Adi Kusuma was only 24 when he embarked on creating an internet service provider. Aimed mostly at business clients, the brand name BizNet was an obvious choice. And while the internet was in its infancy at its time, the young entrepreneur was able to ride the wave of connectivity to its present heights.
By Muhamad Al Azhari
Eighteen years ago, Adi Kusma started his company with less than 10 employees, focusing as an internet service provider (ISP) at the corporate world. He was just 24. Flying the flag of Biznet, Adi’s PT Supra Primatama Nusantara first offered wireless and in-building ethernet technology for corporate customers to get connected to the internet.
By 2005, it was offering its internet and network services using its own fiber optic network and the company later expanded beyond that of an ISP by offering data center services, cloud computing and cable television.
The internet was still a new thing in the 2000s with the 56k dial-up modem still the most popular means of personal internet use. Born in 1976, Adi was not only armed with foresight when he set up his tech-related business. A nephew of businessman Rudy Suliawan, who controls Central Jakarta property company MidPlaza Holdings, he had a bachelor degree from Oregon State University, majoring in industrial and manufacturing engineering. He had experience working as a system programmer at Software House International in New Jersey, where he learned about network infrastructure, web programming and enterprise resource planning.
“When I was 22-24, I worked in the US, practically as a programmer. That was after I took my university study in the US for four years,” Adi told GlobeAsia on the sidelines of a national meeting of the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association, APJII, in Bali in May.
A list of prestigious awards suggests Adi was a bookworm during his university days. He snatched the Oregon State Award 2009 from the Council of Outstanding Early Career Engineers. He is also a Microsoft-certified system engineer, which acknowledges his professional IT skills and knowledge and allows him to play certain roles with Microsoft-related products.
Third-tier Cities Prospects
As the founder and president director of Biznet, Adi played a key role in developing the company’s business. Biznet’s fiber network offers connectivity within cities, inter-city and inter-island in Indonesia. Connecting customers through high-capacity fiber optic cable that can transmit data, voice and video, Biznet currently owns more than 22,000 km of fiber optic cabling in Indonesia.
Biznet runs more than 70 offices and branches in Jakarta and cities in Java, Bali and Sumatra. Adi said the company is now eyeing expansion into third-tier cities and the eastern part of Indonesia.
“By the end of this year, we target our services to exist in 100 cities in Indonesia. We are eyeing more of the third-tier cities. That’s why we are budgeting quite significant capex,” said the young businessman, who is actively involved in many business associations, both local and international. They include APJII and business associations such as Industrial Engineering (IIE), the Association of Telephony Internet Providers (APITI), the Indonesian Telematics Community (Mastel) and the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (HIPMI).
At the Bali conference, Adi was appointed as the head of the Indonesia Network Information Center, APJII’s arm that plays an important role in managing internet protocol addresses in Indonesia. APJII is the acknowledged national internet registry for Indonesia.
Meanwhile Biznet is spending over $100 million every year in capital expenditure to expand its networks by up to 5,000 km, Adi said. Currently, its Home Pass, internet service for home users, has reached about 500,000 users, while about 10,000 corporate users pay monthly bills for Biznet’s services.
In its Corporate Fact Sheet 2018 available on its official website, Biznet lists high-profile clients. Apart from affiliated groups like Ayana MidPlaza Jakarta and Ayana Resort and Spa Bali, the company says its services are used by many leading corporation such as insurers and financial companies Allianz, Manulife, Prudential and AXA, lenders Bank Tabungan Negara, Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Negara, Bank Central Asia (BCA), Bank Mandiri and BNI 46.
Other clients include ride-hailing application Go-Jek, Lion Mentari Airlines, the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), hoteliers including Hotel Fairmont and Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, and other big names like retailer MAP, e-commerce company Tokopedia and environmental organization the World Wildlife Fund.
“The key word is user experience. We offer premium services, so the most useful campaign is the words of our users themselves,” said Adi. Nor is he concerned that fast-growing mobile technology providing internet access, like the 4G services offered by mobile phone operators, will steal the customers of fixed-line internet providers.
“I have seen many studies and the two are always complimentary. When you are at home or in the office you switch to WiFi, right? And when you are mobile, you turn to mobile,” he said.
One important supporter of internet development is content, Adi said. He is grateful that there are local tech companies that have managed to grow their businesses significantly like Go-Jek and e-commerce players, because they have changed the way people live.
Biznet today not only focuses on its internet service but it is also developing data centers, cloud computing and cable TV services. Cable TV, however, is on a declining trend, according to Adi, amid higher demand for video-on-demand. “The internet basically offers everything now,” he said.
In a bid to capture higher demand from content developers at data centers, Biznet has embarked on a variety of expansion programs over the past five years. In 2012, it built the $50 million Technovillage, an integrated high-tech facility located 35 km south of Jakarta. The facility offers Tier-3 Green Data Center, Grade A office space and a full-service business center targeted as a research center, backup facility, media production and outsourcing center.
Biznet also pays strong attention to Indonesian content development, as it drives internet use by consumers, and developers could potentially become clients for the company. It has an investment unit, Biznet Ventures, that invests in all stages of development from providing seed capital through offering late-stage growth equity.
Investment size tends to range from $50,000 in seed capital to $1 million in equity capital, and the company says it has more capacity to leverage from parent MidPlaza Group should higher investment be needed.
“We need 1,000 more companies like Go-Jek. We need more smart brainers who can take advantage of the internet to further ease people’s life,” said Adi.
The company now has about 2,600 employees and Adi said he likes to implement a style of ‘leading by example’. Possessing all the necessary skills in the field, he remains very ‘hands-on’ with the company’s major deals, expansions and various key operational aspects.
Biznet's corporate values are 'focused passion', 'can-do spirit' and 'client-centricity', he said. Offering premium services to clients not only requires strong knowledge and expertise about the service, it also requires all staff to love what they do, to build and create innovative products and services that can provide value for money. "We try to maintain a low turnover rate and are willing to invest in human resources development," he said.
MidPlaza Group, where Biznet began life at the firm’s headquarters complex on Jl. Sudirman in Jakarta in 2000, continues to be involved in framing Biznet's grand strategy and financial and human resources management.
Today, half of the Indonesian population is connected to the internet, according to APJII, which recorded 143.26 million users last year, a 7.9% increase from 2016. However, despite the increase, growth has slowed compared to 2016, when the number of users jumped 20.4% from 110.2 million in 2015.
Internet users are still dominated by mobile phone users, although fixed line has also seen steady growth. APJII's data showed that internet penetration in urban areas is saturated while services remain poor in rural or remote areas.
“There is plenty of homework ahead to grow this industry further. Permits, conflicting and incomplete regulations are all still hampering our growth," muses Adi.