Smartphones and an exploding middle class shape Indonesia's consumer demands. A new cash-rich but time-poor dynamic means these islanders expect brands to come to them, not the other way around.
“Sabar itu subur”, or “Patient people thrive”, has been an old Indonesian adage taught by parents to children for generations. Patience is considered a virtue in Indonesia, but economic and technological progress may pose a serious challenge to it.
The world’s third largest democracy with a population of 250 million, Indonesia is experiencing growth in prosperity, as marked by the explosion in middle class. Boston Consulting Group predicts Indonesian middle class will reach 141 million people in 2020. A greater pool of disposable income results in people demanding more sophisticated offering from products and brands. Nothing illustrates this more than the changing brand landscape due to technology.
Within a decade, Indonesians saw their mobile darlings change twice. Until about a decade ago, Nokia was the king of mobile phones, only to be caught off guard by BlackBerry’s rapid rise to popularity. The change came without significant investment from BlackBerry, which illustrates how a seismic shift in consumer preference can happen organically. BlackBerry’s reign lasted close to five years, before Android’s onslaught, with thousands of apps, made BlackBerry’s offering feel obsolete. And what used to be a brand only known for televisions and washing machines is now the undisputed king of mobile devices (for now). Samsung took the lead in smartphones thanks to aggressive advertising and a wide range of models that fulfil the needs of all people at all price points.
Market estimates put Indonesia’s smartphone penetration at about 25-30 per cent. And that is still growing as ever-cheaper models become available. The middle class’ love affair with social media helps fuel this change. But as Indonesians fiddle with their smartphones and find new freedom in mobile communication, the long held virtue of patience is challenged by a new culture of impatience, especially in cities.
Typical of rapidly developing economies, the rural countryside is transforming into a sprawling urban landscape, which results in worsening traffic jams across the country. Earlier this year a global survey by Castrol pegged the country’s capital, Jakarta, as the world’s worst city for traffic. While middle-class Indonesians have more money; they’re becoming time-poor.
Many urban dwellers have begun to find it too troublesome to travel within the city unnecessarily. They just no longer have patience to endure being stuck in traffic, driving a rise in “males gerak” (too lazy to move) culture. With the newfound smartphone power in their hands, middle class Indonesians have started to demand that brands and services come to them and not the other way around.
Indonesians are getting impatient; this could be good for marketers.
One man’s misfortune is another man’s gain, and the behaviour change opens up opportunities beyond online shopping. Marketers with a keen eye may spot a glaring latent need in a culture that’s too lazy to move because of traffic. One such shrewd marketer is Go-Jek, a hot new start-up that put Jakarta’s traditional motorcycle taxi on steroids.
Motorcycle taxis have long been the saviour of Jakartans desperate to move amid standstill traffic. In gridlock, motorcycle taxis work their way between helpless cars, or take narrow alleys that only a two-wheeler can. Traditionally, these taxis hung around waiting for passengers at informal stations, usually near busy intersections. Go-Jek is the first brand to utilize smartphone apps so people can order a motorcycle taxi from their phone, and one come to them instead. Here, impatience translates to money.
Seeing other potential goldmines, Go-Jek expanded into an office courier and “buy me food” service.
Indonesians love to eat out. But eateries that provide delivery are very rare, and mostly Western fast-food chains. But the majority of favourite restaurants in Indonesia are independent, mom-and-pop shops, without a delivery fleet. Jakartans used to go out of their way to satisfy a skewered-lamb or chicken-noodle hankering. But traffic now makes them think twice; is a 15-minute meal worth 50 minute, turtle-pace ride? Go-Jek to the rescue.
Who says impatience and laziness are all bad? With mobile technology and ingenuity, the dynamic can create value, bring business to small-medium enterprises, and improve life in general. Patient people may thrive, as the old adage says, but impatient people give smart marketers an opportunity to thrive. Brands take note.