Bukalapak earned its unicorn status by focussing on Indonesian farmers and small-time merchants often neglected by bigger rivals.
"Indonesia’s communications minister has already tipped that the country will have a fifth unicorn by 2019”
The tech company joined ranks alongside three other billion-dollar start-ups home grown in south east Asia’s largest economy: Go-Jek, Traveloka and Tokopedia, bringing the total number of unicorns in the ASEAN region to seven.
Indonesia’s communications minister has already tipped that the country will have a fifth unicorn by 2019, most likely from healthcare or education.
The digital economy in south east Asia is being driven by youthful and tech-loving populations, rising disposable incomes, access to cheap devices and greater connectivity.
Almost every aspect of business and social life in south east Asia is being transformed by this new economy.
Research shows there were more than 7000 digital start-ups in south east Asia in 2016 with 80 per cent based in Indonesia, Singapore or Vietnam.
With an estimated 3.8 million new users coming online each month in south east Asia, ecommerce across the region is also expanding at pace – with projections looking at 14 per cent growth over the next five years, a figure only matched by India.
The region has embraced social media enthusiastically with Jakarta recently crowned the global Twitter capital and south east Asia is collectively the largest adopter of Facebook anywhere in the world.
“South east Asia is leapfrogging technologies,” George Iwan Marantika, President of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council Yogyakarta says. “It’s a new frontier.”
Marantika, who is part of an advisory group assisting the governments of Australia and Indonesia with the current free trade agreement negotiations (the IA-CEPA), says the opportunities are ripe for Australian and south east Asian businesses to collaborate on the digital economy.
“Our businesses can innovate and incubate together and build an ecosystem,” he says. “Indonesia and Australia need to create and converge capabilities and resources to seize these opportunities.”
Australian IT firm, PNORS is partnering with the Indonesian Government to provide highly integrated ehealth solutions and help revolutionise healthcare.
But with the digital landscape changing so quickly, it can be tricky to assess which trends and developments will inform decision making of the future, or which industries will offer the most promise.
Like a sunrise
A recent report has identified the top-seven emerging industries within ASEAN countries that will drive future regional growth.
Ranging from high-value nutrition; fintechs; AI and energy storage, the Sunrise Industries report provides a snapshot of new sources of growth arising due to technological, regulatory, economic or social change.
In particular, it highlights key industries of the future where there is strong potential for Australian business to get involved.
"While some existing industries will decline, there are a set of emerging industries underpinned by advances in science and technology that will contribute to ASEAN's growth," Data61 Senior Principal Scientist and report co-author, Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, explains.