Telkomsel. (B1 Photo/Hafiz Sezario)

Reflections on a Big, Bold, Digital Transformation


MARCH 17, 2022

Compared with many other sectors, the telco sector has made relative strides in its technological maturity and innovation. But even top brands and organizations need to take time to consider how best to innovate. Otherwise, they risk falling behind, or worse, becoming irrelevant when disruptions sweep through the market.

As the largest mobile operator in Southeast Asia and an engine of growth in Indonesia –home to the fastest-growing population of smartphone users in the world – Telkomsel has been proud to support the creation of a sustainable, inclusive digital economy. From dramatically increasing broadband access to becoming the first operator to launch 5G in the archipelago in May 2021, we have long prioritized continuous innovation. 

Partnering on a bold transformation

Working with McKinsey & Company, we built our transformation around three core pillars to reinvent the way people and our customers experience Telkomsel in their daily lives. First, we built a new data-analytics platform to better understand our customers and increase hyper-personalization. Second, we wanted to create brand-new businesses to reach underserved groups in Indonesia – specifically, Orbit to support those without fixed broadband access, and by.U to better engage and meet the needs of Generation Z users. Finally, we planned the launch of a new version of our digital platform, MyTelkomsel, to streamline the way customers engage with our services. 


What we did to transform 

From the outset of our transformation, Telkomsel knew that providing customers with the very best products and services would require putting data to smart use. We began by building a fully modular platform containing thousands of data points for each consumer. This moved us from manual data uploads to automated data pipelines and quality checks; quickly improving data quality and enabling faster, clearer decisions. 

At the same time, we launched Orbit and by.U – entirely new digital brands and value propositions to meet the needs of new consumer segments. Specifically, we saw a need for Telkomsel to better the needs of Indonesia’s Generation Z, our country’s second-largest consumer group, and customers who lacked access to fixed broadband.  

Finally, we saw an imperative to make customers’ interactions with Telkomsel as seamless, convenient, and personalized as possible—easier said than done. We initially set out to upgrade our existing self-serve mobile app, but as pressure on the tech infrastructure mounted, we realized it was time to start afresh. So we launched MyTelkomsel, offering customers greater transparency around their usage (going from SMS-triggered alerts to an immediate, real-time view) and providing personalized packages tailored to individual needs.

I’m humbled to share that our transformation paid off. Orbit doubled its one-year customer acquisition goal and is now seeing 20 percent month-over-month growth, while by.U hit the 2 million subscriber mark less than a year and a half from launch. Today, MyTelkomsel has 30.3 million monthly active users, a tenfold increase over our previous app. And all of this is backed by a cutting-edge data analytics platform to help us better understand our customers’ needs.

Lessons learned

As I reflect on our digital transformation journey, a few observations come to mind.

A truly cross-functional team. The breadth of our transformation meant we had to engage a highly blended set of experts – including venture builders, artificial intelligence experts, designers, product managers, and strategy leads. This meant we could move faster, create more organizational trust in each team, and ultimately ensure higher-caliber products and services for Telkomsel customers. 

A strong focus on culture and talent. Talent is the crucial ingredient in any corporate endeavor, and we saw the potential in this transformation to help cultivate digital skills in Indonesia’s workforce, strengthening our commitment to building a center of excellence for Indonesian digital talent. We hired and trained 40+ digital experts across Indonesia, instituting new recruiting and talent management processes for 12 newly created roles including data scientists or software engineers. Bringing in new digital talent and embracing a much more agile, startup-like culture wasn’t always easy, but it was fundamental to our transformation.

A clear strategy—and a structured process. The top agenda item for a successful digital transformation is strategy. A rigorous approach to the entire process, from initial brainstorming to scaling, is hugely important.

The road to digital transformation isn’t a straightforward one, but with the right expertise, culture, talent, and vision, it is navigable. Telkomsel is still on its digital transformation journey, with much more to come; and we’re excited to keep serving customers in more dynamic, exciting, and tailored ways. 

Derrick Heng is the Chief Marketing Officer of Telkomsel.