Indonesians, in common with other Asia Pac mobile users, really love chat apps. Indeed, an InMobi report from 2015 revealed that 97 per cent of mobile users in Indonesia access messaging apps multiple times a day.

Surprisingly, perhaps, BlackBerry’s BBM remains their number one choice.

Indonesian smartphone users use BBM for an average of 23 minutes per day, said Nielsen in 2014, versus six and five minutes for WhatsApp and LINE, respectively. Meanwhile, research by Jana, the company behind mobile advertising channel mCent, confirmed BBM as the country’s most installed messaging app in May 2015, with the highest number of daily active users. It’s ahead of Line, Facebook and WeChat.

The experts like BBM too. As recently as December 2015, local journalists voted BBM the Best Mobile Social Media at the Indonesia Golden Ring Awards.

The ensuing success of BBM can be seen as a vindication of BlackBerry’s decision to pivot to software (and enterprise) in 2013 – a strategy that saw the company’s stock rise 13 per cent in December when it announced improved financials.

One of the decisions BlackBerry made was to make BBM available on other mobile platforms. This certainly paid off in Indonesia, where even Android handsets are now advertised as ‘BBM ready’.

Mindful of this enduring loyalty among Indonesians, BlackBerry has added many new functions to its messaging app. One addition is BBM Channels – a social networking feature inside BBM where consumers can connect to merchants and brands, distinct from where they chat with friends.

Then there is BBM Money, an app which integrates directly with a customer’s BBM account. Originally they could use it to make transfers to friends. But the recent addition of Instant Mobile Payments gives them the option to pay for goods and services online and in participating retailers’ stores too.

Many believe BBM Money is a big reason why the app has remained so successful in Indonesia. The country is one of the fastest growing e-commerce regions in the world – and BBM gives its debutant online shoppers their first channel to digital spending.

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With the recent integration with TransferTo, an international airtime remittance provider, users can even send and receive money overseas via BBM. They can also exchange airtime minutes with friends and family who live and work in other countries.

Last year, to celebrate Ramadan, BlackBerry ran a promotion with a group of fashion, electronics, food and gift retailers that accept Instant Mobile Payments via BBM Money. It says it’s working hard to grow this base.

And it’s also looking at overseas expansion. In a blog, it wrote: “Payment services aren’t simple to replicate from one market to the next, given the complexity of local regulations and banking systems. However, we are actively looking at other markets with traits similar to Indonesia, where it would make sense for us to invest in similar BBM-linked payment services.”

These new regions will be watching BBM’s evolution in Indonesia carefully. Anecdotal evidence even suggests the app could be powering a new economy. The official BlackBerry blog tells the story of Emmi, college student who sells shoes by publishing photos on Instagram and taking orders through BBM (and other messaging apps). The blog says Emmi does everything via the chap app: negotiation, marketing, customer support, discovery, communication, payment and shipment.

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