Indonesian state-owned mobile payment service LinkAja postpones official launch for third time

The app has been available for download for about two months but isn’t fully functional yet

A consortium of Indonesian state-owned enterprises had promised the launch of their own mobile payment platform LinkAja earlier this year.

The much-anticipated project integrates existing e-payment services provided by the state-owned banks—Bank Mandiri’s e-cash, BRI’s T-bank and My QR, BNI’s Yap! and UnikQu—as well as Telkomsel’s TCash, and it will form the backbone for WeChat Pay and Alipay transactions in Indonesia.

The app has been available for download for about two months but isn’t fully functional yet and the official launch date keeps getting pushed back.

Initially, LinkAja was supposed to e available by April, then April 21. Then, the app was scheduled to launch on May 5, before it was canceled for the third time, according to a local media outlet Kompas.

“We plan to officially launch LinkAja in June, after Eid,” CEO Danu Wicaksana told KrASIA.

The long delay probably has to do with the complex integration process of several related e-money platforms, says Bhima Yudhistira, an economist of the Institute for Development and Economics and Finance (Indef).

Mobile payments is one arena where smaller, nimble companies have executed better. The two market leaders in Indonesia, Go-Pay and Ovo, are both only a few years old but managed to scale because they are a useful payment option that’s well integrated into ride-hailing and other app-based on-demand services.

“State-owned companies and startups have different ways of working. Startups can use a ‘cash-burn’ strategy to boost their growth, but in a state-owned company, the bureaucracy is much more difficult, even more so for LinkAja with its many stakeholders,” Yudhistira told KrASIA.

In addition to complex coordination between stakeholders, building cooperations with merchant networks also require long time and preparation, according to Yudhistira.

LinkAja’s presence in the mobile payment industry could potentially challenge startups because it is supported by government infrastructure and cooperates with public transport operators such as Jasa Marga (manages toll roads) and the Trans Jakarta bus service.

But despite these assets, Yudhistira doubts that LinkAja can steal the limelight in the sector, especially considering what Go-Pay and Ovo have already achieved.

“The weakness of state-owned companies is that even though they enter the digital domain, they still do their business in a conventional way which leads to stagnant development,” Yudhistira says.

Telkomsel’s T-cash, Yudhistira says, was actually the pioneer in the mobile wallet segment but hasn’t shown significant progress and thus chose to merge into LinkAja.

The decision to postpone LinkAja’s launch until after the big Mulsim Holiday Eid actually means missing the holiday momentum, when the volume of commercial transactions in Indonesia usually increases significantly, Yudhistira points out.

LinAja CEO Danu Wicaksana does not seem too worried about the delay and is confident that the platform will find acceptance once it’s ready.

“Improvement of the system is certainly carried out continuously, like in other applications. In terms of business, our number of downloads has been showing positive growth.”

LinkAja recently told local media that it has 32 million registered users and three million active users. The company also has 131.000 merchant partners so far and is expanding its merchant network.

Editor: Nadine Freischlad