Our time in Jakarta has been absolutely action-packed. On the first day we started with a visit to BTPN–a medium-scale bank that integrates social change objectives into its business via micro-finance. Micro-finance means providing access to capital for all; loans are as small as $200 and can be administered to citizens in the most remote areas of Indonesia. This is especially important with the huge growth of Indonesia’s middle class–those that live on more than $2 and less than $20 per day. The proportion of middle class citizens has risen from 37% in 2003 to 56% in 2010. The unique challenges faced by BTPN are primarily associated with Indonesia’s lack of infrastructure and the transaction costs associated with serving a nation that comprises over 17,000 islands across a distance wider than the U.S.
Later we visited Deutsche Bank and two media companies–Femina Group and the Jakarta Globe. Femina Group owns a portfolio of women’s magazines that target the 20-34 age group mainly. They focus on issues like fashion, entrepreneurship, career, food, and lifestyle to name a few. It was interesting to look at the magazines and see examples of progressive Muslim media–that showed models with exposed shoulders and knees etc. The Group also puts on Jakarta Fashion Week, in which 2/7 days are dedicated completely to hijabi fashion. The Jakarta Globe is one of two English newspapers in Indonesia and our correspondent spoke at length about the changing media industry relating to the rise of the internet.
Our second morning started with a meeting with the Country Director for Asia Pacific of international consulting firm AT Kearney. We discussed the consolidation of the consulting industry and the intricacies for international firms operating in Indonesia. After we heard from the President of Aimia–the Canadian loyalty company that manages programs like Aeroplan. She provided an interesting perspective on working in Indonesia as an ex-pat and cultural differences. We visited the Canadian Embassy and heard from the Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia–a Saskatoon native–about Canada’s relations with Indonesia. He joked that “diplomacy is the art of keeping your mouth shut in many languages.” Our last meeting of the day was at Edelman, a global PR firm with clients like Starbucks, Chevron, Axe, and many more. They spoke to the need to localize services for foreign markets and specifically Indonesia.
Some of the interesting facts, figures, and anecdotes about Indonesia that came out in our meetings are as follows:
- Despite being the largest Muslim population in the world with 90% of the population identifying with Islam, Indonesia is very tolerant and moderate; women play a large role in society and the country is not classified as an Islamic state
- Traffic in Jakarta is horrendous and it was recently named the worst city in the world for traffic jams according to oil giant Castrol’s index
- There are said to be between 10 and 20 families that control most of the Indonesian economy
- Indonesian’s are very hopeful for the future after the election of their new President Jokowi in the fall–he is the first President to be elected without strong ties to the Indonesian elite
- There are more phones in Indonesia than people and Indonesians are among the most active social media users in the world