Johan Möller heads Brighter’s operations in Indonesia & Southeast Asia. We spoke to him about building Swedish businesses abroad and the Actiste pilot project in West Java.
Please tell us something about your background and how you ended up in health-tech.
My whole family actually works in healthcare. My father is a cognitive-behavioral psychologist, my mother was a clinical researcher at AstraZeneca for 35 years, and both my brother and my sister are specialist medical doctors.
I took a different route, but it brought me back to working in healthcare too. I first studied chemical engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, then I switched to the Stockholm School of Economics and graduated with a degree in finance. I was brought to Indonesia in early 2017 by Business Sweden – our national business-development organization that helps Swedish companies grow abroad. I started as a consultant for the Swedish trade commissioner in Indonesia. My first big project was to support an official state visit by the King of Sweden, who came to Indonesia with representatives from 30 Swedish companies. I was working with the business delegation during the visit. This was when I first came to know Brighter, which was one of the 30 companies.
What have you learned about doing business in Indonesia?
Business in Southeast Asia is mainly about relationships. Foreigners can be perceived as being here only for the short term, and not as invested in the country as local businesses are. On the other hand, foreigners are typically viewed as being transactional and straightforward in business relationships. We’re also seen to be predictable when things go wrong. As a foreigner, you being you is often enough.
“We are now collaborating with two hospitals in West Java that will offer the service to patients on both the public and private healthcare sides.”
How is Brighter’s business developing in Indonesia?
We’ve been working to figure out how Actiste can work best in the local context. The business model is new, so we need to find partners who believe in it. I think Actiste is a service that works really well in partnership with others. They see it as an enabler for them to provide healthcare.
We’ve also been spending a lot of time on sorting out technical things related to data transmission and storage. It’s important we’re able to define and explain our service in a way that the Indonesian regulators understand.
Brighter is working on a pilot project for Actiste in West Java – how is that going?
The origin of the West Java project is a request from the governor, Ridwan Kamil, for support from Swedish companies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brighter offered to help out by offering Actiste for 100 users over a period of six months.
We are now collaborating with two hospitals in West Java that will offer the service to patients on both the public and private healthcare sides. Together with the hospitals – both of which have specialist diabetes doctors – we will onboard the patients and educate them on how to use the service.
To maximize the overall benefit from the project, Brighter will also collaborate with Universitas Padjadjaran to learn how the healthcare providers can best use the service with patients. The university will collect the results from the work that the hospitals are doing, and provide insights on how we can improve healthcare through data.
The core idea is for Brighter to connect with key opinion leaders on diabetes care in Indonesia, as well as to learn how to adapt our offering to the local market based on the experiences of the participating patients and healthcare providers.
You have a lot of work experience in Asia – how did that come about?
I’ve been interested in Asia since I travelled to China back in my student days. I studied a bit of Chinese after that and tried to go on a student exchange in Beijing. That didn’t work out, and I instead ended up in Japan studying at Tokyo University for six months. During that time I also got a process automation job at Volvo’s subsidiary in Tokyo.
When I got back to Sweden, I continued working for the Volvo Group in Gothenburg. I had an internal management consultant role where I did assignments that took me back to China and Japan. After a couple of years, I was offered a job with Mitsubishi in Japan so I moved back there again.
For me, the pull with Asia has always been about driving international business opportunities. While I was studying, I set myself the goal of working in an area that somehow brings together Asia and Sweden. I’ve been very fortunate to have found opportunities in this area, including my role with Brighter in Indonesia.
“When people can start analyzing health data and using it to find different ways to perform treatment – that’s when it gets really interesting.”
Finally, what can you say about your personal motivations for working with Brighter?
I think there are two things.
We’re exporting healthcare from Sweden, with a vision of improving people’s lives. I’ve been working with Swedish business abroad for a long time, and it’s very motivating to do so now with a company aiming to make a positive impact.
The other area that inspires me is working with data. When people can start analyzing health data and using it to find different ways to perform treatment – that’s when it gets really interesting. In Southeast Asia, there are lots of patients but relatively few doctors, so digital solutions that can scale are very interesting. This opportunity is what makes me believe in Brighter’s vision.