Google Southeast Asia launched a fresh initiative on Wednesday that promises to connect thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in Indonesia to the Internet, a move mirroring the multinational’s deepening interest in the country‘s thriving digital scene.
The initiative, “Local Business Goes Online”, offers the first 100,000 small and medium businesses to sign up at the bisnisgoonline.co.id website a chance to build websites for free, and exempts these businesses from paying fees for domain names and web hosting for a year.
In addition, businesses receive a Google AdWords coupon worth Rp 500,000 (US$55) to promote their websites online via Google. Businesses will have to pay between Rp 100,000 and Rp 150,000 per year to renew the domain names after the grace period expires.
Julian Persaud, Google Managing Director for Southeast Asia, said that Google‘s “special business site builder” enabled users to setup websites in a simple 30-minute process, a boon for less tech-savvy SMEs.
“It‘s a great opportunity to assist small businesses. They need help from companies like us to go online and generate more revenue,” he said.
Based on the 2008 law on SMEs, micro enterprises are categorized as business entities with maximum annual sales of Rp 300 million while small enterprises and medium enterprises are those with maximum annual sales of Rp 2.5 billion and Rp 50 billion, respectively.
There are 17 million SMEs in the country, but only 75,000 own websites according to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
Persaud said Google’s program would also make the websites more compatible with smartphones and feature phones, the main devices Indonesians use to access the Internet.
A Google-sponsored study by Deloitte found that around 70 percent of spending on access to the Internet in Indonesia is linked to mobile Internet. Nielsen also pointed out that 48 percent of Indonesians accessed the Internet via mobile phones, the highest percentage across Southeast Asia.
Persaud, however, declined to mention the size of investment Google had poured into its latest initiative, which has received support from several local players including the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin), the Indonesian Internet Domain Name Manager (Pandi), Bakrie Connectivity and local community website, Multiply.com.
“We are not in this to make money in the short term and not even in the medium term. What we are trying to do is to improve the ecosystem,” he said, adding that local Internet users would benefit from the increased availability of local content as well.
Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat said although SMEs played a strategic role in the economy, the sector lacked “capacity and knowledge in communicating”, and skills and access to information technology.
“Information technology will ease marketing so that SMEs can develop more in the future,” he said.
Eric Meijer, president director of Bakrie Connectivity, said: “The SMEs may not understand going online, so the call center officers will help step-by-step with their problems.”