Willson Cuaca: Digitalization in Indonesia continues to evolve despite the pandemic

Sinta, feature news . 28 Sep 2022
Willson Cuaca

Heaptalk, Jakarta — The digital ecosystem in Indonesia can be divided into three stages, namely past, present, and future. Perceiving the future of digitalization, Co-founder and Managing Partners of East Ventures Willson Cuaca said that today is yesterday’s tomorrow.

Given the context years ago, Willson explained, “Ten years ago, internet penetration was only 13%, or about 30 million people using the internet. The 30 million people are equivalent to all of Malaysia, six times Singapore, half Thailand, but no one is doing anything,” said Willson during the Visionary Talks at BUMN Startup Day (26/09).

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He further questioned why no one is doing anything in the context of digitalization. At the same time, the use of the alphabet by Indonesians is a value proposition that has a competitive advantage. Consumers can adopt western technology very quickly, resulting in rapid user education in Indonesia over the last ten years.

In today’s context, particularly during the pandemic, users of the social audio app Clubhouse in Indonesia have risen significantly. According to Willson, one of the reasons is Clubhouse served in the alphabet, not in letters of other languages. In China and South Korea, they are still developing the app in their language version recently. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, users have reached 10,000—20,000 indicating rapid adoption.

Willson Cuaca argued that the technology ten years ago which changed all the context is the global positioning system (GPS), a satellite-based radio navigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. He said, “Following that, all the information became relevant. Finally, we see it as valuable potential.”

Further, based on response to information, Willson classified people into three groups. First, people that know what is going on, but just talk without performing any action. Second, people know the situation, then they talk and take action. Third, those who do not know.

“What we did yesterday was to the second group. We put in a small fund to start investing in it. Yesterday we took the action, today we are here as the result of several actions we took ten years ago,” voiced Willson.

Covid-19 pandemic contributes to behavior shift

Based on Willson Cuaca’s opinion, digitalization in Indonesia is bound to evolve despite the covid-19 pandemic. He explained, “Since 2019 before the pandemic, we perceived that Indonesia was at an inflection point that showed a time compression. It means, in the past when building a mobile app, we need six months to obtain 30,000 downloads. Right before the pandemic, we could easily obtain one million downloads in a month. The cases show that market education has been passed, resulting in time compression.”

Moreover, the pandemic has changed multiple user habits, leading to the occurrence of two business model types. First, a business model that solves problems before and after the pandemic, and second, a business model that seems only suitable for a pandemic or physical lockdown. “If we can sort these out, we know which one we should invest in,” uttered Willson.

Perceiving the venture capital business is indeed a high-growth business, startups are required to perform high growth regardless of government regulations that control them. Investors should manage expectations based on at least their risk profile, return profile, and other important components.

In addition, businessmen should implement the principle of environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) in making decisions. The principle distinguishes the business of today from those of the past which commonly started from blank paper.

Willson conveyed, “We are heading to a golden Indonesia. Hence, we can use the lens of ESG and ethics as a lens to make decisions. The lens will help us not repeat the mistakes of the past. I think the businesses in the present and past used to have very different approaches.”

Making mistakes can be forgiven but repeating the same mistakes is not tolerated. Therefore, in his conclusion, Willson encourages startups to master the game before they are capable to change the game.

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