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Indonesia's top telecom opens up e-wallet to rivals' customers

Telkomsel sees Tcash generating a data gold mine and aims for 40 million users

Indonesia's largest mobile operator, Telkomsel, is looking to tap new revenue sources with its e-payment platform, Tcash. (Photo by Erwida Maulia)

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's largest mobile operator, Telkomsel, is opening its electronic payment platform to customers of rival carriers as it seeks to unlock a rich trove of user data.

The e-wallet service, known as Tcash, was previously available only to Telkomsel subscribers, but the company said Tuesday that people on other mobile networks, including XL Axiata and Indosat, can now use it as well. While XL and Indosat have their own e-wallets, their marketing campaigns have not been as aggressive as Tcash's.

"We hope to reach 40 million customers at the end of this year from all layers of the Indonesian communities ... 20% of whom are expected to come from other operators," Tcash CEO Danu Wicaksana said at the launch event.

Tcash has 20 million registered users, though only 20% of them are active. Wicaksana said it is hoping to double the number of partner merchants from the current 50,000 to help reach the customer target. The bulk of Tcash merchants are restaurants, but the platform also lets users pay monthly bills such as electricity, water and health insurance.

The service enables transfers of funds among users, including remittances from Indonesian migrant workers in Singapore through a partnership with Singapore Telecommunications' e-payment platform, Dash. Tcash also is seeking to expand its availability at gas stations and transportation services, including rapid transit and light rail transit networks that are set to open in Jakarta later this year.

"We want to make sure Tcash can be used in every step of your life; [that it] becomes a habit to use Tcash every single day, from the time [a user] wakes up until she sleeps," Wicaksana said in an earlier interview with Nikkei Asian Review.

He said Tcash is a focus of Telkomsel this year as the company -- a subsidiary of state-owned Telekomunikasi Indonesia and SingTel -- seeks new revenue sources beyond data and voice charges.

Collecting transaction fees for Tcash is one such source, but Wicaksana said that is more of a "means to an end" -- with the end being to help Telkomsel monetize transaction data.

The CEO said combining Telkomsel's data of customers' locations, call patterns and app downloads with Tcash transactions will provide "very powerful" data, for example to assess the creditworthiness of a customer to facilitate bank loans. Tcash has partnered with BPTN, having helped the bank acquire 1 million previously unbanked customers. It is currently in talks with other banks, including state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia, for similar partnerships.

"Payment is the first stage before next surprises in the future," Wicaksana said.

Telkomsel says it has 196 million subscribers, including those using multiple mobile phones and numbers. Enabling Tcash in other carriers' platforms gives it access to Indonesia's entire mobile market.

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