Media Entrepreneurs: Why Manggadget’s Rakhmadi Afif Kusumo stepped out of mining and finance to start a tech review site in Indonesia
I met Rakhmadi at a conference recently and I was intrigued by his story. Adi, as he’s better known, left a career in mining and finance to build a gadget review site in Indonesia called Manggadget.com. In this interview, we talked about what led him on that journey to media entrepreneurship and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
When you started the site almost two years ago, what was the trend you saw that convinced you that there was a need for another gadget review service?
The media scene in Indonesia was boring, especially for youth-focused media. The old players were stuck with hard news — mostly politics — and were writing in a very stiff language. That’s what my partner and I saw. The major players just producing similar content with similar angles. We wanted to give a different perspective but with a more casual voice.
Indonesia is a very lucrative market — 250 million plus people and it keeps growing. The number of people consuming gadgets and smartphones is quite high. So it’s our vision to be the leader for tech and gadget news in the country by giving better insights to our readers.
How do you describe your service today? What do you do for your readers?
We are the go-to tech and lifestyle portal for Indonesian youth. We serve up creative and informative content that is useful and engaging for the readers.
The readership of Manggadget was only 5,000 unique visitors per day in the first month. It then rose to 10,000 during the third month and we now have 100,000 unique visitors per day. This is still small, but we believe we can achieve more in the coming months.
Did your friends in finance and mining think you were crazy to strike out on your own?
Some weren’t surprised. But there was one mining magnate who helped and supported me in pursuing the media business. He said to me that Indonesia needed better content to educate and enrich people.
The person who told me that I’m crazy was actually a guy from the advertising industry. He said, “Are you crazy? Creating another media business is hard, you know?” I replied, “Yes I’m crazy and I know it is tough, but at least I am passionate about it and I have some experience with traditional media.”
How did your previous jobs prepare you for running your own business?
I used to work for a bank where speed, prudence, resourcefulness and being informed were the keys to the job. The Bloomberg Terminal, CNBC, reading newspapers, industry reports were my daily digests for staying up-to-date.
Later, working in the mining sector, the stakeholders and the industry were closely related and tightly regulated. Any new regulation by the government can cause a big change in the business, so the media was really valuable.
So when starting a business, especially with content as the currency, information is power. We have to prepare stories in a timely manner while it’s still hot and relevant. Also, if we create stories that aren’t time sensitive, we try to make it useful for the reader so it will remain and can be shared for a longer period.
My gaps when I started the business were managing people and dealing with stress. It is not easy and I truly believe that even the most skillful managers and entrepreneurs need to keep on improving on this part.
What were some of the gaps you had when you started the business, and how did you fill them?
My gaps when I started the business were managing people and dealing with stress. It is not easy and I truly believe that even the most skillful managers and entrepreneurs need to keep on improving on this part. I discuss this a lot about with my business friends and mentors, and yet there are no satisfying answers. It was trial and error on HR, we had several setbacks, but along the way we started to shape the management we wanted to be.
I believe most entrepreneurs will face stress in whatever business they start. I thought at the beginning that with my experience in traditional media (when I worked on Majalah Tambang, a mining site), creating Manggadget was going to be quite similar. In practice, it is not that simple. I had so many sleepless nights thinking about what’s next and what I could do better.
Now I have support systems when I hit the wall: Discussing things with my partner, reading books, talking to successful people — and seeking the blessings my mom and wife.
What do you know about yourself today that you didn’t know when you started the business? What have you learned about yourself?
I learned to be adaptive and flexible. When I started to work as a professional, I was very rigid. I thought you had to be super strict on your discipline and that was the only way to become an expert in one field.
Apparently, if you want to create a business you have to be able to do multiple things at the same time. I also learned that a business cannot grow without networking. I thought that I was already social enough. Yet it is not enough for business; you have to make a lot of friends in order to gain more information.
What lessons do you wish you learned earlier in the process of being an entrepreneur?
I wish I learned more about human resources, marketing and coding. I was too heavy on the numbers crunching. In running a business, you’ve got to balance all aspects — management, HR, marketing, finance and operations.
Also, as an online media, the digital platform is the backbone of the business, so knowing coding would have been a great advantage. I learned a lot of things about coding and IT from my CTO.
The lifestyle definitely changes big time from professional life to business life. There are no more work hours.
Do you see yourself as a journalist?
Yes, although I’m not a journalist by training. I am a journalist because I disseminate information to be consumed by people. These days, the definition of a journalist has blurred. Even a blogger or vlogger can be called a journalist.
As an entrepreneur, there’s obviously a certain lifestyle you have to be comfortable with. What did you have to give up to do this?
Yes, the lifestyle definitely changes big time from professional life to business life. There are no more work hours. Sometime, when I’m home I still have to open my laptop to finish my work.
In running your own content service, what are some things you hate having to do?
Honestly, I hate having to translate from English to Bahasa Indonesia. However, no matter what, we need to translate interesting English content into the language of our readers.
This interview is part of a series of stories around the journey of entrepreneurial journalism and the different ideas that could help build sustainable models.
We want to showcase both the ideas and the courage that goes behind breaking new ground on the business of media. If you know of someone who should be interviewed here (or yourself), please drop me an email — email@example.com