What a good news I got today, something that we envisioned from the start, to be able to build a sustainable ecommerce business. Joint venture between Plasa and eBay deserves a big celebration! It’s a milestone for Indonesia that the age of ecommerce is here!
Remembering my days in Plasa.com with Shinta, a good friend who bring me as part of the pioneering team, here’s what I have learned so far. If you believe in your heart, do it with your passion and execute it with your energy, then something good will comes out of it. Even though I am no longer the team behind Plasa, but I am grateful I was part of it and I want to congratulate the team to face the future challenge!
As part of Telkom initiative to become TIME company (telecommunication, information, media and edutainment), they envision to be part of Internet revolution, a bold vision for a big telco company. When I was invited to be part of the team, the roadmap was creating a portal, what we can see now what Plasa MSN is doing. But me and Shinta believes, that to be truly empowering the Indonesian, what we need is an ecommerce company, a platform in which buyers and sellers can exchange goods through the Internet. In all of our naïvity, we truly believe that we can move the entire industry since we have the funding, the willingness and the resources to support this vision.
Since we have never be a part of a corporation, we really learn working and getting support to have such a big vision. Collaborating with so many internal and external parties, setting the roadmap, setting up the company from ground up, building the team and then executing it. Without the courage and dedication of the early Plasa team, this would be impossible.
We have 3 months to launch the first alpha site, then another 3 months to bring in our first 1000 merchants before the big launch on TV. With a very short timeline, this process is a real challenge as none of us have any experience or precedence to do this. Recruiting merchants pose a big challenge since we have no traffic and launch. After the launch, it’s not getting easier as well. Maintaining the momentum, the entire site operation requires a lot of micro managing, from product sourcing, promotion, sales, marketing, traffic, sales support and fulfillment.
It was Shinta’s idea to bring in eBay as potential partner. But the big question asked by eBay was: “Is Indonesia ready for ecommerce?” So we have to build the site and initial traffic first before we can bring in the ecommerce giant. Within 5 months after our big launch, we finally came to a partnership with eBay. What does this brand means for us? Here’s the reason: if you have a mall, the value measured by who the anchor tenant is. No anchor tenant will want to join without the belief that there’s traffic and sales. By bringing eBay brand, we are starting to attract merchants to join. The proposition was to sell Indonesian products first to more mature market, which is the global market. Then the next step will bring in international merchants to Indonesian buyers, as import buying has reached USD 35 millions on eBay alone from Indonesian customers. Then the ecommerce transaction between local buyers and sellers will be a natural extension afterward.
To bring in users traction and revenue in marketplace is very challenging, considering they make only 3-5% commission for every transaction. And building the entire ecosystem of operation and supports for ecommerce is really expensive. The solution was that we should build three business pillars: content, advertising and ecommerce altogether. The content and advertising business is easier but distracts our focus to build real value of the ecommerce site.
We believe that getting into marketplace is for the long haul. When the road map is changed based on short term financial requirement, then we don’t believe any longer with the vision. With too many key performance indicators, nobody can focus to build real value. Most of the new roadmap after we left, the one that I personally see to build real value true to its vision is Plasa Ticket.
There’s so much distance between service industry like telco and transaction based ecommerce model. The real value contributed by telco is access to customers through mobile. Mobile plays crucial role to bring in massive traffic. I am looking forward that this can be leverage as the best promotion channels. It will not bring in transaction as the mobile payment is not a mature solution yet.
So, now hearing that eBay and Plasa is getting into joint venture agreement, I believe something good will comes out of this partnership, as Plasa can focus to build its core value, to become a real marketplace without getting all the distraction.
I want to say thank you to the pioneering team of Plasa and eBay team that make it happen. Congratulation! And be the best marketplace!
Andi S. Boediman