As Asia’s most populous country, Indonesia is under constant pressure to continue the economic growth that has been its mainstay pretty much since the 1970s.
With almost 280 million stomachs needing to be filled, the nation must continue to not only depend upon its natural resources and traditional market sectors for income and employment but also to be at the forefront of diversification and utilisation of the benefits of technology and globalisation.
The two-year COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for citizens to be tech-savvy and to also maximise incomes in any way possible.
Although seemingly part of our lives since forever, the internet is still a relatively new phenomenon and some of us are actually old enough to remember the days before its advent (yes, really). Now, however, it is undoubtedly here to stay and a quick look at some of the figures related to Indonesia and digital awareness appears to bear this out. It is estimated that of the population, more than 150 million citizens use the internet in general and social media in particular.
Figures such as these indicate the importance of e-commerce in modern society in both our daily lives and the economy as a whole. One definition of e-commerce is thus: the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.
Those of us who have been able to work from home (WFH) over the last two years have then been able to utilise the basic concepts of e-commerce and to take the example one step further, there has been an increase in those who like to term themselves as “Digital Nomads”. These are people who make their living working independently via a laptop and are thus able to move around from place to place at short notice. Some of the services offered by such people include teaching, writing, and various forms of designing.
Indeed, in these economically uncertain times, as society gets ready to attempt a full recovery from the fallout of COVID-19, the Indonesian government has recently dropped much of its initial resistance to Digital Nomads and is now ploughing ahead with plans to introduce a Digital Nomad visa in an effort to encourage both travel to and investment in Indonesia.
However, e-commerce is far more than charging up a personal device and making do under trying circumstances. It is a multi-million dollar industry that if harnessed correctly can provide both individuals and businesses alike with both high profits and relatable convenience.
The world of e-commerce exists in various ways, with some companies simply offering up their products and services through their own websites. Customers can browse online and then place orders accordingly and sit and wait for their deliveries. This is nothing particularly new and is tantamount to online shopping as these companies will usually have brick-and-mortar operations also.
Alternatively, other companies and businesses exist either primarily or totally online and it is the growth of these businesses in recent years that has led to significant changes in the way we shop and do business.
Even a notorious technophobe such as myself is now at least sufficiently tech-savvy to be able to take advantage of such outlets and services as OVO, Grab, and Gojek that enable me to order food and transportation online, and it is these sites and services that undoubtedly make our lives easier and more convenient.
While one of the most famous e-commerce sites in the world is undoubtedly the American multi-national company eBay, there is a swarth of such sites here in Indonesia.
Some of the top e-commerce sites in Indonesia concentrate on one particular area or type of product. These may relate to such business segments as fashion, beauty products and cosmetics, computers and electrical gadgets, or baby care and family products and the amount of monthly “traffic” to these sites (or the number of hits each website receives) can be in the high millions.
As well as specialised e-commerce sites, there are others which are more generic and act as a marketplace for companies and individuals. In Indonesia, these include the Blibli, Shoppee, and Tokopedia sites. These are essentially sites that enable those who wish to do so to open up their own online businesses and reach potential customers more easily. Rather than find the need to extensively market their products themselves, companies and individuals can simply sign up to these e-commerce sites and potential customers can find them according to the services and products they are offering.
It is estimated that Tokopedia, Indonesia’s most popular e-commerce site, receives almost 150 million hits per calendar month as people look to take advantage of its marketplace-type facilities. Almost any goods or services can be found at just the click of a button and long gone are the days when one would have to trawl for hours on end looking to fulfil a need or requirement.
Those with imagination and drive can and do take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the rise of e-commerce in Indonesia and around the globe. However, there can be some drawbacks, too. The advent of online businesses, in general, has led to the culling or vast reduction of certain jobs and industries, while others have flourished.
It will be interesting to see where the next decade or so takes us in terms of e-commerce and its knock-on effects.