Mochtar Riady, the chairman of Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group, says the real estate giant he founded in 1950 will adopt blockchain technology to accelerate its digital transformation.

The 89-year-old billionaire spoke to Nikkei Asia Review yesterday on the sidelines of the Asia300 Forum in Tokyo, and said that the technology behind blockchain is both “simple” and “very useful” for improving the security aspects of his business.

Riady added, without elaborating, that the group is considering adopting blockchain technology for its e-commerce business. Nikkei also reported that Lippo is looking to invest in blockchain startups.

Lippo Group is a sprawling Asian and North American business which lists a number of sizeable shopping malls, as well as property, media, banking and healthcare interests, in its US$15 billion portfolio.

It has in recent years launched web-based shopping platforms, mobile payment services and a digital-facing Asian venture capital fund. All have been seen as attempts to combat the challenges presented by the ever-growing online retailer sector in Asia.

Riady told the Tokyo forum that the rise of online shopping will have “some influence” on physical retailers but argued that “if we are able to match human needs, you will find a way to survive.” He also called for an “offline and online” approach which will always include the human communication element.

In general, Indonesia has been a late adopter of blockchain technology and digital asset platforms. Although crypto-currency trading in the country is not formally outlawed, the central Bank Indonesia has urged Indonesians to avoid owning, acquiring or trading in them, in case speculation bubbles cause instability to the country’s economy

“Ownership of virtual currency is highly risky and full of speculation because there is no single responsible authority, official administrator, nor underlying asset backing the virtual currency,” Bank Indonesia said in January. “[This] puts it at risk of forming a bubble, and because it is prone to be used in money laundering and terrorist financing, it [is] capable of affecting financial stability and harming society,”

Crypto-currencies are not legal tender in Indonesia and the central bank does not allow financial service companies, electronic wallet providers, payment service platforms or financial technology businesses to process any crypto-currency payments.

Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo said earlier this year that virtual currencies can bring “arbitrage opportunities, unhealthy business practices and business control by parties outside the legal reach of Indonesia that could damage our industry structures.”

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