Proven: Story of mFish and where it is heading

Back in 2nd quarter of 2014, I came across a US based mobile startup company at Mobile World Congress Shanghai presenting their version of a sophisticated version of Internet.org clone, I was hooked.

One of the project the startup brought into the table upon our meeting later on in the week was mFish, the sustainable fisheries application that runs on their mobile platform, the program was brought into my attention by a colleague at Axiata and I was endorsed to run the pilot in Indonesia.

The mFish program was initiated in the US and endorsed by John Kerry, the US Secretary of State back in mid 2014. Yet it needed the leverage to have its first pilot running through telecom networks since the mobile app requires data connection and countries where mFish is targeting are mostly run across the equator with Indonesia among those countries of interest; hence the coral triangle initiative, sustainable fisheries and maritime conservation that have been the jargons within the region.

Back then I was managing revenue driven business unit with a very good run and great turnover to boot. To kickstart mFish Indonesia was not in the interest of my KPI, furthermore I felt that the timing wasn’t right either to run the project during presidential election with good reasons:

  1. Not sure who would be the president
  2. Uncertainty of the new cabinet’s direction and goals
  3. Whether the new government would support any SDG* or MDG**in their roadmap

I shelved the project for several months and went back to focus on existing business since the presidential election was giving my unit a great revenue source. Eventually my heart told me to review mFish with my intuition telling myself that the program would do more good, not just for XL, but also for myself and the team since our own self-produced empathy driven program had a really good traction among small medium enterprise communities.

Following the end of presidential campaigns, I decided to set up a small task force consisted mostly of my own mobile advertising product team. The small team had a simple role to review mFish as whole; the application, the business model, the mobile network requirements, the whole lot… Also added was to see it from fisheries perspective and not that of a telecom company, was not easy to do that I can tell you as we were predominantly built in the telecom industry environment and social driven approach was never taught nor experienced before. We even considered our own SME program was a bit of luck in this area actually since none of team member have the skills to do a social impact program, nevertheless we were ecstatic when we won an ACES award for enterprise sustainability from that program.

Let’s return to mFish and after our quick review we decided to do our pilot among 50 fishermen in the designated area that we’ve chosen for having all the rights ingredients; network availability, under served community, strong fisheries communities and good will from its local government, for that Lombok island was the perfect location.

Another underlying key reasons on the final decision that I made were:

  1. Indonesia is among the countries selected
  2. Indonesia was supposedly second after the Philippines for mFish
  3.  GSMA was behind the startup
  4. No other Indonesian and other Asian telecoms wanting to do it due to its micro management efforts (telecoms are not used to do this); we gambled for the only reason that the team needing experience on this type of work (I had several but none of my team member hadn’t), also this would make XL the lead telecom company should the program proven to be successful.
  5. The elected president happened to be Jokowi and his proposed ministers were very positive towards implementing MDG (Millennium Development Goals) and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) defined by UN.
  6. XL is undergoing transformation with new high leaders in place and this multi-national company is slowly venturing away from traditional telecom business, seeking out new initiatives.
  7. My senior management role at mobile advertising business had me to think of new direction that would benefit the company’s transformation.
  8. I wanted to try to do another empathy driven project with different angle and new business approach
  9. The timing was perfect to run mFish

In the mid of February 2015, the top management of XL Axiata decided to release its transformation journey to the public and I proposed that mFish to be part of the event with Lombok island as the stage. Proposal approved and by end of February the mFish pilot begun, 2 (two) weeks earlier than its intended kickoff at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2015, the Indonesian pilot of mFish has stolen the show.

This video was created prior to our Pilot launch 

Roll forward to 3 months after our first pilot in Ampenan village, West Lombok, mFish has gained so much traction, so much positive publications, so much free PR and so much recognitions from fisheries communities, NGOs, government, national and abroad and even surpassed XL’s own empathy driven program, Sisternet in terms of media values as well as revenues. Even more so the national government has taken so much interest into making it a national project, an important asset to sustainable fisheries that Jokowi has been promoting and campaigning.

 Video blog 3 months after the mFish pilot, a short documentary

The eco-system was in placed by design, the timing had never been perfect, the political climate helped propelled mFish to national and international showcase. I was excited, my team was even more so and then we were faced with new exciting yet troubling issues.

Do kindly share if you find it interesting. Thank you friends…

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