“I have more than 1,000 friends from both Indonesia and abroad,” said Mery, a fresh graduate who recently migrated from Sulawesi to Yogyakarta for work, talking about Mig33, an expanded messenger service.
The application is very popular in Indonesia, where 33 million of the 65 million users worldwide reside, because it allows mobile phone users to chat, play games and post messages in a Twitter-like mini blog.
The application’s feature-phone friendly format is a key to its market appeal in Indonesia, given that nearly half of the mobile phones here are feature phones as opposed to smartphones.
More than just using the Mig33 network to communicate, Mery also uses it as a way to earn extra income. She sells virtual credits to Mig33 users, who then use the credits to buy virtual items, such as avatars and special emoticons.
“If the credits are worth Rp 10,000 [US$1.06] in cash, I can sell them for Rp 12,000,” she said, adding that she could make as much as Rp 400,000 in profits by selling credits worth Rp 1 million.
With so much activity going on among Mig33 users in Indonesia, Kiki Rizki, Indonesia country manager for Mig33, pointed out that Indonesia was their “biggest and most important market”.
She said that on a given day, one million Indonesian users logged into the social network, with each unique user accessing the network 73 times a day.
“Since the key feature of Mig33 is chat, much of the activity is centered on chatting, be it private chats, group chats or chat rooms,” she told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of Startup Asia 2012 earlier this month in Jakarta.
She said purchasing virtual gifts, such as emoticons, as the next most popular activity, on top of playing games and posting message on the mini-blog.
She added that Indonesian users on average spent $3 per month on gifts, substantially higher than the average global spending of $2.40, adding that a majority of users came from the lower-middle socio-economic level.
“We are big in Central Java where 19 percent of our local users are, followed by Jakarta and surrounding areas with 18 percent of users. Then comes East Java where 11 percent of our Indonesian users are located,” she said.
She added that unlike Facebook and Twitter which were identified more with affluent markets, Mig33 captured outside the mainstream users through localized content such as having celebrities in the likes of pop band Ungu and dangdut troup Trio Macan posting messages on the mini blog.
However, the current user demographics has not stopped Mig33 from expanding to BlackBerry, Android and iOS platforms which are associated with upper-end smartphone devices, although 90 percent of the access to the application was from feature phones.
The application maker also plans to partner up with local game developers to create games high in local content, given that localization means more than just making the application available in Indonesian, Kiki noted.
The moves are part of Mig33’s strategy to expand their user base in Indonesia to 40 million, with 1.5 million active daily users which Mig33 expects to monetize upon not only through the sale of virtual gifts, but also advertisers seeking to target different user groups.