Facebook Vice President of Asia Pacific Dan Neary is in Jakarta this week to announce the opening of Facebook’s new office at Pacific Place. Neary conveyed the news to Deputy Governor Basuki T. Purnama during Facebook’s visit to his office on Thursday. No, this isn’t the joke post like the one about Twitter. Facebook really has opened an office in Jakarta.
“Today we’re announcing that we’re opening up a new office. It’s our first office in Indonesia, we’re opening that in Jakarta, it’s over in Pacific Place”, Neary told the Deputy Governor on Thursday. Facebook’s announcement came one day after Twitter’s head of content for Asia Pacific Christel Quek said that the company may open an office in the city one day.
It’s worth noting that Facebook has had local staff for nearly a year since it first picked up Daud Aditirto from Opera Software in 2013 to become the company’s growth manager for Indonesia. It has also made a number of hires for the country including former Googler Anand Tilak as country manager although Facebook’s Indonesian engineers are primarily based out of Menlo Park in California.
Boosting the economy
“It’s very exciting because when we look at Indonesia, it’s one of our priority market for expansion, so it’s exciting to think about how we’re going to grow that business over time”, Neary said. With 65 million accounts from Indonesia, the country is Facebook’s fourth largest market and it has turned Facebook into the country’s top e-commerce site, despite being primarily a social network.
“When we look at the economic impact, the number one ecommerce website in all of Indonesia is actually Facebook. And so SME’s are inextricably linked to the digital economy and we think we’re a good way to help promote that. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for continuing to connect with the rest of the country”.
It is a well known fact that many Indonesians set up shop on Facebook directly on their personal pages, rather than creating their own online stores at dedicated marketplaces or even their own web presence. This itself has been a point of contention among many e-commerce operators and other e-commerce practitioners. With Facebook being the number two most visited website in Indonesia, according to Redwing Asia, most individual shop owners don’t want to move away from this massive congregation of people. Rather than pull people to their own shops, they prefer to set them up where the people are, makes things a lot easier for them.
Platform for tourism
Facebook is also keen on becoming a platform for promoting tourism to Indonesia. Neary and the Deputy Governor spoke about the way Australia’s tourism offices have been using Facebook to draw visitors to the country as well as the individual states. Neary said that Australia is one of the biggest promoters of tourism on Facebook and that he would like to see Indonesia do the same.
While Indonesian tourism operators have been using Facebook quite extensively to promote their businesses both to foreigners and for domestic tourists and travelers, there hasn’t been a properly coordinated and focused effort by the government and the individual provinces to highlight and promote their destinations on the web. Private operators on the other hand are embracing online presence in a big way.
Extensive communications tools
“A platform like Facebook allows dialog between the political candidates with the constituents in ways that they couldn’t do before”, said Neary. And it’s obvious. Prior to Facebook there was practically no way regular Indonesians could have direct access to their parliamentary representatives, or any politician for that matter, at any time of their discretion.
In today’s democratized Indonesia, politicians who don’t have a presence on Facebook, or any other social network, are less known, not to mention less trusted. The Deputy Governor told Neary about how when he was running for a parliamentary seat in 2009, he was amazed at how easy it was for people to connect with him and for him to broadcast his campaign platform to his constituents.
Facebook’s communications platforms, through Messenger and Whatsapp, are being hotly discussed by the country’s mobile carriers as they contribute to their dwindling revenue. At the same time they enable people to communicate over long distance far more economically than over traditional voice and SMS methods thanks to affordable data packages and Facebook specific packages, so there’s clearly a lot to be discussed between Facebook and the carriers.
Neary admitted that there are currently various regulations regarding communications that are being prepared by the Indonesians government and that Facebook’s physical presence should come a long way to allow for easier discussions and feedback on that matter.
Facebook currently has a handful of employees based in Jakarta and the current office set up at Pacific Place is most certainly a shared office, similar to when Yahoo and Google first established their local presence. It’s far from the big fancy office that people might like to think but it provides a central place for Facebook to coordinate its local operations and to more easily communicate with the government and local authorities regarding various issues.
It’s also obvious that one of Facebook’s primary aim at the moment is to boost its advertising sales, so we can expect more hirings in that to increase its efforts which currently is being primarily handled by Komli Media.
Of course, there’s also the sensitive issue of data centers and local taxes on online ad revenue that keep creeping up every now and then, and have always been a sensitive issue to discuss. With the new regulations finally being implemented this year regarding data centers, it’s only going to be more highly discussed in the coming months.
[header image courtesy of Facebook]