I spent the past 4 days in Jakarta on a business trip and got back early this morning. I had not been in Indonesia since last year June (see last year’s blog post), and it was great to be back. Spil Games’ Indonesian site games.co.id has grown tremendously over the past 1.5 years: it’s now the #1 online game site in Indonesia with 8.5 monthly unique players, and over 30% come back every single day to play!
The trip gave me a lot of new insights about the Indonesian Internet market and the game market in particular. I won’t mention too many of the insights here (the competition also reads blogs), but most are quite straightforward and the main one is that this is just the beginning for the Indonesian Internet. There are tremendous opportunities for players that follow the right strategy and I think I now know for sure what that strategy is.
I arrived on Thursday evening on a delayed Garuda flight. The delay was partly Garuda’s fault, because the airplane we were supposed to take had technical problems and they had to use a smaller one. The smaller plane (a brand new B737-800) could however not make it to Jakarta in one time and had to make a refueling stop in Singapore which caused a 1.5 hour delay. But because a Quantas A380 had just made an emergency landing after one of its engines exploded right after take off, one of the runways was blocked and we had to stay much longer than planned at the gate. I actually read about the Quantas accident online when we were waiting at the gate and when we finally took off I managed to get a good look at the A380 that was still parked on taxi lane next to the main runway.
Upon arrival in Jakarta things went relatively smoothly, except for the fact that my cab driver refused to put on his meter when my suitcase was already in the trunk and we were on the road already. This was of course totally my own fault, and after so many years in Asia I can’t believe I made this mistake. I had actually planned to take a Silver Bird Mercedes taxis but found their price too expensive, so I just walked out looking for the Blue Bird stand. I didn’t see it, but many other taxis were waiting, and I just took one of those, totally forgetting to tell him to use the meter before getting in. I still managed to negotiated a Rp. 150,000 rate which was about the same as my trip back to the airport so I didn’t do too bad (as a comparison, Silver Bird charges Rp. 440,000).
Because of major traffic jams I did not get to the hotel until 8 PM, meaning I would miss the StartupLokal event that I had planned to go to. A pity, but instead I went for dinner and drinks with TechCrunch writer Sarah Lacey. We were looking for a nice outdoor restaurant and through a friend I got the address of a good restaurant. But of course the taxi driver couldn’t find it (or pretended he couldn’t find it), so we eventually told him to stop and looked for a restaurant ourselves. It turned out we were lucky, because we ended up at a very nice Bali-style restaurant, Payon (see link for some pictures of the place). We had a fun evening with good Indonesian food and of course some cold Bir Bintangs, talking about Sarah’s Indonesian and Singaporean experiences so far and of course discussing the latest happenings in the Chinese Internet market.
The next morning at 8 AM the conference that I was attending started. I was a few minutes late because it was supposed to be in the Grand Ballroom of the Kempinski, which turned out to be a 15 minute walk all through the (huge) Grand Indonesia shopping mall. The mall was still closed and its air conditioning turned off, so I had to climb 5 floors of escalators in the hot environment to get to the elevator that took me to the Ballroom. Of course I later found out there was a much easier way, but the Kempinski staff neglected to tell me that when I asked them. Actually, being late was not a big deal because the conference also started late, about 30 minutes or so. Jam karet as the Indonesians say. I still remember it from my time working in Jakarta in 1996, and it’s not a big deal for anybody. I had a coffee and talked to several people, it was actually a great networking opportunity.
The conference was very interesting, I learned a lot about the Indonesian Internet industry and got to know a lot of the Indonesian Internet start-ups and their founders/CEOs. There are some really cool companies in Indonesia, but most are purely focused on the local market. I talked a lot about Spil Games and our site games.co.id and was surprised how many people know the site nowadays. During my last visit that was still very different, things can change quickly. Not only the conference was good, also the food was excellent: an Indonesian buffet prepared by Kempinski. I love Indonesian food and managed to eat a lot of it during the past days.
After the conference I had a meeting in my hotel and then joined Sarah Lacey and the people from Indomog.com in their car to the FX Mall for the finalist pitches of the SparxUp Awards 2010. Because of traffic jams it took us almost an hour to get there (it’s only about 3 kilometers)… The pitches were all in Bahasa Indonesia so I mainly spent time at the Expo where I could try demos or live versions of all the start-ups. Some interesting companies to invest in if I would have lived in Indonesia (I only invest in China right now because there may added value is biggest). After the pitches I had dinner and drinks with games.co.id sales rep Romeo Reijman, I had never met him so far so it was very good to be able to meet him in person and hear his vision on the Indonesian game market.
Saturday was a mix of meetings with entrepreneurs and game developers, mainly at my hotel: traveling in Jakarta is such a hassle because of the traffic jams, even on weekends, that it’s hardly possible to set up several meetings in different locations in one day. Saturday night I attended the Awards night of the SparxUp Awards 2010 and gave a talk about games.co.id. Once again I met a lot of interesting people, it was exactly the right event to go to for me. After the Awards night I was invited to the Oktoberfest in Paulaner Jakarta and had a fun night there with Yanik Cantieni and his girlfriend. Yanik is a long time friend (I have known him since 1996 when he was my successor in a SAP implementation project in Jakarta) and the CFO of Mercedes-Benz Indonesia. However, he told me they will move to Switzerland later this month where he will become CFO. Career wise probably a good move, but life in Jakarta seems more interesting than Zurich…
On Sunday I worked on my emails for quite some time and among others met up with some friends. I had lunch at Poste with Marnix Beugel and Corine Tap, who I knew from the old days in Beijing (around 2001-2002 I think) before they moved to Indonesia. Nice to catch up after all these years, and interesting to see that we have quite some friends in common. After that I met a friend from my fraternity for a drink, Thomas Schok. He is still studying so I had never met him in person, but it was cool to meet up anyway. He is a medical student and is doing an assignment at a local hospital in Jakarta (low end). Pretty intense stories about children dying etc., I am not sure if I could handle that.
Monday I again had planned some meetings in my hotel until after lunch with operators and game developers. After that I took a few hours off, sitting at the pool writing down my thoughts about the past days and doing some emails (I love a good wifi connection at the pool!). I went for a 6 km run in the gym around 5 PM before packing my suitcase and heading for the airport. Again I avoided the Silver Bird taxi and saved USD 40 by just walking 100 meters with my suitcase until the closest Blue Bird stop. Of course the taxi ride was long once again because of traffic jams but I was working on emails, so it didn’ bother me much. But I can’t imagine what traffic will be like when it rains (or when Obama comes to town, like he does today). Anyway, I had a very good trip to Indonesia and I hope to be back sooner rather than later.
If you’re active in the Indonesian game or mobile industry and want to get in touch, drop me an email at marcvanderchijs (at) gmail (dot) com