Former Grab, Go-Jek employees team up to prove demand for a chatty mobile wallet in Indonesia

Indonesia’s messenger app market is already highly saturated, Oy’s CEO, undeterred, is up for something “really hard”.

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Former Grab, Go-Jek employees team up to prove demand for a chatty mobile wallet in Indonesia

Indonesian startup scene is getting fiercer but also more interesting with Go-Jek and Grab, two super apps, wrestling against each other in the rodeo. And now, a chat app camouflaged as a mobile wallet, or the other way around, is trying to enter the fray.

Curiously, the key people developing this app called Oy are former Go-Jek and Grab employees.

Oy has been around for only around a year. At its core, it’s a messenger app combined with business discovery, a bit similar to Line. In addition to your friends, you can follow and chat with shops and restaurants around you.

Yesterday Oy celebrated a re-launch of sorts. The main new feature is an integrated mobile wallet, which means users can now send money to each other and to businesses.

With this combination of social and payments, Oy hopes to fill a niche that’s not currently inhabited by Grab and Go-Jek. While their mobile money (Ovo and Go-Pay respectively) is starting to take off, there’s no social component that links Grab or Go-Jek users with each other.

At times the app can feel overwhelming. You can order food from partner restaurants, buy digital vouchers to redeem and a shop, but also book a doctor’s appointment or a hotel. Each process starts with a chat that has automated elements – for instance, chatting with a restaurant lets me choose dishes from a menu. Some of the services don’t seem to be ready yet, and chats remain unanswered. In the long run, Oy partners are supposed to have admins managing incoming chats through a customized merchant interface.

Oy’s CEO Jesayas Ferdinandus is clearly aiming high, inspired by chat-based super apps like WeChat. “I want to do something really hard,” he told KrASIA before the event.

At yesterday’s launch, the startup’s vice president of product Mario Nicolas said that Oy has 75,000 daily active users who generate 6.5 million chats. He didn’t reveal the source of funding for Oy, only saying it has “private backers”.

Oy has some arguments going for it, for example, an experienced team. Ferdinandus was an early Go-Jek employee, where he launched and ran the food delivery unit Go-Food that became one of Go-Jek’s main revenue drivers. Nicolas was products manager at Grab, and prior to that at Path and Kakao.

The entire wallet function is actually run by Doku, one of Indonesia’s oldest payment gateway companies. Through this setup, Oy doesn’t have to jump through any further regulatory hoops, because Doku already owns all the necessary licenses to run a comprehensive digital wallet, including an e-money license, a remittance license, and one for QR payments. Oy’s wallet also has a strong focus on debit card and bank account integration. Instead of asking users to top up an e-cash balance, Oy wants users to link their bank data and directly transact from their accounts. For higher cost items this might become an advantage.

The closest competitor to Oy in Indonesia’s landscape is Dana, a wallet that’s partially owned by Ant Financial, and collaborates with BBM for a similar, WeChat-inspired social + payments approach.

On the other hand, Indonesia’s messenger app market is already highly saturated with many strong options, like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line, BBM, Telegram, and others.

The question of how Oy plans to wean users off of the already established messengers that have users locked in based on powerful network effects isn’t fully answered – Ferdinandus falls back on the argument that the fact it’s locally developed by Indonesians for Indonesians is a convincing factor.

His team isn’t the first to try to develop a social network or chat app tailor-made for Indonesia. Startups like Koprol, MindTalk, and Sebangsa each have had some, but no breakout success.

So far, there isn’t all that much evidence that Indonesians flock to local products just because they’re local. It has to offer a much-needed service that’s not addressed by anyone else — like Go-Jek did when it pioneered on-demand motorcycle taxis in Jakarta. But established messengers can meet the end of their lifecycle and new ones can win market share if they offer something new. One example is Telegram, which gained popularity by offering better encryption and sense of anonymity. Even the superdominant WeChat is facing a new challenger in the form of Bullet Message on China. All these evidence speak to the fact that even in the most established market there is room for disruptions, as long as they’re truly disruptive.

Editor: Ben Jiang