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Minister Rudiantara: New unicorns should emerge
Communication and Informatics Minister Rudiantara. Credit: The Public Relation Bureau of the Ministry of Communication and Informatics.
Tuesday, 28 November, 2017 | 12:40 WIB
Minister Rudiantara: New unicorns should emerge

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia is now home to Southeast Asias largest herd of unicorns. At the Digital Economic Briefing hosted by Tempo two weeks ago at the Indosat-Ooredoo building, Bukalapak proclaimed itself to be worth in excess of US$1.0 billion, or around Rp13.5 trillion, becoming the last to join the country's unicorn club.

Like the mythical horned creature with healing properties, unicorn-labeled startups prove that they too bring 'blessings' to many. In 2016, Go-Jek, an on-line transportation company that initially irked some parties, became the first Indonesian company to achieve the unicorn status after it received Rp7.2 trillion fund injection from a consortium, which consists, among others, of Sequoia India and Northstar Group Singapore. Tokopedia and Traveloka, online marketplaces for trade and travel, followed suit this year.

Seeing Bukalapak among the group of unicorns made Communication and Informatics Minister Rudiantara beam. "I'm confident that we can exceed our target of having five unicorns by 2019," Rudi, 58, told Tempo's Reza Maulana at his office in Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat, central Jakarta, last Monday. During the interview, he also elucidated the digital infrastructure development program and stressed the importance of logistics.


What is your prediction about Indonesia's digital economic growth for next year?

New unicorns should emerge, although it is difficult to predict this exactly because it all depends on transactions. But with the information, data and the government's programs, I'm confident that we can exceed our target of having five unicorns by 2019.


What is the basis for the target?

In 2015, we went to Silicon Valley, California, and met with the top executives of some major venture capital fund companies like Sequoia. I brought along with me five startup owners: Tokopedia founder William Tanuwijaya, Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim, Traveloka founder Ferry Unardi, Kaskus founder Andrew Darwis and Emirsyah Satar from Mataharimall.com. When I was asked how many unicorns we (plan to) have in Indonesia, I just answered five. I didn't know at the time where they would be coming from, but why not. We should have at least one unicorn a year.


How can that be achieved?

Last year, the ministry in cooperation with startup incubator Jansen Kamto et al launched the '1,000 startups' national movement. Nadiem, William and their colleagues screened 44 out of thousands of applicants. Then the ministry introduced these 44 startups to potential investors, from Jakarta to San Francisco. I have a plan for another match-making trip to Shanghai, China next year. We are also preparing balanced funding consisting of both local and overseas investors. We don't just sell abroad. These startups are also mentored by 26 experts from Google.


Have they already found investors?

There are interested parties. We will announce it in the first quarter of 2018.


Does the government have preference for any startup field?

We look at all fields. But if you ask me, I would choose education. The state budget for this sector amounts to Rp400 trillion annually, or 20 percent of the total budget. Ruangguru is a good example. It connects teachers and students. One of its great features is e-learning, with only one-fifth of the costs of conventional learning.


What is next?

Health, because five percent of the state budget goes to this sector. Halodoc founder Jonathan Sudharta observed that the Jamsostek (the national healthcare policy) holders in Jakarta spend, on average, four hours and 20 minutes to go to the hospital, queue, consult with doctors and get required medicines. With the application, consultation can be done by phone and video call. Drugs are delivered by Go-Jek within two hours.


Will the effects from the e-commerce roadmap and fiber optic networks be felt next year?

Out of the seven aspects of the roadmap, we focus on the infrastructure development: the Palapa ring, a 36,000 kilometers fiber optic network stretching from Aceh to Papua. Our target is that all regions and cities have high-speed Internet. The project is divided into three parts: western, central and eastern. The western part is due for completion in the first quarter of 2018.


How about those in remote areas?

There are around 150,000 government offices, including schools, public health centers, police and military bases that still don't have access to the Internet, and the Palapa ring cannot provide sufficient coverage. Therefore, we will build a high throughput satellite, which is a special communication satellite. Even Telkom and Indosat don't own this technology yet. It's alright for the government to be more advanced sometimes, isn't it?


Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine.


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