Alibaba Group has confirmed that Jack Ma has accepted the offer and will serve as an economic advisor to the Indonesian government, reports Tech in Asia. The goal is to have Ma help develop the Southeast Asian country’s growing ecommerce industry.

Ma will be a part of Indonesia’s ‘steering committee’ consisting of 10 ministers.

“The thinking behind this is to make Indonesia’s positioning in the international marketplace more prominent,” Rudiantara, Indonesian Communication and Information Minister, said in a video released by the state secretariat.

Tech in Asia speculated that it was probable that Ma would accept the offer as Alibaba is clearly interested in Southeast Asia. The ecommerce giant bought a controlling stake in Lazada earlier this year and Lazada Indonesia already has a degree of Alipay integration since the deal finalized.

However, it is not clear to what Ma’s role would entail, as details regarding the ‘ecommerce advisor’ position has not been revealed by Alibaba Group or the Indonesian government.

There could be potential conflict of interest between his role as advisor and owner of Alibaba/Lazada, which competes with Indonesian players, many owned by ethnic Chinese conglomerates such like Djarum and Lippo. The company has not commented on this.

Ma will have to weigh several key factors upon accepting this position. How would helping Indonesia play in China? Chinese comments on a news story about Ma being offered the advisor position were full of anger at Indonesia, citing grievances ranging from the 1998 Indonesian riots that targeted ethnic Chinese to current South China Sea disputes.

This may be the best move yet for Alibaba Group’s strategic position in Southeast Asia.

A version of this was published in Tech in Asia on September 7. Read the full version here

Konsula Brings Healthcare Ecommerce To Indonesia

Healthcare ecommerce will modernize the industry and possibly cut down waiting room time. Source: Straits Times

Jakarta based startup Konsula, previously a healthcare directory, has announced its entry into ecommerce with the launch of Konsula e-Store, reports Digital News Asia. Its ecommerce launch is establishing the company into being one of the first health marketplaces in the country.

Currently, Konsula has on board 300 merchants who offer skin and beauty treatments, dental and pregnancy care, extending to medical checkup services. Konsula e-Store will act as an online platform for healthcare services, and differentiates themselves by offering a shoppable ecommerce aspect to the platform.

Konsula currently has 2,800 and 900 doctors listed in its directory, including 20 doctors on its telemedicine platform.

We want to break open the access to healthcare by leveraging technology-first in Indonesia, and eventually regionally- Shinta Nurfauzia, Konsula Co-Founder and CEO.

The ecommerce store will be available for Android and iOS platforms, and will enable users to access Konsula’s healthcare directory, telemedicine service and ecommerce store. The ecommerce store, users will be able to look for deals and services offered by hospitals, clinics and Konsula’s merchants.

Don’t mistake Konsula’s medical marketplace as the Groupon of healthcare, as its ecommerce store is not deals centric. Discounts will only be offered when there is a special event. Their main service will be allowing users to pay for a specific healthcare service through Konsula’s platform, which will then supply the user with an electronic voucher. The user can then bring the voucher to the clinic for treatment.

Currently, Konsula offers healthcare  services such as dental treatments, medical checkup packages and skin laser treatments, but they are aiming to expand into healthy lifestyle products, including gym memberships in September.

Raising Awareness For Healthcare Ecommerce

Some of the merchants on Konsula’s ecommerce store are state owned. For example, KFD, the clinical laboratory arm of pharmaceutical company PT Kimia Farma Tbk, is a state owned enterprise that has had ecommerce aspirations, but cannot afford to build its own platform. Therefore, partnering with healthcare focused startups is a mutually beneficial as they are both working towards the same goal.

Telemedicine has also exposed more doctors to a larger platform of patients. Doctors on Konsula can be anywhere at any time, and still be able to consult patients through technology.

Konsula is establishing itself as a healthcare ecommerce pioneer despite the fact that the digitalizing of healthcare services is ridden with regulation issues.

A version of this appeared in Digital News Asia on June 29. Read the full article here.

Indonesian government launches food stocks monitor app


In another digital initiative from the Indonesian Government, The National Economic and Industry Committee, which advises President Joko Widodo on economic policies, is developing a mobile app to collect data and information on food production and stock levels, reports The Jakarta Globe.

The app will collect food stocks data directly from farmers, distributors, storage centers and markets across Indonesia in order to provide the government with accurate and timely data. The app will be called “Logistik Tani”, which is translated to “Farmer’s Logistics” and is currently being developed with state-controlled Telkom, Indonesia’s largest telecommunication company.

This initiative will attempt to clean up conflicting data retrieved by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Statistics Agency. Prices of rice, corn and beef are often inaccurate and spiked, despite results suggesting that Indonesia should have a reasonable amount of food stocks. Inaccuracies in data often cause conflict within the government, as it affects their policies on importing goods. The app will provide more clarity to the confusion, and allow the government to track any sudden changes in the field.

Prices of rice, corn and beef are often inaccurate and spiked. The food stock app will attempt to clean up conflicting data retrieved by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Statistics Agency

Farmers will be able to download the mobile version of the app, allowing them to make real-time inputs on their crop and livestock situations. This is part of the government’s initiative to boost Indonesia’s manufacturing sector, as previously seen with the announcement of their e-catalogue site which provides real time prices of goods and supplier details. However, not a lot has been covered about whether farmers are equipped with mobile data to fully utilize this app. Digital Government initiatives are always encouraging, but it also must go hand in hand with full co-operation from its target groups.

A version of this appeared in Jakarta Globe on June 30. Read the full article here.

Indonesia 1,000 Startups Movement


Indonesia launched government-backed initiative called “1,000 Startup Movement” with the goal to grow 1,000 startups until 2020. They will together value approximately $10 billion US but unfortunately, the movement does not have any monetary support from the government.

From June to September, the movement will start in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya, then move onto other cities such as Bandung and Malang. The initiative will consist of workshops, hackathons, boot camps and incubation programs but still perceived as an ambitious target,

Consider that from the 1,000 startups, only a fraction will survive (the rule of thumb often cited is that 90 percent of startups eventually fail).

The goal is to have 200 startups across 10 cities emerge from the funnel each year, which would amount to 1,000 startups by the end of 2020. Each startup would need to reach a valuation of $100 million to survive in the long term. This is extremely ambitious, as Indonesia has only produced a handful of companies that might have reached unicorn status, such as C2C marketplace Tokopedia.

The government is endorsing this program, but it is not providing monetary support.

By 2017, the movement will focus on Denpasar, Medan and a few others. Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology will be collaborating with tech ecosystem builder, Kibar. This means that Kibar will have gather all the support from event organizers and startup mentors, including investors to sustain this initiative.

Initiative but no endorsement, what now?

Regardless, it is still vital for the ecommerce ecosystem to have a government-backed initiative. Small businesses and tech initiatives benefit from exposure and training sessions supplied through workshops and incubators but without seed funding or cash flow, initiatives will remain just that. Budget allocations should be given to get the startups off the ground.


A version of this appeared in Tech in Asia on June 22. Read the full article here.

e-catalog in Indonesia will help commodity visibility rice farmers

An e-catalog has been set up by the Indonesian government to list goods and services online that provides buyers the list of prices, suppliers and contractors. The catalog is set to reduce corruption, as prices of goods are often marked up by distributors to poor buyers (often farmers or SMEs) who don’t have visibility on market rates. The real price of goods will be displayed online, increasing transparency. The catalog is also expected to promote local businesses through online listings.

The e-catalog in Indonesia is now set up for Gorontalo province, Semarang in Central Java, Yogyakarta and Badung district in Bali in further efforts to save the government more money. The Services Procurement Policy Institution (LKPP) expects the digital initiative started last year to grow further as it encourages the government to do online shopping thus cutting out unused transportation, human resources and accommodation costs as everything is digital.

Prices of goods are often marked up by distributors to poor buyers (farmers or SMEs) who don’t have visibility on market rates.

Prior to the new scheme implementation, procurement took a longer time as the regional government needed to propose the procurement details to the central government before following it up to LKPP.

E-catalog to also promote local businesses

The Indonesian government hopes that the launch of the e-Catalog will also open up opportunities for local businesses, as they would be directly listed on the website. Businesses will have the chance to contribute to the development of their own region. As the website will encourage regional connectivity, local production will have a chance to be exposed to a wider market.

The e-catalog is expected to open up opportunities for local business to contribute for the development in the area. In addition, it would enable the local production to boost the wider market and also become a pilot project for other regional governments, showing the sign of a breakthrough to support national program.

LKPP-procurement, Indonesia e-Catalog


A version of this appeared in Jakarta Globe on June 18. Read the full article here.