E-commerce Guide in Thailand

E-Commerce Guide in Thailand

The growing internet user base makes Thailand an ideal growth environment for e-commerce businesses. At present, the Thai e-commerce market is valued at US$3.5 billion and is expected to generate a revenue growth rate of 13.2 percent annually, reaching US$5.8 billion in 2022.

More and more consumers are opting to shop online than in stores. The Internet is becoming an inseparable part of society in Thailand, especially with the emergence of new technologies changing the way retail is offered to consumers.

To capture market share in Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, both local and international companies in retail and service industries are taking steps to understand the nature of digital channels to take advantage of the potential online opportunities.

This guide aims to assist you looking to capture e-commerce opportunities in Thailand’s emerging market. It provides an overview of the digital retail sector in the country in the present day, key players shaping the behavior of consumers, and additional details to consider before running an online business or selling products through existing online channels in Thailand.

Ready? Let’s dive in. Here’s what to expect in this article:


1 – The Current State of E-Commerce in Thailand

  • Thailand’s E-Commerce Landscape
  • Drivers of Growth for E-Commerce in Thailand

2 – Opportunities and Challenges to Selling Online in Thailand


1 – Overall Consumer Sentiment and Motivation Towards Online Shopping in Thailand

  • Thailand Online Consumer Profiles
  • Attitudes Towards Online Shopping

2 – The Online Purchasing Journey in Thailand

3 – Online Spending Patterns and Buying Behaviour

4 – Online Product and Brand Preference


1 – Online Channels in Thailand

2 – Creating a Digital Strategy: Generating Consumer Demand

  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

3 – E-Commerce Logistics and Fulfillment

4 – After Sales Service


1 – Product Registration, Inspection, and Quarantine Procedures

2 – Types of Taxes in Thailand

3 – Getting Goods to Thailand


1 – Registering a Trademark

2 – Intellectual Property Disputes


1 – The Current State of E-Commerce in Thailand

The second-largest economy of Southeast Asia, Thailand has one of the region’s highest number of internet users. There are approximately 57 million internet users in the country that are well-versed in the use of digital technologies, mobile, and e-commerce.  

Thailand’s E-Commerce Landscape

E-commerce platforms in Thailand are commonly divided into three main categories:

Consumer to Consumer (C2C):

This business model facilitates the transaction of products or services between individuals. An example of C2C would be the classifieds section of a newspaper, eBay, or Craigslist. Sellers list items online and transactions tend to occur offline once the buyer and seller have initiated the conversation (unless the platform facilitates payments). Social commerce, such as transactions done through Facebook, is also considered to be C2C.

Popular examples in Thailand: Hipflat, Kaidee, and Weloveshopping.

Hipflat is a C2C platform for properties in Thailand. It is open to both direct home buyers and agents; Hipflat.co.th
Business to Consumer (B2C):

The B2C business model refers to a transaction of products or services made online between the brand (a business) and the end consumer. This is the most popular and widely known sales model used globally. Consumers have high expectations for official brand sites such as 24/7 customer support, multiple payments options, and flexible return policies.

Popular examples in Thailand: Lazada and kiehls.co.th.

Lazada’s home page often features the ongoing promotions the marketplace is offering now; Lazada.co.th.
Business to Business (B2B):

Businesses still commonly perform transactions with one another through offline communications in Thailand, for example, a secretary ordering printing paper in bulk through the telephone.

But as traditional supply chains are multi-layered and complex, platforms are being introduced to simplify the transactions between businesses. As consumers become accustomed to the B2C experience online, they anticipate the B2B experience to be the same.

A popular example in Thailand: Officemate

Originally a stationery store in malls, OfficeMate allows businesses to buy items in bulk through their website, which also caters to direct consumers as well; www.officemate.co.th.

The growth of online can be attributed to several economic factors and influence by the government’s push for its digital ‘Thailand 4.0’ agenda to align with the global shift in consumer behavior towards online.

Local and international firms alike, especially Internet giants from China, are quick to establish e-commerce businesses through new ventures or acquisitions to cement a key role in Thailand’s growing digital economy.

Main Drivers of Growth for E-Commerce in Thailand

1 – The Government Push for Thailand 4.0

The Thai government launched its “Thailand 4.0” economic model to reposition and strengthen the country’s economy from one that is production-based to one that is knowledge and services-based. Within 10 years, Thailand is seeking to become a leading digital hub in South East Asia.

A key tenet of this vision is for digital technology to be the driving force behind the country’s economic growth, boost the industrial sector and improve the lives of its citizens.

2 – Internet-Savvy, Young and Mobile-First Generation

In a country with a population of 69 million, at least 48 million Thais use smartphones, 57 million are connected to the Internet and 46 million are
accessing social media through mobile devices.

Thailand has an Internet penetration rate of 82% and out of the 69 million residents, Millennials (also known as Gen Y) make up a majority of the population (19 million). The majority cohort spends on average 53.2 hours a week online.

Only 28% of Thai consumers access websites through desktops and laptops, while 69% use their smartphones as the primary device to browse websites.

The mobile-first Thai market is also seen in the way its consumers browse. Roughly 15% of consumers look for product information via smartphone, versus only 7% using computers. This behavior emphasizes the importance of mobile-first companies and mobile-optimized websites.

3 – Large Foreign Investment into Thailand

Thailand’s market size and e-commerce potential have made it an appealing market to foreign investment. In the last two years, Chinese Internet giants like Alibaba and JD.com have invested in Thailand. Alibaba through its USD 3.64 billion investment in Lazada in 2018, and USD 304 million injections into the first stage of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), while JD.com has poured $454 million into a joint venture with Thailand’s leading retail conglomerate, Central Group.

E-commerce is the leading category that has received the greatest foreign investment compared to payment, logistics, fintech, and food and beverage sectors. The total is 29 funding rounds in 2017 alone.

Consequently, the increase in interest from foreign investors in Thailand’s e-commerce sector has encouraged local firms to increase their competitiveness and encouraged more SMEs in Thailand to innovate in the areas of online commerce, fintech, and artificial intelligence (AI). The investment also resulted in more joint ventures between offline wholesale companies and online companies.

4 – Popularity of Social Media Drives Social Commerce in Thailand

In 2018 there are 51 million active social media users in Thailand, which is 74% of the total Thai population.

In 2017, Thailand was reported to be the world’s biggest social commerce market where 51% of online shoppers have purchased goods directly via a social channel such as Facebook and LINE.

The popularity of social media in the country has paved the way for social commerce to grow insignificance. More online shoppers are using social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to browse and negotiate the purchase of products ranging from beauty, apparel to travel luggage.

These platforms provide an inexpensive means for small businesses to sell online compared to building a fully-fledged website. The direct communication between seller and buyer also adds a personal touch, which Southeast Asian shoppers find important to gain trust in online shopping.

Opportunities and Challenges to Selling Online in Thailand


1 – Mobile and Electronics Lead in Product Categories Online

In terms of popularity, mobile and electronics are the leading product category online in Thailand. Thais are accustomed to visiting traditional malls like MBK or Pantip Plaza to purchase small electronic gadgets, but more consumers are opting to purchase these types of items online instead.

On Lazada alone, 14.7 million out of 60 million items are listed in the mobile and electronics category, according to data by BrandIQ.

The product categories that Thais shop online the most; e-commerce IQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018.

Beauty and electronics continued to be the best performing on Lazada from its online shopping festivals known as 11.11 (taking place on 11 December) and 12.12 (taking place on 12 December) and its Birthday Campaign (taking place on 6 April).

2 – The Blue Ocean is in the Vertical

The e-commerce landscape in Southeast Asia has several ‘horizontal e- commerce’ websites that sell items under a variety of product categories ranging from household goods to auto parts and fashion. These include players like Lazada, Shopee, 11street, Central, JD.com, etc., with a well-established presence making it difficult to compete as a newcomer.

Launching as a vertical e-commerce player is considered more cost-effective as the business can focus its marketing on driving one type of
audience to the platform for one type of category. The company can also invest heavily in creating a powerful site identity as opposed to being generic to cater to multiple audiences.

Building a brand community creates social centers to drive customer allegiance by building a social network and sense of community. Vertical e-commerce also gives people a sense of well-being and connection, which encourages faithfulness to the brand.

3 – Demand for Foreign Brands

According to research by Y&R Thailand, Thai consumers across all market segments are most attracted to leading global brands like Adidas and Apple rather than local brands.

Whenever a new international brand launches in Thailand, it’s usually met with huge fanfare, generating local interest. When there is an opening of a well-known brand from overseas, whether it is Krispy Kreme, Ben’s Cookies or the collaborative design collections from H&M, Thai shoppers camping outside stores has become a normal phenomenon.

In the past few years, there were over 100 higher-end foreign brands opening flagship stores in Thailand.


Resistance Towards Digital Payment, Cash is King

Despite government initiatives like PromptPay and standardized QR codes aimed at transforming Thailand into a cashless society, cash is still dominant as a form of payment in the country. This resistance is one of the main challenges businesses face trying to convert browsers into online shoppers.

Despite 78% of Thais having a bank account, only 6% own a credit card. Lack of trust in digital payments and low financial literacy both play a significant role in the lack of cashless payment adoption despite efforts by major financial institutions in the country.


1 – Overall Consumer Sentiment and Motivation Towards Online Shopping in Thailand

Thailand Online Consumer Profiles

Attitudes Towards Online Shopping

Thai consumers generally have a positive attitude towards being connected to the online world. When it comes to consumer safety and privacy, 34.5 % of Thai consumers regularly change their passwords and trust in two-factor authentication and OTP (One-Time-Pin) password options.

The frequency of Thai online shoppers; e-commerce IQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018.

In 2018, 68% of Thais believe technology offers more opportunities than harm, while 52% prefer to complete tasks digitally where possible.

Despite the promising numbers, the average Thai only shops online only once or twice a month, largely due to the fear of fraud. However, as e-marketplaces and sellers gain the trust of users by improving their online experiences and knocking down shopping barriers, it is expected the number of online transactions to improve steadily.

2 – The Online Purchasing Journey in Thailand

The path of purchasing has evolved since the arrival of the Internet. Although the digital revolution hasn’t altered the same stages of discovery, consideration, conversion, and loyalty, the journey itself is no longer linear. What do businesses need to consider about the digital purchasing journey?


In this stage, it is vital to ensure the brand makes itself and its products visible to its target audience. Traditional advertising such as billboards and newspapers remains effective as out-of-home (OOH) media can reach audiences effectively in concentrated, metropolitan areas.

How Thai shoppers are discovering each e-marketplace; e-commerce IQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018.

However, digital has caused marketing to shift towards channels that are measurable such as search engine marketing (SEM) and social media marketing.

Based on a 2018 survey conducted by e-commerce IQ, Facebook and Google remain the top two channels where Thais discover Lazada and Shopee, the top e-commerce sites in the country.


After discovering a product or brand, 89% of Thai consumers search for product information online before deciding to purchase high-priced items such as a smartphone or a luxury good.

What commonly prompts browsers to eventually convert is called rich content. This includes high-definition pictures from multiple angles, in-depth product descriptions, and user reviews, positive and negative.

For categories such as fashion and furniture, rich content would include providing measurements and sizing charts.

The better the images, the more likely users feel they can virtually touch and try the product, while the product description should serve as a substitute for the salesperson that answers questions from potential buyers.

Reviews are also important during the consideration stage of a consumer. 53% of consumers say reviews from other buyers often push them to make an online purchase.


After driving an interested audience to the website, the likelihood of conversion is impacted by how simple it is for the customer to check out.

The common e-commerce site checkout process:

  1. Add product to cart
  2. Sign up to checkout or checkout as a guest
  3. Input address and receiver details
  4. Choose payment options and input billing information
  5. Confirmation
  6. Check My Order status page


To boost the repurchase rate and ensure consumers come back to shop on the website, retailers commonly implement a membership program as 92% of consumers in Thailand say they would be more likely to shop at a retailer that offers one.

Benefits of a membership program:

  1. Increases the chances of a second sale from a first-time buyer
  2. Bumps an existing customer into a higher paying bracket
  3. Provides user feedback to be used to improve branding and marketing efforts.

3 – Online Spending Patterns and Buying Behaviour

Online Behaviour of Thai Shoppers

Understanding the behavior of Thai consumers such as the why and how a customer shops online is important for marketing efforts, and localization of a business strategy for success in new markets. This section looks at the changing habits of Thai online shopping patterns and behaviors.

  • 64% are concerned about their online behaviour; the content they post and the people they are communicating with;
  • 63% are using the Internet for business purposes;
  • In 2006, online shopping used to rank eighth place among online activities. In 2017, it ranked in the top five.

Why Are Thais Buying Goods Online?

51.4% of online shoppers in Thailand buy online because of the promotions and discounts offered via an e-commerce website.

The reasons Thais prefer online channel to offline channel; ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018.

What Devices are Thais Using to Buy Goods Online

Smartphones play a vital role in Thai participation in e-commerce. 67% of shoppers take part in online transactions via mobile devices, making it vital to offer a mobile-friendly site or app.

The majority of Thai online shoppers tend to make the majority of online transactions through mobile; ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018.

4 – Online Product and Brand Preference

What Products are Thais Buying Online?

The top three categories Thais are purchasing online are:

  1. Mobile and electronics,
  2. Fashion,
  3. Beauty.

How Much Do Thais Usually Spend Per Transaction?

The average amount of money spent per transaction known as the average order value (AOV) is between $14 – 28.

How Do Thais Prefer to Pay Online?

Given the low penetration rate of credit cards in most parts of Thailand, bank transfer remains the main payment method for Thai online shoppers. Bank transfer and Cash on Delivery are the most preferred payment methods among Thais.


Online Channels in Thailand

Similarly to traditional commerce, it is necessary to identify the most appropriate sales channel for e-commerce as they are not all the same. This depends on factors such as the type of business, target audience and resources available to a company, etc.

Most online sales take place on four different types of channels in Thailand:

  1. E-Marketplace
  2. Brand Webstore / Brand.com
  3. E-Retailer
  4. Social Media

Channel Comparison: Which Online Channel to Invest in?

The table below illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of each type of online channel in Thailand:

The comparison table showing which channel should a brand invest in; E-Commerce.

User Experience – The authority the brand will have to control the purchase journey on the website for its consumers (i.e. position of a shopping cart, number of check-out steps, etc.).

Commercial Control – The control the brand has on pricing, promotions, inventory level, etc.

Marketing Investment – The amount of investment a brand needs to make to draw traffic to its e-commerce store.

Operational Effort – This refers to the operational aspects of an e-commerce site, including technology, and logistics.

2 – Creating a Digital Strategy: Generating Consumer Demand

Once a website is built and goes a life, the company must focus on creating demand because it will not naturally come. This is an important aspect of running an online business because, unlike conventional stores where people walk by and can be drawn to enter, online stores can be buried under a sea of links in the millions.

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing occurs when a company sends a commercial message to a group of people through email. Whether the message contains advertisements, business updates, or donation solicitation, the goal is to enhance the relationship between the sender and receiver.

E-mail direct marketing (EDM) is an effective way to influence consumer segments to perform a variety of action items such as: click to website, click to buy, click to share, click to receive a discount, etc.

According to e-mail marketing platform Mailchimp, the average e-mail open rate from EDM campaigns is about 20-25%, while e-mails sent from e-commerce companies achieve about 16.75% and a conversion rate of 2.32%.

Frequent communications with your customers prove to generate 2X the leads; Autopilot.

It is important not only to send e-mails at a consistent time but also to ensure they are tailored to be attractive for receivers whether the brand decides to segment its database into females over 20, frequent shoppers, etc.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material such as articles, videos, blogs, and social media posts intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.

In e-commerce, content marketing is intended to educate consumers about the benefits and uses of a company’s services/product, create customer loyalty and evoke positive sentiments towards the brand.

Because Thailand ranks relatively low for English proficiency (on average 49.8 out of 100 points), to effectively conduct marketing in Thailand, the content needs to be in the Thai language to maximize the ads’ reach and engagement.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing leverages data collected from social channels to interact with a large global network of users that match the brand’s consumer profile. As Thai consumers commonly use social media like Facebook as a platform to read news, search for information and stay connected with family and friends, it is an effective way to draw traffic to a particular website or Facebook page.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Marketing plans should make use of Google’s position as the leading search engine in Thailand. Brands can use a search engine maximization (SEM) strategy to appear at the top of the search ranks.

3 – E-Commerce Logistics and Fulfillment

An important component of a successful e-commerce strategy is delivering the package to the door of the consumer in an efficient and timely manner. Free delivery is among the top three reasons why Thai shoppers choose to shop on their preferred e-commerce website.

Unless the business has invested in its own delivery fleet and fulfillment centers, it is important to consider the key logistics players available in Thailand.

Third-Party Logistics Provider

Third-party logistics (3PLS) refer to a comprehensive range of outsourced services for almost all aspects of the supply chain. One of the many reasons e-commerce players turn to third-party logistics suppliers is because it’s cost-effective versus investing heavily in building an in-house delivery fleet and warehouse management technology.

Top Logistics Providers in Thailand
Thailand Post

Thai Post is a state enterprise that provides postal services across Thailand. Thailand Post has a total of 1,275 locations including hubs, post offices, and dropship counters enabling extensive country coverage by even assigning mom-and-pop shops to be its point of delivery and pick-up. Express Mail Service (EMS) and same-day delivery are the two most commonly-used services by Thai individuals and companies.

Kerry Express

Established in Thailand in 2006, Kerry Express (Thailand) is an end-to-end supply chain solutions provider originating in Hong Kong. Kerry Express has over 1,500 locations across Thailand and offers a wide range of services including B2B, B2C, and C2C delivery.


DHL is among the top international logistics courier present in Thailand. DHL E-Commerce has also introduced DHL ServicePoint, which allows online merchants to easily drop off their parcels at convenient locations such as local cafes, bookstores, or fashion outlets.

4 – After Sales Service

A common mistake made by new e-commerce companies is assuming the purchase journey ends once the product is delivered to the consumer. After-sales service managing returns, running experience surveys, customer service, etc. – is an equally important element of an enjoyable e-commerce experience companies should not neglect.

The post-sales period is a crucial time for retailers to show customers they are dependable and to increase the chances of more sales down the road. The digital economy has provided companies with more options to stay in touch with their key customers. In recent years, brands have adopted new communications channels as part of the after-sales service, including live chat and Facebook Messenger.


Under the laws of Thailand, electronic commerce is defined as the dispatch and/or receipt of a data message by electronic means to conclude a commercial transaction.

1 – Product Registration, Inspection and Quarantine Procedures

To establish an e-commerce business in Thailand, whether an e-commerce website or dealing with marketplaces directly, the owner must begin by registering the company with the Department of Business Development (DBD), under the Ministry of Commerce.

This will require the following documents:

  1. A request of commercial registration (Thor. Phor. Form)
  2. A copy of identification card of the manager/partner (in case of an ordinary person)
  3. The copy of commercial registration and identification card of managing partner/authorised board up to cases (in case of a juristic person)
  4. An authorisation letter (if any)

The owner must have a domain name and an active website. The details of the website must be submitted with the commercial registration form and the domain name is registered with the Thai Network Information Centre Foundation (THNIC).

Additionally, the owner can choose to trademark the company’s name.

To register a domain name for an e-commerce company with the “.co.th” extension, the owner must file the following documents with THNIC:

  1. Certificate of registration;
  2. The VAT registration document;
  3. The VAT modification request document.

This process can take up to six months or one year from the date of filing. Trademark protection begins on the day the application is filed.

E-Commerce Licence

A special e-commerce business license must be obtained at the Department of Business Development (DBD) within 30 days after the business begins operating. An e-commerce license is required when your company is operating one or more websites selling goods or services in Thailand.

Be aware, even a social media page can qualify as an e-commerce business if it specifies pricing and payment procedures online. An e-commerce license costs THB 9,500 or $308.

To apply for the e-commerce business license, the following details are required the website owner:

  1. Name of the website
  2. Nature of the goods or services being sold on the website
  3. The date at which the website starts/started operating (application should be made within 30 days from the start date)
  4. Method of payment for the purchase
  5. Document evidencing the domain name registration or certification document from the service provider (ISP or web host)

Any organization handling online credit card payments must be compliant with specific security requirements by the Bank of Thailand.

Thailand Import Procedure

According to the Foreign Business Act of 1999, a foreigner can engage in an import-export business without a Thai citizen shareholder owning 51% of the company and without having to apply for permission from the Thai government.

When a shipment arrives in Thailand, importers are required to file a Goods Declaration application and supporting documents with a Customs officer at the port of entry. Imports are not allowed to legally enter Thailand until 1) the shipment has arrived at the port of entry, 2) been authorized by Customs, and 3) applicable taxes and duties have been paid.

Depending on the nature of the imported goods such as pharmaceutical and chemical commodities, regardless of value, the importers will need to obtain a permit to facilitate clearance.

To import goods into Thailand, businesses will need to provide:

  • Import Declaration
  • Bill of Lading (B/L) or Air Waybill
  • Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Import Licence (if applicable, see below for more detials)
  • Certificates of Origin (if applicable)
  • Other relevant documents such as catalog, product ingredients, etc.

Import Licence

There is no overarching law regulating the import of goods into Thailand, which means general goods, such as clothes or furniture, can be imported into Thailand without restriction.

The Ministry of Commerce designates classes of goods such as drugs, foods and supplementary products, antiques or objects of arts, weapons, and ammunition, and wild fauna, flora fish, and other aquatic creatures to further import controls, which usually take the form of permission and licensing.

2 – Types of Taxes in Thailand

Company Tax

A foreign company carrying out a business in Thailand, whether it has a branch, an office, an employee, or an agent in the country must pay 30% tax on profit deriving from business in Thailand.

E-Commerce Tax

The Thai cabinet recently approved a proposal on July 17, 2018, to collect a 7% value-added tax (VAT) from foreign vendors and e-commerce platforms. Under the amended Revenue code, all foreign business operators selling goods in Thailand produced abroad via Internet platforms (e.g. brand websites, social media, etc.) are subject to 7% VAT to the Revenue Department.

The business operators are required to register as a Thai company to pay VAT in Thailand. The government will first forward the draft bill to the Council of State, the government legal advisory body, before submitting it to the National Legislative Assembly for a debate.

3 – Getting Goods to Thailand

All goods imported into Thailand must be reported to the Customs Department. The duty-free allowance will be applied to accompanied personal effects up to $560 if the items are intended for personal or professional use.

The steps required to meet these legal requirements are outlined below:


1 – Registering a Trademark

Although a trademark is not compulsory to run an online business in Thailand, there are significant benefits to doing so. Registering a trademark provides legal protection against counterfeit, infringement and expedites the company’s ability to enforce its rights.

Registration of a trademark also ensures the company is not unknowingly infringing on an existing mark. Without a registered trademark, it will be exceedingly difficult to enforce your proprietary rights against providing reciprocal enforcement against infringement. The trademark is registered with the Department of Intellectual Property.

What document do you need for a trademark registration?

  1. A logo of the trademark in the exact color
  2. A copy of the company affidavit of the applicant (if based abroad) and an original set of the company affidavit in the case of a Thai company
  3. Signed passport copy of the authorised director(s)
  4. A signed power of attorney (should be notarised if signed from abroad)

Intellectual Property Disputes

A trademark protection strategy is strongly advised before the launch of any new brand and preferably before entering the Thai market. This is particularly true in Thailand where the process for registration of a trademark usually takes around one year.

Brand registration, the anticipation of a possible infringement, and costs associated with enforcement actions, and/or loss of sales do not suffice to solve the problem of counterfeiting but do a lot to protect the right of the trademark owner.


Congratulations! You have officially learned the steps of the e-commerce guide in Thailand. Now start booming and make the world your business!

Also, if you would like to learn more about international trade, here is a link to our international trade and business guide. You can also watch videos on my YouTube channel.

Now I would like to hear your thoughts:

What’s your first takeaway lesson from this article?

Or maybe you have a question about the topic.

Either way, leave a comment below right now.

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Hi everyone! Murat here. I’m an entrepreneur who learned about global business because I had to. Like so many other people who have faced hardships in their jobs, I was forced to adapt—and quickly—to support myself and my family. Today, I’m well into my career.
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