Vadim Chistov

Published 02 April 2015   

FRV_Bali_interview-gecko

FRV chats with Vadim Chistov, the owner of a new internet provider in Bali, Gecko

Q. We’ve heard about “Gecko Internet” being popular on the island – what’s up with that?
A. Gecko is a joint venture between Indonesian entrepreneurs and a team of seasoned startups from Eastern Europe. The Europeans are taking care of the engineering and all things technical and locals are handling the management. Regarding Gecko being popular or not you better ask our customers, but it’s a nice thing to hear. There’s no smoke without a fire, right?

Q. What do you think is the reason for this popularity?
A. Every, and we mean ‘every’, business must adhere the three main rules to be successful:
1. The customer is always right.
2. If you want something done, you hire a professional to do it.
3. If you’re not having fun doing your job, you are doing something wrong.
We make our main point to communicate with every customer and pay attention to their opinions. Our previous accomplished businesses in this field in the USA, Latin America and Europe helped us understand the needs of the everyday Internet user. We know what people want and we work our asses off to provide it. And, well, it’s fun. We’d be nowhere without having fun. Take our word on that.

Q. So what’s a difference between Gecko and other Internet providers here then?
A. As far as we can tell, this is simply a question of experience. Telecommunications development in Indonesia has been held back due to geography and its complicated political situation. The global web has finally taken over, and Indonesia has high demand for quality Internet products, but the supply is limited and pretty much monopolised. Future technology superstars are still in the universities while the current talent lacks professionalism, if not enthusiasm. We witnessed the same situation in Russia in the 1990s: a lot of work to do, not enough people to do it. That’s why we’re sure that Indonesia is going to be a big international market Internet-wise, it just needs some more time to get there.

Q. What was that about monopolisation?
A. Why do you think the prices for the Internet are so high? Because merchants are not interested in making their product cheap. They don’t have anything to be afraid of – it’s next to impossible for a new small company to build their own infrastructure for a number of reasons, so they have to rent capacity from one of the big players. In the end everything turns out to be very expensive, nobody is happy and most importantly, nobody is making money except the big guy. Last summer one of the largest GSM networks on the island was out for almost a day. No mobile service at all with no explanation afterwards. Were it to happen somewhere else the GSM company would have lost half of its subscribers, but not here, here you don’t have a choice. And choice is the only thing that makes prices go lower because customers start to shape the market themselves.

Q. So what you mean basically is that the situation is not going to change?
A. It’s not so bad, we are seeing everything turning for the better now. In our opinion it still isn’t happening fast enough, but we help as much as we can. We’ve managed to cut the costs for our users when we’ve implemented a couple of technical solutions to allow better bandwidth utilization. Still, the cost we pay to deliver 1Mbps to our customer is actually 30% more than we charge the customer for the same 1Mbps.

Q. Wait, does that mean you’re selling at a loss? Or you share bandwidth between customers?
A. Not really, that’s why we mentioned professionalism and technology. We know some tricks (thank you, science!) that help us deliver a stable and dedicated, no sharing, connection to the customer, and still charge them less and survive as a business.

Q. But some of your competitors do actually have lower prices.
A. Again – not really. They have products that cost less but these products are not anywhere near real dedicated connections. Either you are getting “Up to” connections which have no promise of your download speed and you can spend months at 512kbps while having an “Up to 4Mbps” plan with no grounds to complain. It’s “Up to”, you were warned. The other option is xDSL which heavily relies on the perfect condition of telephone lines scattered across the island – and some of these lines are older than the Indonesian state. It’s always a gamble.

Q. With all that said, what are your plans for the future?
A. We’ve finished all the licensing procedures, right now we are allowed to provide Internet services in all regions of Indonesia. We are in talks with a number of government networking structures; it’s not easy to find common ground with them sometimes, but our Indonesian partners are doing very hard work. We are very lucky they’ve offered us this project. Bali is just the start for us. If everything goes according to plan we will expand to nearby islands soon. Indonesia is a country of 250 million people, and we hope to satisfy their Internet needs in the following years. [FRV]

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