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Interview

CEO Corner : Talk About Discounts, Bootstrapping and Groupon Clones With Aswin Utomo

Rama Mamuaya - 28 May 2011

This is the first post on our new series called "CEO Corner" where we talk to startup CEOs and get them to share their expertise to DailySocial readers.

For the first post, we're interviewing Aswin Utomo the CEO and founder of AdaDiskon. AdaDiskon.com is a web-based service where you can updates on discounts and promotions. AdaDiskon is huge in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta where people go to the mall at least 3-4 times a week.

Here's our talk with Aswin about discounts, entrepreneurial, groupon clones and bootstrapping.

Hi Aswin! Now, I personally know you, but for DS readers who doesn't maybe you could introduce yourself and what you do for a living? Please tell me a little bit about your personal and professional background and how you ended up here.

Hi, my name is Aswin Utomo and I’m the founder of AdaDiskon. I graduated with a B.S Computer Science from University of California, San Diego back in 2005. While at college, I’ve worked many jobs from being a math tutor, TA for a computer science class in UCSD, software engineer for San Diego Supercomputer Center as well as a software engineer for a data management company in San Diego. After I graduated from UCSD, I worked at one of the top internet company in Los Angeles as a software engineer until I decided to go back to Indonesia at around mid 2007. Prior to starting AdaDiskon I did work as a senior consultant at a local management consulting firm in Jakarta where I’ve gotten my first management experience, leading and setting up an IT division for a client. Despite my technical background, I’m actually not a hard core software engineer, I’m more of a products person and I just love to create and develop great products.

How do you start AdaDiskon? What's the story behind the making of AdaDiskon and what make you think that this concept is going to work? Do you like shopping or what?

The idea behind AdaDiskon comes from my time in LA where my co-workers and I kept on checking this forum styled website that gives out information about deals and promotions. When I got back to Indonesia, I realized that there wasn’t any similar website around and knowing that Indonesian loves shopping, I decided to start AdaDiskon. I knew this concept is going to work because of the fact that Indonesian loves to shop for deals and there wasn’t any website then that is dedicated to cater to these shoppers. It really helps that I’m an avid bargain hunter myself, designing and creating something that I can use for myself as well as being useful to all of our audiences is a very rewarding feeling.

Tell us about AdaDiskon now? Employees, offices (revenue?)

AdaDiskon is doing really well; all key metrics (visitors, pageviews, revenue, etc) are growing really fast. We are looking to hire more employees to expand our operations and I can’t be happier about the progress that we are making.

What do you think as the main challenge for people to start an online business especially the e-commerce business?

E-commerce as an industry itself has many different verticals with their own set of different challenges. There are now the social buying vertical, B2C vertical, C2C vertical, B2B vertical and a couple more verticals. But the common challenge in all verticals as of this moment in Indonesia, in my opinion, would be the payment gateway problem. This is actually an inevitable problem that will be solved in the near future.

What do you think about daily deals and all the groupon clones in Indonesia? What do you think about their strategy, is it long term or short term? What's your fave groupon clone and why?

I think this social buying business is a great business model. It is one of the best business model cash-flow wise. I’m not surprised that there are a lot of clones in Indonesia as the barrier to entry is really low. But what many don’t know is that the barrier to scale in this business is really high. Long term strategy wise, if you follow the daily deals space overseas, you can see that it is actually evolving and changing over time into a more sophisticated business while sticking to its core which is local commerce. My favorite groupon clone is of course AkuPlusKamu, our own daily deals division. We’re actually going to be doing some very exciting and new things in the near future. We are doing our part in innovating the social aspect of this social buying space.

Why do you decide to finally join the daily deals model with AkuPlusKamu? What are your considerations? And why now?

The main reason is that AdaDiskon and AkuPlusKamu complements each other really well. AkuPlusKamu is part of AdaDiskon’s business model and ultimately a way for us to monetize from our growing user base. I also believe that now is the right time for an innovation and a disruption in the social buying space. In the big picture, AkuPlusKamu is one of the key parts of AdaDiskon in our bid to be the leader in this deals and promotional space in Indonesia.

Now, I've known Adadiskon to be fully bootstrapped until this day. Why do you prefer to not take outside investment and go bootstrap? Following the hype these days in Indonesia, everyone is dying to get funded. But not you. Why?

I think the combination of having such a lean operation as well as being very fortunate to have been able to monetize very early in our startup life afforded us to be pickier in taking outside investments. I’m not saying that we will never take outside investments, that time will eventually come, but AdaDiskon is self-sustaining as well as growing really fast right now that it has given me more flexibility to choose and really pick the right future partners with no financial pressure.

What do you think the industry needs in order to further spark the e-commerce industry?

I believe Indonesia is at a stage where the e-commerce ecosystem is attractive enough for both local and foreign investments in the payment gateway industry to be really underway. If the year of 2010-2011 is the year of e-commerce in Indonesia, then I’m predicting that 2011-2012 will be the year of the payment gateways. There will be intense competition in the payment gateway space that will spark the e-commerce industry in Indonesia further more.

Your favorite startup quote?

“We are young but we are serious, we are small but we are smart” by Mochtar Riady

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You can follow Aswin Utomo on Twitter and check out his company AdaDiskon giving out discounts as well.

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