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In June 2016, Japanese messaging service provider LINE Corp appointed Ongki Kurniawan as the new Managing Director of LINE Indonesia. Kurniawan is a familiar face in the local tech industry as he had been working for a long period in XL Axiata, with his last designation being Director/Chief Digital Services Office (CSDO).

With Kurniawan’s presence and his previous experiences, LINE has prepared many agenda to achieve its target to become the number one smart portal in Indonesia.

DailySocial had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Kurniawan. The following is the edited excerpt of the conversation:

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Can you tell us why LINE had only recently appointed a Managing Director (MD) for Indonesia?

Usually, when a foreign corporation entered a new country, they are going to send a small team of two to three people. That was what LINE did when it just entered Indonesia in 2013. And then, in the past 1.5 years, they appointed a MD, but he was from South Korea. Not a local.

Well, as LINE’s business in Indonesia grew, the company learned that they needed a local to handle all sort of matters here. From business development, content, to meeting and interacting with local clients. All of these has to be done by locals as they are considered to have more skills and understanding of the market’s characteristics.

Actually, I have been appointed as MD since four months ago. However, since LINE Japan was in the process of listing for New York and Tokyo Stock Exchange, the announcement was delayed until now.

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What are your big plans for the company, now that you’ve been appointed as the MD?

With a local in charge, we expect LINE to be able to continue showing its existence in the country. The main idea is to turn LINE into the number one smart portal in Indonesia by strengthening its core business as a messaging app.

LINE is considered to have a complete messaging feature, from voice calls, video calls, group, and now we also have add-people-nearby feature. We need to innovate more to develop more messaging features because competition in this segment is quite tough. Which is why we need to differentiate by making innovation a part of our routine.

And then, LINE had also developed services such as the LINE Official Account, LINe Shopping, LINE Business Connect, [email protected], LINE Webtoon, LINE Games, and LINE Today. These services are becoming the supporting pillar for LINE to become a smart portal. Our grand vision is not only to bridge connection between users but to also give access to a wide range of information and services, anytime, anywhere.

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Simply put, users would only have to access LINE app to do their daily activities. From reading news, payment, doing business, shopping, to riding a transportation, all can be done through LINE.

What are the challenges faced by LINE in the future?

The main challenge is the infrastructural disparity, such as 3G service and smartphone. These are the essentials that one needs to have in order to become a LINE user. But, compared to previous years, the condition has gotten better.

We are being supported by many hardware producers; smartphone prices have become cheaper now. But we cannot just wait for opportunities to come. We have to create these opportunities ourselves.

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We already have a strategic plan in our roadmap for the next six months. The main concept is that when people are buying their first smartphone, the messaging app that they will be using is LINE. But I cannot give any details yet, just wait for the launch date.

The next challenge will be how to educate the Indonesian society about the many functions that they can get from LINE apart from buying stickers; there are many more features such as shopping and booking a motorbike taxi. Many people are still not accustomed to those.

How does LINE Japan view the Indonesian market?

This year, the total number of active LINE users in Indonesia reached 80 per cent out of 90 million people, a 200 per cent increase compared to 2014. Most LINE users in Indonesia are Millennials aged between 18 to 32 years old. The number puts Indonesia in the fourth place among 230 other countries. Globally, active LINE users reached more than 230 million people.

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Indonesia’s population number at 250 million, with about 40 per cent of them being the Millennials. This is our main target; if we can pull a certain percentage of the total number of Millennials to become our users, there will be many benefits that we can reap.

LINE head office is paying great attention to the Indonesian market. They have given their commitment to smooth up our upcoming business plans by channelling funds from our recent IPO. For them, as long as the business plans that we propose is feasible and scalable, they would be willing to help.

I wonder if LINE has begun to monetise its business?

We have begun monetising, but limited only to sticker sales. At the moment our focus is to grow our user base and develop the messaging feature as the app’s core base. Actually, there are many potential monetisation channels in our service, such as LINE Business Contact and [email protected]

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For the time being, we only have Go-Jek, Elevenia, and SaleStock using our LINE Business Contact service. We have already prepared the price list if there are businesses who are interested. In fact, in Thailand, we have worked together with Wall’s. So, LINE users who wish to buy ice cream just have to contact LINE and a Wall’s employee will come to the booking place.

We want to build partnerships with as many businesses as possible so that LINE can dominate the Indonesian market. There are already many companies lining up to work with us; the greater the variety of business segments represented, the more beneficial it can be for both sides.

We predict that by 2019 we will be able to monetise, though only partially. We see that the competition for messaging app in Indonesia has become extremely tough, up until 2019.

The article Ongki Kurniawan: LINE akan Menjadi Smart Portal Nomor Satu di Indonesia Tahun 2019 was written by Marsya Nabila and was first published on DailySocial. English translation by e27.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your article here.