Indonesia’s MCM Group, which owns media brands such as lintasberita, Kaskus, KrazyMarket and Daily Social, is launching a new social group site called Mindtalk, which will also mark the company’s first digital media play outside its home market.
The English-language site, in beta, will allow people to form groups of friends by interests, says CEO Danny Oei Wirianto.
Wirianto, who is also the Chief Marketing Officer of Kaskus, Indonesia’s largest social network, said the site signed up more than 6,500 people two weeks after launch. “We used key influencers to spread the word on Twitter,” he said.
Forming groups within social networks sounds a bit like the new Google+ with its circles and hangouts, I said. “We’ve been working on it for a long time,” he laughs, “and then we heard about Google+.”
He said that groups were popular in Indonesia as evidenced by the number of Blackberry groups one person can have on his network. “The idea is similar in that we give people the ability to hang out in groups.”
Like Facebook where you can place apps on top of your personal page, Mindtalk will enable groups to put apps on top of their page “so they can play games together, or put photo album apps or calendar apps”.
“We will have an open API and ask people to create apps for us, so it takes the best of Facebook and Twitter – for eg the Tweet Deck – in one approach.”
Wirianto believes social networks are splintering and people want more curated networks. “I think Facebook will stay for another five years, I don’t know what will take over but I am seeing the decline of interest in Facebook, they are putting too much in it and you cannot be the master of all. It’s like peanut butter, you spread it too think and it becomes tasteless.”
Having said that, he said Facebook has been very successful in Indonesia, which is its second largest country with 35 million members. “They use mobile a lot and they have been successful with the support of mobile operators. Indonesians are very expressive, they like to show off and to share. Facebook has an app that’s easy to use – even my mum has an account with Facebook because she has a smartphone.
“I see Facebook as an address book, a contact book – like Yellow Pages. Twitter is an extension of a voice, ‘short, quick, shout it out, personal’. LinkedIn is about resumes. On YouTube, you watch videos. Each is serving a specific need.”
Wirianto said he was prepared to go without revenues for two to three years with Mindtalk. “The idea is to grow first and capture the market.”It will be a search model and offer targeted ads. It will also allow active users within groups to get a revenue split.
“When we tested it, we found people stayed for 15-20 minutes on average. Within four weeks, we had 850 groups, 3,500 articles shared and 45,000 posts. We will have leveling for active users and when levels go up, they can create a channel and get a revenue split. So people can make money from their blogs.”
Mindtalk is an evolution from Kaskus which was formed in 2008 and has grown into Indonesia’s biggest social community. In January this year, Global Digital Prima Venture, part of Djarum Group, took a stake in the platform.
Wirianto said Kaskus was more of a community than network. “When you say network, people expect it to be like Facebook where they can post updates and photos. Think of it as more of a forum,” he said.
Kaskus currently has 3.3 million registered members, and 22 million Unique Impressions a month. Wirianto said mobile formed about five percent of impressions currently but this year, “we are focusing on mobile and we believe we will see exponential growth with mobile”.
Asked if Kaskus could ever reach Facebook’s size of 35 million, Wirianto said that Kaskus was very Indonesian-driven and “we will stay in Indonesia like Baidu – we cater to very local tastes”.
“However, some of the features that we develop – for example, payment, advertising system, marketplace – can be rolled out to Asia Pacific.”
MCM Group bought into Kaskus three years ago. “I saw the potential and the loyalty of the user. There was a strong culture within the community. However the design was not very friendly, the content was disorganized and there was also negative content like porn.”He thus marketed and rebranded it to “create a better image”. MCM remains a minority shareholder but revenues have grown by multiples, he said.
Wirianto, who will be speaking at the WIT Conference in October, said he was exploring the travel industry for opportunities. “We are looking for a partner, our group cannot be an expert in everything. The travel space is a good one – there are great opportunities in Indonesia – and we are the gateway to communities. We believe that if you conquer communities, you can layer many things on top of them.”
His advice to foreign companies looking to enter Indonesia: “Don’t underestimate Indonesians – most people think we are stupid, we just pretend to be dumb,” he laughs.
“The key is to understand their needs – if you can fulfill their needs, the growth will be explosive. You shouldn’t say, Indonesians need this and bring it here.
“Get to know the loyal players – we are friendly and willing to work together and share the knowledge. We don’t mind the competition. This is a digital eco system that’s just growing – the more input we get, the better, but don’t come here to teach us. More like, let’s work together in a friendly tone.”