Arisan and the rise of m-commerce in Indonesia

Following the recent release of our Mobile Commerce in Emerging Asia study, my fellow Networked Society evangelist and Jakarta-based Ericsson Indonesia Head of Marketing Hardyana Syintawati reflects on what may have put her country at the forefront of m-commerce activities. Here’s her story:


Global Director of IoT Customer Success Marketing

Global Director of IoT Customer Success Marketing

When I was about ten years old, I thought that it was high time for me to have my own bike rather than sharing one with my sister. And so I asked my mom for one. She shook her head and told me: “I am sorry, dear, but I have no money to buy you a bicycle.” But then she smiled and continued, “But I will have an arisan coming up. I can ask my friend if I can have the turn so that we can use the arisan money to buy you a bike!”

Arisan is an informal gathering of people with agreement to pay a fixed amount of money regularly and take turns in getting the “potluck” money each time, until everyone gets their turn. It is very common in Indonesia to be part of an arisan gathering. It is a way of saving and borrowing money with your peers. For more affluent Indonesians, arisan has evolved to be a social gathering rather than raising money to save. But for unbanked Indonesians, it can be the only way to get any financial service.

When we presented the results of our ConsumerLab study on m-commerce in Indonesia last month, I asked our Consumer Insight Senior Advisor Sofia Jorman what specific characteristic we see in Indonesia that supports the future success of m-commerce. Her answer was “arisan”.

Indonesians are familiar with the concept of getting financial services through non-financial institutions. The idea of m-commerce will not have high barriers for consumers to embrace. After all, the number of mobile subscriptions has surpassed number of bank accounts in Indonesia many years ago. The practice of arisan also represents the “circle of trust” that is also apparent in how we Indonesians tend to surround ourselves with friends, neighbors and families.

However, I would not say that it is going to l be all smooth sailing for m-commerce in Indonesia. From other ConsumerLab studies on Indonesia, we found that more than 30% of respondents are not at all confident on new technologies.
Education will be essential in introducing m-commerce to the locals, and let’s not forget the power of peer recommendations, which might lead us back to the arisan gathering. Maybe it is best to promote mobile commerce in these gatherings? Maybe as the easiest way to pay and receive the arisan money?

As for the 10-year-old me, I did not get a new bike. I managed to convince my sister that it was very unladylike of her to be riding a bike at her age. She was 14.

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