Indonesia’s GDP Labs spots big promise in the future of blockchain technology

On Lee, CEO and CTO of GDP Labs.

Jakarta-headquartered GDP Labs is gearing up to develop blockchain technology as it bets big on the burgeoning crypto sector in Indonesia.

The Djarum Group-backed company has evinced interest in blockchain technology since 2015 and has invested in a slew of blockchain startups in the US and Asia, its CEO and CTO On Lee told DealStreetAsia.

While he declined to mention the names of the companies GDP has invested in, he said the firm has gained 3,000% Return of Investments (ROI) in those investments so far.

“Blockchain technology will be a general-purpose technology, which means no matter what industry you’re in, blockchain technology will be useful. We always pay attention to all emerging technologies, particularly those that affect our (Djarum) group. Just like any key technology, including AI and cloud computing, we treat it as a general-purpose technology,” Lee said.

Djarum Group is the largest cigarette producer in Indonesia. Its business activities also span areas such as technology, banking and beverages.

It owns the largest private lender Bank Central Asia (Bank BCA). Besides, it also has a slew of investments in the startup ecosystem through GDP Ventures, its portfolio companies being ride-hailing Gojek, e-commerce platform Blibli, online ticket platform Tiket, telemedicine app Halodoc, and furniture marketplace Dekoruma, among others.

GDP Labs, that develops diverse technology software, was established in 2012 under GDP Ventures that is managed by Martin Hartono, the second son of the richest Indonesian man Robert Budi Hartono.

Prior to becoming the CEO and CTO in GDP Labs in 2012, Lee worked as a software engineer – he has had stints in global tech companies such as Microsoft Corporation. While he joined GDP Ventures a decade ago, he is involved in developing technology in Indonesia through GDP Labs.

Besides investing in blockchain startups to expand its operations through the inorganic route, GDP Labs actively develops its own blockchain projects.

“I have said everyone in my team should learn and understand blockchain by the end of next year,” he said. The firm has already developed some projects based on customers’ purposes. Some of them are Insurance blockchain Proof of Concept (PoC) and property tokenization.

Unlike other conglomerates in the archipelago that are betting big on crypto exchange to woo a new set of investors, GDP Labs is more interested in ramping up its focus on blockchain technology.

“We’ve got many local and international offers to set up crypto exchanges in the market. However, we think the commission fee which is being monetised from platforms will go down and reach zero eventually, with the growing market and emerging players,” Lee said.

Although blockchain has not been adopted by many Indonesian companies so far, he believes many VCs and companies will eventually use blockchain technology to spruce up their own businesses.

For instance, Sinar Mas Group is already working with crypto platform Tokocrypto as it seeks to integrate crypto applications in traditional financial sectors, thereby allowing the digital currency to be aligned with credit cards, bank loans and insurance products.

Under project ‘Nanobyte’, Tokocrypto will provide the know-how and network to Sinar Mas, while the latter will get its vast database of customers.

Crypto assets are increasingly gaining popularity in the archipelago. According to data available with the Trade Ministry, the number of total crypto users in Indonesia touched 7.4 million in July 2021 in comparison to 4 million users in 2020. Investment transactions during the period soared to Rp 478.5 trillion ($33.58 billion), recording over 600% growth from Rp 65 trillion ($4.56 billion) in 2020.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.