Are You Dreaming of a Covid-Free Tomorrow? Avoid the Costly Construction hassles with a Hasty Rapid Test Sealant Application

These are the rapid tests conducted by pricking a patient’s finger, instead of collecting a swab. They’re easier to administer, cheaper, and yield faster, albeit less accurate, results.

It doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement

It doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement.

In many places, like the city of Bandung—where several cases had surfaced—or in Bekasi—a satellite city on the outskirts of Jakarta—the original plan was to call citizens in for mass testing in open areas like sports stadiums. This was overthrown within days and replaced with a different model: where patients have to wait for a doctor to recommend a test and then visit a health centre, or they may be asked to do a test if they are identified as someone who was potentially exposed.

The West Java Province, which includes Bandung and Bekasi, led the way in mass rapid testing and has reportedly been able to identify and isolate several hotpots of the outbreak, which should slow the spread. Although the false-negatives problem associated with rapid tests could make this less effective. West Java has also been a pioneer in mapping the data it gathers about patients in observation and making it available to the public.

Screenshot of the Covid-19 hotspot map on the West Java Provincial Government website

In Jakarta, where the number of cases is highest, with a total of 2,335 confirmed cases as of 14 April, there’s been an effort to push for more rapid testing. There’s now a “drive through” option, where patients can arrange an appointment via an app, have their blood sample taken within minutes, and get test results via SMS.

Halodoc, a telemedicine app that also includes an on-demand medicine delivery service in collaboration with Gojek, was the first to introduce the drive through rapid test programme in Jakarta. “We have the blessing from the authorities to move ahead with this plan,” Jonathan Sudharta, Halodoc’s CEO, told us.

Halodoc, which connects patients who have been recommended for testing to its partner hospitals in Jakarta, is providing its drive through service for free till 17 April. However, the app doesn’t mention charges for when the free period ends.

Halodoc’s drive through rapid testing programme in Jakarta. Photo: Halodoc

What’s still lacking for now is a mechanism by which Halodoc and other providers of rapid tests report their data. There’s no unified reporting tool. Provinces like West Java have created their own. Patients who test positive for the antibody are recommended to self-isolate at home, and if their symptoms worsen, to check into one of the hospitals appointed by the government for a swab test.

“Once we’re given directives on [how to report our data] by the authorities, we’re willing to collaborate,” says Sudharta. “We chose not to wait [and] implement first.”

Can I get tested?

In other countries, rapid testing has been decried as unreliable and better suited to monitor patients after they’ve been confirmed Covid-positive through PCR.

A Complete Guide to the Covid Hasty Rapid Test Sealant and How it can be Used to Test When a Seal is Leaking

Until then, though, as a stop-gap, the country is relying on rapid testing as the first line of action. Indonesia imported 500,000 rapid test kits in mid-March and has deployed tens of thousands at the city-level, with some success.

But they’re far from ideal.

Rapid tests, performed on blood samples, may be cheaper and easier to administer, but they also don’t check specifically for the Covid virus. They look for the existence of antibodies against it. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently does not recommend using rapid tests as a first diagnostics tool, because a whole new set of risks is associated with them.

False negatives are likely: Someone diagnosed negative in a rapid antibody test may think of themselves as healthy and spread the virus before symptoms show up.
The data is hard to use effectively: At present, those who test positive in a rapid test do not factor into Indonesia’s overall score of confirmed Covid-19 cases. Should they? And what’s the course of treatment for those who test positive?
Despite the caveats, mass rapid testing is the best chance Indonesia has for now, while PCR test infrastructure gets scaled up. Besides, unlike PCR, which needs government sanction, rapid tests can be administered by private healthcare providers.

More labs, more staff, more kits

One of the big fears associated with rapid testing is false negatives, but not testing much at all increases the likelihood of cases being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, putting more people at risk. Imagine patients being diagnosed with pneumonia, which is largely non-contagious, and carrying the highly-contagious Covid virus all along.

It is worth noting that Indonesia, of late, is seeing more deaths in general than is usual. The number of funerals in Jakarta in March saw a 40% spike compared to previous months.

This almost characteristically follows abysmally low Covid testing.

Time lost to bad samples

In February, when Covid-19 cases were already soaring elsewhere Indonesia reported zero. That may have been due to a faulty testing process. Media reports suggest that Indonesia wasn’t fully complying with WHO-guidelines about storing and transporting samples in a continuous cold chain.

In February, when cases in China and some other countries were already soaring, Indonesia had authorised all but one government-operated lab in Jakarta to test for Covid-19. After the first test came back positive on 2 March, this was extended to government-operated labs across Indonesia—of which the country has just over a dozen, at a population of close to 270 million—as well one private foundation in Jakarta.

Indonesia lags behind in its testing capacity compared to most of its neighboring countries, and it’s far behind India.

As of 8 April, the government, over a live-streamed press conference, claimed to have acquired 20 more machines that can conduct PCR tests. While two of the machines can conduct 1,000 tests a day, 18 can handle up to 500. From 13 April onwards, Indonesia expects to gradually increase capacity to between 5,000 and 10,000 tests a day.


One with Entrepreneurs’ Trust and Fistful of Coins

Standard Chartered bank is a big fish that is, however, poised to enter the market. According to two banking industry executives, the British multinational intends to pair with Singaporean insurance provider NTUC Income and is in the midst of hashing out structural details for the bid. Standard Chartered neither confirmed nor denied that it is bidding for a licence in its response to questions from The Ken.

Payment and fintech startups would seem as logical bidders, but that isn’t the case. Revolut, one of Europe’s billion-dollar-valued fintech startups, did not partake in the bid despite launching its digital service in Singapore at the end of 2019. Nium, a Singapore-based cross-border payments provider, quietly dropped out months after being the first to go public with its intention to bid.

Prajit Nanu, Nium’s co-founder and CEO, admits that wholesome advice from his investors, who urged him to focus on high-growth markets, ultimately won over his early urge to snag a licence. “We spliced and diced models in multiple ways, but couldn’t see a five-year path,” says Nanu. “Unless you sink significant capital, it is not clear how you can gain traction.”

There is, though, potential for the digital banking pie to grow via innovation and diversification, according to Varun Mittal, global emerging markets fintech leader at professional services firm Ernst & Young.

“Besides staple banking services, Singapore’s new digital banks will likely venture into fields such as transport, food and beverage, entertainment and travel. And this would drive the need for varied partners in forming consortiums to bid for a digital bank licence”


That explains the core theory by the joint bid from Grab and Singtel—a relative power couple that mixes the $14-billion ride-hailing startup with a more old-school tech player, a telco. This union could, for example, see Grab offer its customers and drivers financial products based on their spending on its platforms. That’s without even including data from Singtel and its use of Grab’s customer information.

Razer—which partnered with the likes of venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners and auto listings startup Carro—could, by the same token, offer gamers loans to buy its latest hardware based on their brand loyalty, or car buyers loans based on their credit history.

Profit over growth

There are, however, valid questions about the viability of the consortia, especially their staying power to tackle a long-term business like banking. “Will some of these companies still be the same or even be around in five years?” the previously quoted financial markets analyst ponders.

Tied to that concern is the need for applicants to be profitable. MAS has been clear that this is key to winning a licence, reiterating that break-even means turning a profit. This is an issue multiple consortia must address since some have members that remain loss-making. For instance, Sea and Razer are yet to turn a profit since going public in 2017, while Grab remains on a pathway to profitability despite claiming some of its units no longer lose money.

Reasons for Gojek Struggle in Southeast Asia A Look at Indonesia’s Economic Competition from Uber

Gojek’s management team first hatched the plan following Uber’s exit from Southeast Asia, an investor with knowledge of the effort told us. However, nearly two years later, it remains incomplete. Gojek announced a $1.2 billion raise in May 2019, but the remainder has not yet been gathered. The company has struggled to convince investors of its $10-billion valuation target.

“Our fundraising remains on track and in line with expectations,” the Gojek spokesperson said. The company also rebuffed suggestions that it is open to a merger deal with Grab, as reported by The Information last month. “There are no plans for any sort of merger and recent media reports regarding discussions of this nature, are not accurate,” the spokesperson said.

New era of sustainability

Question marks around Gojek’s expansion could not come at a worse time for the company, given the global shift in focus from aggressive growth to profitability among startups and investors.

Gojek has to learn the ropes and gain market share in each new market. It also has to figure out how to stitch regional operations together, while keeping its spending in check. It may not have retreated from expansion posts, but Gojek has become acutely aware of its financial mortality and made cutbacks. In December, it confirmed it would shut down the majority of its GoLife services in Indonesia, including laundry, beauty and home services on-demand, due to an apparent lack of adoption.

It appears that Gojek is still saving much of its capital for Indonesia to quell Grab’s offensive. It shelled out $30 million to buy a 4.3% strategic stake in taxi operator Blue Bird, in a deal that offers a whopping 62% premium on its stock price. Gojek is also reportedly in talks to acquire Moka, a local point-of-sale startup. In food delivery, the battle for market share between Gojek and Grab has become so intense that the steep discounts they offer users have made food prices more affordable and kept Indonesia’s inflation low, according to a Bloomberg report .

The last remaining market in South

As the year continues, there’s likely to be greater pressure on Gojek’s international services if they continue to see middling performance. With Makarim departing the business, Gojek seems likely to reorganise and refocus on the fundamentals as a result of new leadership, particularly given that he was instrumental in setting many of those initiatives up in the first place.

The previously quoted technology executive suggests GoLife may not be the only service thought up by Makarim that is deemed expendable by co-CEOs Soelistyo and Kevin Aluwi. The two are long-time employees who were previously chairman and chief information officer, respectively.

Despite that, Gojek’s regional charge continues. In the Philippines, the company teamed up with a firm owned by Paulo Campos, who also serves as CEO of fashion e-commerce platform Zalora Philippines. The partnership was forged to fulfill the foreign ownership rules and qualify for an operating license to (potentially) finally launch transport services. Gojek hopes that will be “as soon as possible,” with the spokesperson saying the company is in discussions with the government.


One reason to counteract this is because a statement we hear often lately is that the part of the knowledge battle is being won by China

Some see the Southeast Asia expansion itself as a boil-the-ocean strategy thought up by Nadiem Makarim, Gojek’s former CEO, who is now a government minister. (We wrote about Makarim’s exit from Gojek here .)

Devolution of powers

Gojek took an unusual approach to its expansion. It set up overseas operations that are run by local teams with Gojek Indonesia providing tech support. This strategy allows the interface of its local apps, their features, marketing and other facets of the business to vary from country to country. Grab, in contrast, operates one core app across Southeast Asia, although some features vary between countries

The expansion strategy may appeal to investors, but it is impractical, even harmful, to the company in reality, as catching Grab is both ambitious and costly, the technology executive mentioned above added. Indeed, it has been speculated that Gojek’s regional expansion could be as much about distracting Grab away from Indonesia as it is about landing in new territories.

However, it is unclear whether Gojek has made a dent in Grab’s monopoly in the Southeast Asia region. And the Indonesian company’s home base is also under fierce attack from its rival.

Grab has pledged to pour vast sums into Indonesia. The Singaporean company’s marquee investor, SoftBank, has palled up with the Indonesian government, while committing $2 billion towards developing national infrastructure. There are even suggestions SoftBank will help fund a new capital city.

Organised chaos across Southeast Asia

After stepping into Vietnam in August 2018, the company said its local Go-Viet business completed 100 million bookings in its first year. However, despite the bold claims, Go-Viet appears to be in a near-constant state of flux. It is currently in its third leadership cycle following a turnover of executives, which hints at instability and lack of coherent strategy.

Former Go-Viet chief executive Christy Le, who was earlier Facebook’s Vietnam head, resigned in September 2019 after just five months with the company. Her predecessor, Nguyen Vu Duc, had barely fared better, lasting only six months in the role.

Grab retains a dominant 72.9% share of the ride volume in Vietnam, according to a recent report by ABI Research. Go-Viet is pegged at 10.3%—just fractions ahead of local players Be and FastGo.

There are also reasons to be concerned about the management of country teams. In Vietnam, the entire annual marketing budget for the first year was exhausted after just three months, the previously quoted person said, indicating a lack of oversight.

In Thailand, the country Gojek entered following its expansion to Vietnam, there are signs that decisions are made in Indonesia. For example, GET initially worked with capital city Bangkok’s motorbike taxi driver fleets—known locally as Win bikes—despite the approach being costlier than developing its own fleet, an executive from the logistics industry told us. “A local leader wouldn’t do that,” the executive said. “This was a strategy set by Indonesia.”

Gojek has provided a limited window into the success of its service outside of Indonesia, but it does claim the following:


Possible Future Endeavors for the REST Server for Circles

Customers in Australia also complained about the service—from double billing to slow speeds. Bad reviews on product sites significantly outnumbered the good. Tellingly, the source also revealed that subscriber numbers are low in Australia—there were just 25 customer activations in February 2020. Although numbers are said to be picking up, today, only three people are left from a team that was 25-strong—a marketing person, sent from Singapore; a single customer service representative; and the former general manager of Australia, who is now working on ad-hoc projects.

Ironically, Circles’ lack of a physical footprint—something it has long considered an advantage—may have hurt its overseas ventures. “Not having stores sometimes hurt its credibility and subscribers are not confident about the kind of service it can offer. [This can] Often result in slower growth in markets, or it will have to roll out aggressive promos like it did in Australia, with its four-month free offering,” said Batra. Circles doesn’t even sell its SIM cards at stores.

Circles’ Bengaluru centre, too, saw a similar fate.

Cuts and bruises

Bengaluru, which was supposed to be a centre to develop applications outside the telco business, saw a hiring surge in May 2019. “But over months, that really did not take off, I guess, and the office sort of became a back office for their Singapore operations,” said a former employee, who was laid off from the Bengaluru centre..

There was a management struggle, where local executives had no real power, said the person quoted earlier. Singapore was pulling the strings. Things started going downhill when Dhanush Hetti, the new chief technology officer, came onboard. The management made employees work extra hours despite knowing that these employees were not going to be part of Circles’ future plans, the person added.

The layoffs started all of a sudden in November 2019. “Before Diwali, there was a performance review, which was weird because we had one a few months back,” said the former employee. “They gave us more work during the process; we thought it was performance evaluation, but in fact, it was just extra work.”

A list of people were fired, purportedly over performance, the source said. While three employees still work out of Bengaluru, it’s all a charade to show that the centre is not completely shut, the former employee claimed.

Even in Singapore, its best performing market, employees were not spared.

While the company was on its expansion spree, Circles had also entered new sectors in Singapore, eventually getting trapped in its own concentric circles.

It launched its event discovery platform, Discover, in November 2018. The platform was the MVNO’s digital shot at moving beyond telephony, with artificial intelligence learning a user’s preference and recommending events they would be interested in. The plan was to eventually offer tickets that could be purchased directly on the app.

Rewards programme

The MVNO was also attempting credit and a rewards programme—Rides for Rewards, which was linked to the commuter payment system, EZ-Link. The programme offered points for every ride taken which could then be redeemed for rewards. Circles was also looking into building an e-wallet and issuing its own card for use, the person noted.


What Went Wrong at GoPlay? Why the Costly hiccup in growth

GoPlay also offers its content in a bundle with vouchers for GoFood, the food delivery service of Gojek. For IDR 99,000 (US$6.09), you get a one-month subscription of GoPlay and IDR 240,000-worth (US$14.76) of food vouchers. This means, if you’re a regular food delivery user, Gojek subsidises you with IDR 141,000 (US$8.67) to try out its video app. That’s worth five caffe lattes at Starbucks.

Launched in 2015, Gojek first made plans to get into the content creation and distribution business public in May 2018. It raised more than US$2 billion that year and became Indonesia’s highest-valued tech company, scratching the $10 billion mark.

Cancelled commitments

With its charismatic founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim still at the helm, Gojek wanted to inhabit all corners of Indonesians’ digital lives. Instead of merely forming the layer through which people ordered services or bought food, Gojek thought: why not get into concerts, sports events, and movies, and distribute them through its own channels?

But amidst this feverish pursuit, some projects floundered and struggled to find direction. GoPlay is one of them.

Some of those involved with GoPlay, either as former employees or partners, said that giving the outward impression of a growing content business in addition to Gojek’s other services helped with fundraising and justified skyrocketing valuations. However, they added that there wasn’t a full buy-in internally, at the shareholder level. Makarim has since left the firm and now serves as Indonesia’s Minister of Education and Culture.

The chaos left some filmmakers whom Gojek had agreed to support stranded. They had already begun working on projects and had even spent from their own pockets to get things started.

It’s a drama that will never make it into the GoPlay content library, but one that shows business processes can be messy, even at one of the brightest and best-equipped tech companies in the country.

The first cracks in Gojek’s newfound interest in film and entertainment began to show in the second half of 2018.

At a press conference in Jakarta in July that year, several smiling faces beamed down from a stage. There were Gojek representatives, and people from Indonesia’s documentary film scene. The creative economy agency, a government body, was also present.

Press conference to announce the Docs By The Sea Co-Production Fund in July 2018. Image: Indonesia’s Creative

Economy Agency (Bekraf)

The event marked the launch of the “Docs By The Sea Co-Production Fund”. Under this initiative, Gojek’s newly formed film production unit, Go-Studio, would co-finance 12 Indonesian documentary projects and mentor filmmakers. The aim was to obtain global distribution for these documentaries. In August, the films selected for this scheme were announced at an event in Bali.

However, Gojek pulled out of its commitment about three months after the announcement, according to Amelia Hapsari, head of Docs By The Sea. “I was told that Gojek was going through a massive restructuring,” she said. Gojek told her that the people spearheading the fund didn’t have an actual authorisation from the company to do so. Hence, their commitments weren’t valid.

Blocking Websites At Work Aims To Prevent Smartphone Break Time

Indonesia-based ride-hailing app Gojek didn’t make it into the top 20 apps by downloads or MAU in Southeast Asia, roughly two years since it began its international expansion. (We’ve written about Gojek’s overseas expansion struggles.) It only landed in the top 20 MAU chart towards the end of 2019.

Gojek’s Singaporean arch rival Grab, though, ranks much higher overall. After all, Grab has been focused on building a regional footprint from the get-go.

Gojek’s active users ranking is still mostly driven by its large user base in home country Indonesia—also the region’s biggest market with a 260 million population. Popularity in Indonesia automatically catapults an app into the regional ranks. In Indonesia, Gojek was the seventh most popular app by MAU in 2019, as per App Annie. Grab doesn’t make it into the country’s top 10.

It’s also worth noting that Gojek’s regional ranks don’t take into consideration Vietnam and Thailand, where it goes by local brand names—GoViet and GET, respectively. That’s not to say that Gojek is particularly strong in those countries. In Vietnam, GoViet doesn’t figure in the top 10 by downloads and MAU. It’s the same story for GET in Thailand.

However, the company saw a surge in new downloads in Singapore last year, thanks to better ride supply. From 10 million completed trips in June 2019, the company grew to 30 million trips by November. But while Gojek was the city-state’s top downloaded app in 2019, that wasn’t enough to bump it into the top ranks by MAU.

Willing to pay?

Willing to pay?

While users are happy to download and use new apps—ranging from social media and messaging, shopping, food ordering and transportation—spending on downloads or in-app purchases signal a more invested user base.

An in-app purchase is almost always for an added benefit. Think updating to Tinder Gold for better matches on the dating app, or buying outfits and gear inside a mobile game. Netflix subscriptions can also factor in here. It refers to everything that’s billed through the app store itself.

Spender bender

Southeast Asia is no singular, homogeneous entity. And that statement is proved by how much Southeast Asians vary, country to country, in priorities with regards to what they spend on apps.

Singaporeans are the big spenders. The country soars way above the global average app store spend of just US$2.63 per internet user in 2019. Thailand and Malaysia also stand out with a higher average spend per internet user than their neighbours.

Indonesians, despite operating with higher per capita GDP than their Vietnamese and Filipino neighbours, don’t part with their cash easily. At least not over apps.

So it’s not just a case of rich country = more app payments. There are other factors:

Mobile gaming: App Annie’s consumer-spend metric tracks payments that are made directly through the iOS App Store or Google Play. Mostly gaming spends, the data research company says. Now, game publishers from China, Japan and South Korea entered some markets like Thailand and Malaysia early because of geographical proximity and cultural affinity. No surprise that Thais and Malaysians caught on.

Blocking Websites At Work Aims To Prevent Smartphone Break Time

Shopee, founded in 2015—a unit of New York Stock Exchange-listed internet platform Sea—has dethroned Alibaba-backed Lazada, founded in 2012, both in downloads and MAUs. Between the two metrics though, MAU is more crucial since download numbers tend to plateau over time for older apps. App Annie’s more granular country data shows that Shopee nabbed the top spots in MAU in Indonesia and Vietnam, the region’s two fastest growing internet economies, in 2019, as per the Google-Temasek-Bain industry report.

Yes, you can argue the data doesn’t paint a full picture since it only covers apps. But according to year-end 2019 data from SimilarWeb—acquired by product comparison website iPrice—Shopee also holds the top spot for total regional traffic on desktop and mobile.

Shopee vs Lazada visits in 2019

2.062 billion
1.844 billion
Vincent Fernando, a financial analyst who writes for Smartkarma, attributes Shopee’s rise to its “aggressive” investments in subsidies. This follows parent Sea’s US$884 million initial public offering in October 2017 and its US$1.5 billion follow-on offer specifically for the shopping unit.
Shopee has been absorbing things like shipping and insurance fees to attract more merchants to its platform, says an executive of a logistics firm servicing both Shopee and Lazada in the Philippines. The executive requested anonymity for fear of upsetting the companies. Lazada also incurs expenses due to subsidies, but it has been charging sellers for logistics services such as shipping and fulfillment.

web blocking software

web blocking software

Besides, Shopee’s monthly promotional events started in 2018—similar to the wildly popular 11.11 regional shopping festival, only much smaller—must’ve boosted its rankings, the executive suggests. Last year’s 11.11 shopping bonanza topped US$38 billion in sales.

“The theory being: when you peak, you never go back to your regular volume,” she says. “The more frequently you do the promo events, the higher and higher your base grows. Lazada doesn’t do the monthly thing.”

Shopee’s move to sign on regional brand ambassadors like Portugese football star Cristiano Ronaldo might have also shored up activity on its platform, according to M&C Saatchi’s Chaudhary.

Still, even as Shopee enjoys superior ranking in terms of traffic and usage, the subsidies it employs take a toll on its financials. In January-March 2019, Shopee’s sales and marketing expenses stood at US$254.7 million, a 38% year-on-year jump from US$184.5 million in the same period the previous year. As a result, its adjusted EBITDA loss widened to US$306.2 million compared to US$277.5 million the previous year.

In either case, Lazada is unfettered by the app and web rankings. Responding to us request for comment, a Lazada spokesperson said “the metric that we focus on is the consumer,” adding that the company has more than 60 million annual active consumers. Unlike MAU, which refers to the number of users who open the app, annual active consumers as a metric looks at actual purchases on the app and site. Lazada is yet to make its financials available.