“Companies Indonesia, We would like to see more of it.”

Sunday, April 8th 2012. | Internet News

Google tmGoogle Inc. recently officially opened an office in Indonesia, citing promising factors of a large mobile search market and an enormous pool of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) waiting to be plugged online as some of the reasons to firmly plant their operations here. The Jakarta Post’s Mariel Grazella and Andi Haswidi caught up with Julian Persaud, Google Southeast Asia managing director, and Rudy Ramawy, Google Indonesia country director, at the launch.

Question: There has been a lot of talk since last year about Google Inc. making its formal entrance into
Indonesia. Why choose this moment to enter the domestic market?

Julian Persaud: I think everyone knows that Indonesia is the center of the Southeast Asian story so it was inevitable that we want to have a bigger presence. We have received a lot of backing from the company to do a lot of business in Indonesia.

We have conducted business in Indonesia up to now. The point of having a presence in Indonesia is so we can enrich and accelerate our activities on the ground. We would also like to develop deeper relationships with three of our constituents. The first is our users. We would like to understand more carefully what they want so we could help them with that.

Advertising is the primary source of revenue for Google, contributing well above 95 percent globally, but other parts of our business are also developing very quickly. Enterprise business is one part that stands out. We have large-scale enterprise products like cloud services, Google Maps, Google Earth and other applications that are not funded by advertising. That’s one part that’s growing quickly, and something we hope would also grow in Indonesia.

The digital economy is very important for Indonesia. We have seen in other countries how this makes a difference, because the digital economy grows three to four times the speed of the regular economy. One of the good things of having an office here is that we are hiring from the local market because we want to localize that customer relationship as much as possible.

What tailored products and services will Google launch in the Indonesian market?

JP: I think one of the things that people do not fully understand is the complexity of some of our products. You just do not launch a product like Google Maps, for example, and then just leave it there. Google Maps requires continued innovation because localizing and making the product relevant is an ongoing process. The office would not make a lot of difference in terms of us doing that, because it has always been our mission to make as much information available to the people. This would only be easier when we have a team on the ground. Continuing to evolve our products is of primary importance, especially because
Indonesia is growing quickly.

We handle an enormous amount of searches. Southeast Asia is growing the fastest in terms of Internet usage and searches, particularly on mobile phones. One of our goals in a place where there is a large amount of users is to kick-start the ecosystem by letting people have a digital presence. This is why we did ‘Bisnis Lokal Go Online’ because there are 17 million business enterprises in Indonesia but less that 100,000 of them have an online presence.

Besides, there’s so much more people can do with searches. They sometimes forget that and focus the new stuff. That’s great, but the core of what we do is also critical.

Rudy Ramawy: There will be more to come obviously, so expect more initiatives ahead. I am in no shortage of work to do, and it will be a busy year ahead for us.

A good number of advertisers in Indonesia still lack awareness and mastery of the tools of the trade in digital advertising, from search engine optimization to integrating offline campaigns with online. How will Google tackle this issue, given that Google AdSense is a prime revenue stream for the company?

RR: Educating people, whether advertising agencies or our partners, is a big part of the Google project that will be a priority here. Our advertisements are also a platform for small and medium enterprises [SMEs]. So, we will increase the frequency of the workshops we hold for our advertisers and our clients. We will also work with these agencies and partners to come up with plans on getting them certified by Google.

JP: Our general principal is that we are an open platform where small companies can compete with big companies online and that is what we want to continue — pushing local businesses to go online to expand their playing field.

What’s even more important for Indonesia is growing the digital economy, which has made a difference in other countries. The digital economy grows three to four times the speed of the regular economy, so one of the good things from having an office here and hiring local talents is localizing the customer relationship as much as possible.

Indonesia also lacks a sound digital payment gateway. How will Google Indonesia surmount this issue?

JP: There’s definitely more to do to make it easier for the whole industry to transact. But the problem is not just in Indonesia. The payment gateway is always a challenge, especially when having small businesses involved. Based on my understanding, there are six times as many people with a mobile phone connection than a bank account in Indonesia, with the number of credit card holders even less. This is an ongoing challenge, but we see momentum and growth, so our goal is providing as many options as possible to our customers.

The government has suggested to Google to build a data center in Indonesia. What is your comment on this?

JP: Google is fixated on speeding up services to customers and users and we do whatever is necessary to reach that speed. We always say that fast is always better than slow, especially if you are a search engine.

We have data centers around the world. However, we have nothing to announce today yet.

Will your presence here translate to a boost in the number of people using Android-operated mobile phones?

JP: At the moment, we are seeing 750,000 Android activations per day. One of the things we have recently done in Southeast Asia is appoint a developer relations person whose job is to go around the region, including Indonesia, to work with developers in order to develop great local applications. That is something we would like to see more and more of.

What are Google Indonesia’s targets for this year?

RR: I think my target would be working with many local partners as possible in Indonesia, which is very important for us, because content is key. We will launch as much local content as possible, even if this means new initiatives.

JP: My actual target is not necessarily a financial target. By the end of the year, we want to be seen as more of an Indonesian company than an American one. That is why we are hiring as many local people as possible because they have a better understanding of the market.

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