Halodoc’s Felicia Kawilarang chats with Prestige about the health service app’s growth and its role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
We now live in an era where technology has made not only communication so much simpler, but has allowed us to enjoy a wide range of services with unprecedented ease. From food delivery to transportation to even healthcare, so many things are only a few taps or swipes away on our smartphone screens.
A particularly popular such service today is Halodoc, a local health-tech platform providing 24/7 doctor tele-consultation via chat, voice or video calls, along with medicine delivery and lab services at home – all through a mobile app. Founded in 2016, Halodoc has now reached 50 cities in Indonesia and has partnered with almost 1,000 hospitals.
Behind the success and growth of Halodoc is Felicia Kawilarang, its Vice President of Marketing Communications. On one recent Friday afternoon, Prestige had the opportunity to talk with Felicia in a virtual interview about the journey and growth of Halodoc.
“When I first moved to Halodoc in 2016, it was a small start-up. There were only 50 people in the whole company. And today, we have about 600-700 people,” says Felicia. Having graduated with a finance major from Boston University, Felicia admits that she had always been interested in marketing. Moreover, she built up her skill in the field during her previous stint as Business Manager in a digital agency. Moving to Halodoc was “not so difficult,” as Felicia states. “I think it is because the company and I grew together.”
On what drove her to join Halodoc, Felicia remarks: “I wanted to do something that could possibly change the way people live, to improve Indonesia for the better.” Felicia also admits that she felt motivated partly by seeing her husband, Kevin Aluwi, who co-founded Gojek. “Back then I was still dating my husband, and he was working on Gojek. I saw how much Gojek has changed people’s lives just through technology.
“It opened my eyes to the fact that technology could really change lives very quickly,” says Felicia. “So, I thought, there must be other things in tech that I could do. Then I found Halodoc.”
Felicia shares that she met the founder of Halodoc, Jonathan Sudharta, through mutual acquaintances. “It was when Halodoc was just about in pre-series A, before they closed their first fund-raising. I met Jonathan, and he talked to me about his vision, about what Halodoc was supposed to be.” Felicia says that she also told Jonathan how she personally thought that healthcare services in Indonesia was still rather inadequate. Considering that she has grown up overseas, she could feel the difference. “Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world by population. Why, then, can’t we have better healthcare system? From that thought, I talked to Jonathan and felt really motivated.
“I think healthcare is a field that not a lot of people have touched, because it is a bit scarier. Healthcare deals with hospitals, doctors … those who have power, right? It is harder to approach them. I also think that a lot of people feel intimidated to get into the healthcare field back when I joined Halodoc five years ago. But it is a bit different now,” she observes.
“That’s how I started at Halodoc,” Felicia continues. “I met Jonathan and then I was brought into the team. I was the first Head of Marketing in Halodoc. When I first joined the marketing team, there were only 10 people. I built the team. And now, there are 70 people under marketing. It has grown a lot in the past five years.”
Halodoc has taken up the mission of “simplifying access to healthcare by connecting millions of patients with licensed doctors, insurance, labs and pharmacies in one simple mobile app.” On that, Felicia elaborates: “Indonesia is a very hard place for logistics, because our country has thousands of islands. Based on our data, a lot of doctors are stationed in Java. They studied here and they live here. That puts a lot of doctors and specialists in this one island. Which means if you are someone who lives far away – for example, in different city or even island – it could be hard to find a specialist. But through technology, you don’t necessarily need the specialist to actually be there. Unless it’s a dire emergency or serious case, of course. If you only have questions or just want to know more about your illness, or do a pre-check-up, etc., then, for sure with technology like Halodoc, you can do a consultation with the proper doctor through chats or video calls. We want to help ease access to healthcare.”
There are always obstacles in every journey and Halodoc’s is no exception. On that topic, Felicia notes: “When I first started, the product was great, the technology itself was great, people were very excited. But the biggest challenge is people’s mindset and behaviour.
“What I mean by that is, when I pitched Halodoc to someone, they get excited and say, ‘Oh, this is so cool. I’ll definitely use it’. But when they actually get sick, they don’t use the service. Sometimes they don’t even go to the hospital either. I realised that when they get sick, some Indonesians just take the medicine that their friends take; they take the medicine that their mothers take; or they think, ‘I’ll take a day-off today and just sleep all day’. They don’t even go and see a healthcare professional. So, the biggest hurdle to Halodoc, I would say, is that mindset and behaviour,” Felicia explains.
“One of the things that we work on is educating people so they take better care of themselves and their health when they get sick,” she continues. “Sometimes people wait for a week or two; sometimes they wait until they feel like they can’t take it anymore before they say, ‘Okay, now I have to see a doctor.’” To overcome that challenge, Felicia tells us: “We did a lot of campaigns, such as on the importance of annual check-ups, vitamins, and so on.”
In a more recent update, after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Halodoc was named as an official partner of Ministry of Health for acceleration of response mitigation related to the disease. “Now we have COVID products on our app. Our doctors are all educated about COVID: the symptoms, how to help people who have contracted COVID-19, especially for asymptomatic cases. They know what to tell them in terms of what are the next steps to take are and how to do self-isolation correctly at home.
“We were the first to build a COVID chat bot. Launched in March last year, the chat bot could do a quick check on symptoms to see determine how likely you are to contract COVID. We were also the first to implement a drive-thru service for Rapid and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests in Indonesia. We learned from South Korea, which was the first country in the world to do drive-thru test services. We saw how well that worked, so we implemented it here with our hospital partners. We also changed a lot of products to fit COVID necessities.”
As a healthcare service, Halodoc has definitely worked harder to help people amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As an official partner of the Ministry of Health, Halodoc doesn’t only help with treatment, but also education. “The Ministry of Health asked us for help to use our social media, our channels and our website to put out the messages that they want to share to the public, such as how to prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19; from wearing mask, washing your hands, etc.”
Interestingly, Halodoc also has rolled out a new service called Halofit. As the name suggests, it is a package filled with vitamins and supplements recommended and curated by doctors, nutritionists and pharmacists based on your health profile. “The package reminds consumers to take their daily vitamins. Sometimes you forget or sometimes you simply stop. But especially during times like these, keeping your immunity strong is very important. Taking vitamins is one way to help with it. With Halofit, we try to make it easier for everyone,” she explains.
The work is obviously not easy, but Felicia feels proud with what Halodoc does and what it has accomplished. “I have always been proud of Halodoc, because the results of our work can be seen directly. I can read online reviews on how much the product I work on is helping people. But I would say that I’m most proud especially during the pandemic because Halodoc has become one of the frontrunners in Indonesia that pushes for COVID prevention. We are really at the forefront of innovation for healthcare in Indonesia. In general, Halodoc has grown around 400 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year Halodoc won second place in the user experience or UX category, especially in relation to COVID-10, in ratings compiled by Usaria, one of the leading UI/UX companies. And to add to that, knowing that I’m part of a company in Indonesia that is really striving to help to contain the pandemic and helping people, that makes me feel proud.”
At the end of our conversation that afternoon, Felicia shares what she would want to accomplish more with Halodoc. “There’s always room for improvement, definitely. We are always working on how our customer experience can be better. In terms of ways to improve Halodoc, we can make online diagnoses more accurate. Maybe we can even start building AI or data machine to help our doctors. I think something like that would be in the future for Halodoc.”