Newsmaker Interview: John Chen

BlackBerry CEO on its current partnerships and its plan for Indonesia

By Gilang Ardana
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BlackBerry, once famed for its ubiquitous phones in a long-ago world before iPhones and Android, but recently all but forgotten, is making a strong comeback by focusing on communications security. The company is currently running its business with a licensing strategy, which also entails outsourcing hardware development and operations. Unlike before, the security focus on BlackBerry has expanded beyond smartphones as it strives to secure and connect various other products such as sensors, wearables, medical devices and self-driving cars.

In Indonesia, BlackBerry made the news when Emtek (Elang Mahkota Teknologi) acquired the license to run BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) – which was once omnipresent in the archipelago.  Merah Putih, a joint venture by PT Tiphone also acquired the license to manufacture BlackBerry smartphones, called “BB Merah Putih” in Indonesia. 

AmCham Indonesia spoke with BlackBerry CEO John Chen after a discussion session hosted by AmCham and the Indonesia Canada Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to joining BlackBerry, Chen served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. for 15 years. He shared with us his vision for BlackBerry in Indonesia and worldwide.

AmCham Indonesia: With BlackBerry’s new direction, is the company now focusing more on enterprises than individual customers?

John Chen: We are leaving our partners around the world to push for consumers. Our own sales force and distribution is focusing on enterprise. We are going for both worlds, but for the consumer world we're relying more on our partners.

Can you elaborate more on your current partnerships in Indonesia and how you think they will help BlackBerry’s growth here?

Currently we have two major partners: Emtek and Merah Putih.

For Emtek, it doesn’t really need help from us actually. It is the largest [local] media company, so it can help us a lot. The way young people consume content now is very mobile-oriented, and Emtek has services, content and is able to build the apps. I’m looking forward very much to this partnership. I’m very encouraged.

The next is Merah Putih. It has the right distribution network. It recently hired a new CEO that has the thinking from a Foxconn-Indosat kind of world. I think he knows the telecommunications industry very well. In Indonesia, Merah Putih will be handling all of our hardware now.

So what's next for BlackBerry in Indonesia?

We will first focus on our [existing] partners. What we are trying to do is to get [the partnerships] with Emtek and Merah Putih to do well first, and then we will look for enterprise opportunities.

Our success is usually with governments, banks, hospitals, etc., and with people that need very secure communications and data management systems. Those are the people that we sell directly to. We will come back here and create that force.

"We're Back": Blackberry

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