acquired Disdus) – leaving just Thailand and Vietnam as large markets it is yet to enter.

Earlier this year, Groupon missed on acquiring Thailand group buying market leader Ensogo, whose management team admitted that it didn’t feel it fitted with the global giant and its culture. Instead, Ensogo was bought on undisclosed terms by LivingSocial in June this year.

Groupon’s late arrival will see it start a long way behind Ensogo, which dominates Thailand’s group buying scene. Though there is no specific competitive data available publicly, statistics cited by Business Report Thailand demonstrate Ensogo’s considerable lead:

Among the most successful sites are Deal Didi, which Google Double Click estimates received 510,000 page views in June 2011; S! Coupon, which managed 290,000; Dealicious, which notched 140,000; and Ncoupon, with 93,000. But none come close to the popularity of Ensogo, which enjoyed an estimated 6.1 million page views the same month.

Groupon’s reputation in Asia has suffered as a result of its disastrous operations in China. Gaopeng — its joint venture with Tencent in the country — has been heralded as lesson in how not to run a business in China after it posted an annual net loss of $46.4 million in October. Financial problems forced it to lay off hundreds of staff and close more than ten offices across the country in August, according to the Wall Street Journal, while it has been dogged with issues around fake goods for some time.

Groupon has yet to acknowledge or comment on its plans for Thailand, but we have reached out to the company and will update this article with its response.

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