The rest of our time in Jakarta was a 50/50 split between business and pleasure. We began our third morning with a guided tour of Istiqal Mosque–the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. The size of the building was quite impressive but it was quite industrial in terms of decoration compared to pictures I’ve seen of mosques in Turkey etc. Afterwards we headed to a local market before heading to our first meeting of the day.
First we met with Lippo Group–the Indonesian conglomerate that owns and operates the hotel we were staying in. They also do business in retail, real estate, healthcare, tech, financial services, and education. Lippo Group stressed that they feel Eastern Indonesia is where the future of the country is headed due to richness in natural resources. Next we met with a panel from the Asian Economic Development Bank, who highlighted regulatory uncertainty and bureaucracy, a large informal sector of the economy (66%), and sustainability as Indonesia’s key development challenges. Our last meeting of the day was at Norton Rose Fullbright–a UK-based law firm that has established operations in Indonesia through a partnership with local firm Susandarini & Partners. In this presentation we learned about the legal environment in Indonesia and the challenges faced by foreign firms. Shamim Razavi, Senior Foreign Legal Counsel for the firm, put it quite nicely: a good London lawyer would do very poorly in Indonesia. In London, everything has been done and it is just a matter of finding the right precedent. In Indonesia, nothing has been done.
The following morning our first meeting of the day was with the UN World Food Programme. The representative emphasized that the goal of an organization like WFP is to be able to be out of a country as soon as possible. They attain this by creating programs that require buy-in from beneficiaries rather than spoon-feeding aid. He also mentioned that as a result of Indonesia’s fast growth, obesity is now on the rise. Our second meeting of the day was at Ogilvy & Mather, an international advertising, marketing, and PR firm. Their office was everything a creative office should be–beautiful, inspiring, and fun–complete with a slide to enter the main part of the office! A key talking point in their presentation was that Indonesia is a very happy country, with 51% of the population claiming to be “happy”; only 27% of the Canadian population feels this way! This combined with other important Indonesian values of collectivism, embracing ambiguity, work-life balance, and religion, have powerful implications on the way in which content must be marketed.
We then set out for the office of XSProject–our local charity of choice for this year’s trip. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness of environmental damage and poverty through education, innovative product design reusing consumer waste, and creating new income opportunities for the disadvantaged. At the office we were greeted with a delicious lunch and we had a chance to watch the trash cleaning process in action and buy some of their beautiful finished product. Finished products include bags, wallets, umbrellas, laptop cases, luggage tags, jewelry, and more.
Afterwards, we went into the village where trash-pickers work and live and met with the children of these communities before touring around. This experience was nothing short of humbling. Hundreds of people were living amongst disease-ridden heaps of trash piled 8 feet high and days were spent sifting through it, picking out items which could be re-sold. Despite all of this, the 50 or so children we met had smiles on their faces. Although trash-pickers are among the most impoverished people in Indonesia, they are still respected for their efforts to legitimately better their situation rather than beg, lie, or steal. Part of XSProject’s work is to purchase trash from trash pickers at above market prices, giving them much needed extra income. The other part is to fund 12 years of school for 50 children living in Jakarta’s trash picker community. Leaving a community like that only confirmed that I won the genetic lottery and am amongst the luckiest people in the world. Now it will be a matter of how I choose to leverage my luck to increase the fortune of others. To donate to XSProject and help my class reach our goal of $5,000 please visit https://www.globalgiving.org/fundraisers/hot-cities-xsproject/!