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The fintech unicorns thriving in Indonesia

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Illustration: Getty

Indonesia is spawning new startups by the day, many of which are propelling financial inclusion. Asiamoney speaks to the founders of some thriving platforms that bring together technology and finance to make a difference.

A few years ago, Indonesia was one of the last places you would expect to find any $1 billion-plus financial technology unicorns.

Getting a decent internet connection in the capital, Jakarta, was hard enough. The best places to go online at a vaguely decent speed were pop-up millennial gaming salons.

Net speed was one thing, but reliability was quite another. Cloud applications, which require always-on connections, struggled, and business and competition suffered. Foreign corporations and banks in Indonesia installed separate tech architecture, at great expense, to be compatible with the head office and branch network.

Widespread corruption and a dysfunctional customs department also undermined Indonesia’s development in this sphere; international e-tailers like Amazon wouldn’t accept orders from Indonesia because of the expense and hassle of locating undelivered or pilfered goods.

But times have changed – and rapidly. Foreign investors looking for big, or populous, markets are noticing, particularly when investment in China and India can unexpectedly become political and fraught.

Now, 70% of Indonesia’s 275 million people are reliably online, and the average age of the population is a decidedly millennial 29. Google recently forecast that Indonesia’s digital economy will be worth $146 billion by 2025, nearly four times what it was in 2020.

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Eric Ellis is a senior editor for Asiamoney. He is a former southeast Asia correspondent for Fortune Magazine and Time, and an ex-Asia correspondent for Australia’s economic and business newspaper the Australian Financial Review.
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