How Alodokter Became Indonesia’s Top Online Health Portal
A prescription for success: capitalizing on trends in health-care and the digital landscape
Think something might be wrong with you? What’s Doctor Google’s diagnosis? Most people have consulted Google about one health-related concern or another, and while there’s certainly an abundance of information online, trying to figure out which ones are credible could take a bit of effort. And in some Southeast Asian countries, language might create an additional barrier.
Enter Alodokter. Says founder and CEO Nathanael Faibis, “With the rise of Internet access, Indonesians started to look heavily online for health information, but there was no reliable source of information in Bahasa Indonesia. We are doing our best to give scientifically accurate and easy-to-understand health information to patients all around Indonesia.”
Frenchman Faibis, previously with Rocket Internet and who helped launch e-commerce company Lazada in 2012, also has experience in the pharmaceutical industry in developing countries – know-how and a business network he put to good use when he founded Alodokter in July, 2014.
Feature articles about health and wellness, plus an A-to-Z of drugs and diseases, all carefully edited by a team of doctors who also answer questions online, are in no way unique to Alodokter or Indonesia. Local competitors such as MeetDoctor, DokterSehat, 1Health, and KlikDokter offer a similar product.
But not even two years after launching, Alodokter has become Indonesia’s top online health-information portal, with over 8 million total site visits as of February, 2016, according to figures from SimilarWeb. It was named one of 20 startups to watch in 2016 by venture investment network One Thousand Angels, and in April last year, it received seed funding from Fenox Venture Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, 500 Startups, and Lim Der Shing.
Alodokter’s formula for success: riding a wave of trends
Asked why Alodokter is an attractive investment, Justin Hall, principal at Golden Gate Ventures, says, “Alodokter is one of the companies in Southeast Asia that's benefiting from the convergence of multiple trends: a rapidly digitizing consumer base in Indonesia; a growing middle class demanding access to better services and goods; health care and information continuing to be a fragmented and mystifying vertical both off- and online; and finally, advertisers (outside the typical consumer spaces of commerce and content) finally seeing capable online marketing channels, i.e., health-care practitioners, pharmaceuticals, and FMCGs.”
Alodokter monetizes by offering premium advertising space to brands that target health-conscious customers, according to Faibis.
Big potential in Indonesia’s online space (for those who show up early)
There seems to be considerable growth potential for online ventures in Indonesia, a country of some 250 million people and an Internet penetration rate of 20.4% (data from Internet Live Stats), and global investors are taking notice. Says Hall, “Indonesia, given its size and upside potential in the online space, is rapidly maturing its online content offering. As these ecosystems get more mature, more verticals will begin going online to target bigger audiences.”
Still, it pays to be one of the first. Perhaps a big part of Alodokter’s success can be attributed to being one of the earliest to tap the potential of this particular corner of the health-care sector. According to Hall, “Alodokter is a first-mover in this new space: greater numbers of people are starting to go online to learn about their health, find physicians, and get a better understanding of their needs. This is a fundamental need, and we see significant similarities between Alodokter in Indonesia and WebMD in the United States.”
Universal health-care coverage may benefit Alodokter
In 2014, the same year Alodokter was launched, the Indonesian government started its Universal Health Coverage, which today covers over half the population (as health-care agency spokesperson Irfan Humaidi tells The Guardian).
According to Faibis, this may actually be a boon to the company. “Patients in advanced countries such as the U.S., Japan, or Europe are looking for much more for health information online than Indonesian patients. The reason is simple: the more patients are health-conscious, the more they search for health information online. We see Universal Health Coverage as a great way to make Indonesian patients more health-conscious.”
Faibis says, “We are not trying to replace a consultation with a doctor. No health information can do that.” Instead, what Alodokter does is help patients make better-informed decisions regarding their health.
Whether similar ventures will pick up in other Southeast Asian countries remains to be seen – variations in health-care laws and attitudes towards online privacy and health care in general may help determine whether or not they will – but in Indonesia, it’s clear that several significant trends are working to Alodokter’s advantage.
Their biggest challenge, according to Faibis, is maintaining the quality of their content. He says, “We aim at providing high standards in terms of medical accuracy and all our articles need to be explained in simple words for everybody to understand.”