Mobile First Indonesia: Business Challenges and Opportunities

  • UPDATED: 05 September 2022
  • 4 min read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Event details:

Lot 8 Resto & Bar | March 30, 2016 | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM (WIB)

Registration link:

It’s been a few years since investors and entrepreneurs have realized the huge potential that Asia has in the next technology revolution. With the old beacons of innovation like Japan and South Korea, the last decade has seen the meteoric rise of Chinese tech companies and to a lesser extent those in India.

But with China’s growth reaching a point of saturation and India stopping short of expectations, the focus is now slowly coming to South East Asia and nowhere is the excitement more obvious than in Indonesia. And why shouldn’t there be, the facts speak for themselves.

2015 saw internet penetration go up to 93 million, a 12% growth over the previous year covering 40% of the population.

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Much of that growth has come from the rapid rise in mobile internet adoption, which grew to 67 million users in 2015, and is expected to rise by 25% in 2016. That number will be 84 million users in total, something no company, investor or entrepreneur can ignore. Most exciting of all, unlike some emerging markets where much of that has been driven by feature phones, Indonesia has leapfrogged into smartphones. Growing 35% YoY, the number of smartphone users is expected to reach a massive 69 million in 2016, which has resulted in the combined Google Play and iOS App Store downloads to go up by 50% between 2014 and 2015

We have seen the impact of that growth already with mobile-first business emerging in key sectors.


Ecommerce sales have increased by almost 37% from USD 2.6 Billion in 2014 to 3.5 Billion in 2015. This has been driven by 7.5 million online shoppers in 2015, expected to go up to 8.7 million in 2016.

Mobile Content and Entertainment:

According to IE Market Research, mobile entertainment revenue is expected to reach USD 845 million in 2016, dominated by music and a rapid rise in video streaming. Mobile games are not far behind either which grew 16% in revenue between 2014 and 2015


Well this is no secret. Indonesians are some of the most social people in the world, perhaps single-handedly keeping BBM alive and gifting Path an exit.

So mobile presents a lot of opportunities. But there are some key challenges that lie ahead as well.

Mobile tech talent:

The biggest challenge that Indonesian companies face today in embracing a mobile-first strategy is finding quality talent to drive product innovation. Even as the engineering talent was catching up to the new era of web technologies, the tremendous growth in mobile caught everyone by surprise. While web had the luxury of a single platform, the browser; mobile’s cross-platform demand between iOS and the very fragmented Android ecosystem presents a whole different degree of technical challenge. Some of the more well-funded startups have looked outside of Indonesia to start building their mobile products. Some have outsourced their mobile development to countries like India and Vietnam. But with scale and competition, technology becomes a core competitive advantage and makes it imperative to build in-house capabilities. Here again, we have seen a mix of strategies from the leaders. Those who have the luxury of funding have hired the cream of the crop from other local tech companies, technical leadership from abroad and are building considerable internal training programs. A more recent strategy still in its infancy has been acquiring, like Go-Jek’s talent acquisitions in India. The tech talent war is just starting, and those with skills in mobile development will be rarer than unicorn startups in 2013.

Cost-effective acquisition strategy:

You have had to live in a cave to not been inundated with ads from e-commerce giants everywhere, from television to signs on overbridges and even the tiny screen inside your apartment elevator. The leading companies have spent substantial financial resources both online and offline to drive acquisition. But as the average Indonesian user balances the plethora of apps out there, with limited phone storage and data plans, the cost of acquiring quality users will only go up. Problems like fraud installs from digital advertising and the expected funding squeeze thanks to the global financial climate will ensure that only those companies that adopt data-driven and cost-effective approach to user acquisition will succeed.

Engaging and retaining users:

Just getting users is not enough. As mobile app companies mature, the ones that will be successful will be the ones that focus on not just acquiring users, but acquiring the right users and engaging them while slowly increasing their lifetime value. The way to win users will require a mix of a great product experience right from the first time a user opens your app, targeted engagement strategies using push notifications, emails, and in-app messages and a compelling offering that keeps users coming back to the app.

Keeping the above as context, I invite you to join us for an evening discussion on “Growth in the mobile-first world” featuring top panelists from some of the most successful internet companies such as Traveloka and mobile pioneers, Mainspring Technology. Look forward to having you over. To find out more and register yourself, click on the button below.

Event details:

Lot 8 Resto & Bar | March 30, 2016 | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM (WIB)

Registration link: