Nathanael Faibis grew up in a very entrepreneurial family in Europe, and was taught since very young that being an independent worker or building own company was the natural way to grow. The only question was when it would be the right time to start his own thing.
When Faibis landed in Asia after higher studies to work for Rocket Internet-backed e-commerce venture Lazada almost six years ago, he realised the continent is the right place to unleash the entrepreneur in him. So, after spending three-four years at Lazada and Sanisphere in Vietnam and Jakarta, he launched Alodokter, an online platform to provide quality and neutral information about healthcare, hospitals and clinics in Indonesia, in 2014.
e27 caught up with Faibis to know more about Alodokter and the healthcare landscape in Indonesia.
Edited excerpts below:
I understand from your LinkedIn profile that you are a French national. What was the motivation for you to come to Asia? Did you have a fair understanding of the Asian market before working for Lazada in Vietnam and Jakarta?
I came to Southeast Asia almost six years ago to join Lazada because the challenge to start a massive e-commerce venture in fast growing markets was very exciting. I had a limited understanding of Asian markets at that time.
The language and the culture of Asia and Europe are extremely different. How did you manage to acclimatise to the Asian environment? How difficult was it?
I made all of my career outside of France. Being an outsider is both a disadvantage and an advantage. The disadvantage is obvious as you are new to the local culture. The advantage is that you start without any prejudice about the market so you will base your decision based on data and research instead of belief. By doing so, you can choose a very original approach compared with other players.
You worked in Lazada before founding Alodokter. How did this experience help you shape up your thoughts and delve into the entrepreneurial world? What were the biggest learnings you made at Lazada?
Lazada taught me that no objective is too big. You can build very big things if you do it the right way. Back in 2012, we were a group of young people given the objective to build the number one e-commerce in the region in record time. We built a team from 0 to 1,000 people in less than four months. What happened after that showed that we succeeded relatively well.
When did the entrepreneurial bug bite you? Why and how did you choose the healthcare domain to unleash your entrepreneurial skills?
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. I was taught since very young that being an independent worker or building your company was the natural way to grow. The only question was when it would be the right time to start my own thing.
Before launching Alodokter, I worked for three years for market research firm focused on pharmaceutical market in emerging markets. This is how I saw that there were big needs in the market in Southeast Asia for better medical online services.
How is the online healthcare market in Indonesia evolving? While mobile internet is growing fast in Indonesia, the digital adoption is still low. How did you manage to on-board 16 million monthly users in just three years of launching operations?
Indonesia demand for healthcare online is growing very fast. According to our research, online healthcare search on Google has been growing by 25 per cent year on year in Indonesia since 2013. Still, data shows that healthcare information consumption per online user is still much lower in Indonesia compared to developed markets. As a consequence, we expect strong growth in coming years as well.
We reached 14.5 million monthly users in Indonesia because we have been answering basic unfulfilled need from the market for better and more transparent healthcare information. Demand was there and only waiting for the right solution.
What is your go-to-market strategy? Is it digital marketing, word of mouth, or something else?
The challenge with healthcare is that users usually want to get information when they experience a medical issue. So, we implemented a strong digital strategy to get in touch with users when they actually need us via search engines, social media, notifications….
Who creates content for your portal? Do you have an in-house team of experts and doctors to prepare content in English and Bahasa? Do you update your content on a regular basis?
Each article is written by medical journalist and edited by two to three different doctors for quality assurance. All our content is in local language only. All our articles are updated regularly in order to take into account change in medical science.
You recently introduced an AI-based chat platform. How has been the response so far? Does this indicate that you want to eventually become an end-to-end doctor booking platform, along the lines of Practo?
Our chat platform has been growing very fast since its launch in 2016. Today, we are answering more than 250,000 patients per month by real doctors. According to our research, we are the biggest consumer telemedicine application in the world outside of China in terms of volume of daily interactions. Note that all patients are answered by real doctors. Our AI system is supporting the doctors to answer patients but in the end it’s always the doctor call to decide on what to tell the patient.
We are currently building a full healthcare ecosystem where patients can manage their lifestyle, chat with doctors, handle their medical records or book offline medical services such as doctors or hospitals. Our first step was to provide medical education. Now, we want to help our users to find the right healthcare provider once they know better about their case.
Even in this age, digital content is really hard to monetise. What is your experience? How do you make money? Do you offer premium content and have plans to introduce subscription model, moving forward?
We have built a unique platform in Indonesia to help healthcare providers to interact with patients when they need them. We have been working so far with some of the top FMCG, pharmaceutical, insurance and hospital groups with very positive results.
What do you think is the next innovation that is going to happen in the online healthcare space?
The technology to revolutionise patient healthcare through digital platform already exists. The big challenge for consumer healthtech companies around the world will be to leverage this technology in a proper way to build a strong integrated UX to cover most of patients’ needs in a single platform.
Practo has now become one of the leading medtech companies in Southeast Asia, and you are competing with the Bangalore-headquartered company in several areas. How tough is the competition? What edge do you have over Practo?
The objective for all companies in our space is the same. We all want to solve patients’ problems in dealing with healthcare. Our edge compared to the competition is that we have a very strong understanding of patient’s needs because we have been focused on healthcare education and because we are interacting with massive number of users everyday. We estimate that 60 per cent of Indonesia internet users will visit our platform at least once every six months.
You are also running a similar service in Thailand. How is the unit performing? From your experience, how is the Indonesian market different from Thailand?
Pobpad.com has very strong results so far with more than 1.5 million monthly users 10 month after launch. We have built a very strong local team. The way we structure content is very different from Indonesia. We adapt our content structure to each language and culture. The way Thai people structure content is very different from the way Indonesians do it.
SoftBank Korea is your lead investor in this round. Why did you go to the Korean unit of SoftBank to raise funding? Was it an inbound interest or outbound?
Softbank Venture Korea has a very strong track record in investing in companies our size. For example, they invested in Tokopedia back in 2013 when the company was much smaller than what it is today. We are very proud to be their second investment in a company that focus on the Indonesian market.
Do you have plans to expand to other Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia?
We are considering expansion to other markets even though Indonesia and Thailand are our primary area of focus.
What are your key learnings as an entrepreneur?
One of my key learnings is that if you are solving a real problem, demand will be very strong in countries like Indonesia. Life is tough for most people and everybody is looking for better options.
Also, building a strong team should be every entrepreneur’s main focus. The amount of work one can do is limited but with a great team, everything is possible.
Image Credit: Alodokter.com