Tickets without queues: Ticket Bilum solves ticketing dilemma in Papua New Guinea


Want to buy tickets to see your favourite rugby team but can’t afford to spend two hours queuing to get seats? The Papua New Guinean app Ticket Bilum comes to the rescue. Its owner, Tidman Ikosi, talked during an ecommerce forum about the app’s inception, its future and COVID’s silver lining.

Ticket Bilum founder Tidman Ikosi wanted to buy tickets for a PNG Hunters game, and during lunch went out to get them. It was 2015 and all the venues he visited had long lines, so he went back to work empty-handed but hopeful to get a ticket online. When he visited the website, however, there was no online shop. The idea for Ticket Bilum was born.

During a BSP ecommerce seminar, Ikosi explained that Ticket Bilum, an app, is similar to ticketing websites such as Ticketmaster or Ticketek where you use your card to buy a ticket to go to an event. The difference is that it was designed for, and by, Papua New Guineans.

‘The Pacific, I keep telling friends here in the US, is the next frontier in ecommerce.’

Why is Ticket Bilum an app and not a website? Studies have shown that one-third of consumers worldwide check their mobile phone within five minutes of waking up and almost half check it before going to bed – so a ticketing app made sense: ‘I wanted to go with an app version that was easily accessible wherever; I didn’t want users to go to a website. Ticket Bilum is on your phone, you press a button and voilá, there’s the ticket you purchased.’

With a little help

When the app was launched, users needed to get bmobile credits first to buy tickets, but Ikosi, who used to work at bmobile, wanted to ‘provide an avenue for those who wanted to use their Visa’.

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He said that it took about 3.5 months of work between the app developers, BSP and Visa to guarantee that the Ticket Bilum app met all the requirements to integrate it to BSP’s online payment gateway.

‘It might be difficult, but if you stick to your goals, you will get to the end.’

After the successful integration, Ticket Bilum is now riding out the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘I have a lot of colourful language about it because it has disrupted Ticket Bilum’s main source of income, which is social events. I’m lucky because what I’m selling is not a food item; it’s not a tangible, solid, physical object, it’s a digital product … So I’m not losing money, I’m just not making money. But this allows me to be agile and flexible in my thinking – if [anticipated] events are not happening, what do I do next?’

Expanding the ticketing app to other Pacific nations is one of his plans. He said he is working with the developers to see how they ‘can utilise the existing network to sell tickets in Fijian dollars, Samoan tālā or Vanuatu’s vatu.’ But, Ikosi added, ‘this is one of the things that won’t be happening until 2021.’

Solid advice

Ticket Bilum’s Tidman Ikosi. Credit: BSP

Ikosi said despite all the hype, ‘cash is still king in PNG, but there is a change from something tangible to this digital system where anybody can pick up a phone or visit a website and purchase whatever goods or services they want. This organic movement from the people themselves should also be partnered with big business and government bodies.’

‘The Pacific, I keep telling friends here in the US, is the next frontier in ecommerce’ Ikosi said. With the explosion of social media in PNG, many SMEs and startups are using Facebook to advertise their companies. ‘If any of the big business are listening out, just put a plug-in together and say: “there is a little plug-in that will go on your Facebook shop so you can sell your item in PNG kina”. Facebook has that already, but it’s geared towards the US, Canada, the UK and Australia,’ he explained.

Ikosi added that this is not about reinventing the wheel but about taking on this opportunity and using an existing platform to create an ecosystem where SMEs in PNG and other Pacific countries can sell their products.

But to achieve this, perseverance is key. Ticket Bilum’s owner said he was stubborn and kept going with until the app was there. ‘It might be difficult, but if you stick to your goals, you will get to the end. I haven’t gotten to my end goal, but I’m getting there,’ he said.

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