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Legitimacy building of digital platforms in the informal economy: evidence from Indonesia

Eko Heru Prasetyo (Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan)

Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

ISSN: 2053-4604

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 1 December 2022




This study aims to investigate how digital entrepreneurs develop platforms business models under an unregulated market and what approach they take to address informal economy (IE) activities.


The author used a qualitative method by interviewing sixteen respondents, including founders, Chief Executive Officers, and managers of digital-driven start-ups in Indonesia. I then analysed the interviews into several codes and themes for further discussion.


This study reveals distinctive approaches performed by startups within three-level institutions, namely, users, market and regulation. Each level represents digital entrepreneurs’ unique behaviour, which the author described as collective, narrative and compliant.

Research limitations/implications

This paper demonstrates that digital entrepreneurs leveraging informal sectors contribute to the process of formalisation. However, the author emphasise less on how it impacts informality and who receives incentives.

Practical implications

This study suggests appropriate strategies for entrepreneurs who build and develop a platform beyond immature setting and unveils different directions to comprehend their legitimacy building.

Social implications

This study also elucidates political implications such as how the dynamics between regulators’ response and entrepreneurs’ reaction shape the new regulative environment. An idea of self-regulate – entrepreneurs as actors instead of a subject of regulation – might be suitable to reflect how they overcome the bottom of the pyramid using technology innovation.


While previous studies focused primarily on sharing economy, this study provides a different array of discussion on the digitalisation of the informal economy in emerging markets.



The author expresses sincere gratitude to two anonymous referees for their constructive feedback. The author also would like to thank Professor Asli M. Colpan and Sugiyama Yasuo for their guidance. Finally, Asian Global Sustainability and Transcultural Studies (AGST) for partial support in conducting this study.


Prasetyo, E.H. (2022), "Legitimacy building of digital platforms in the informal economy: evidence from Indonesia", Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 1168-1187.



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