Jakarta Part 2

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.

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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/!

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Jakarta Part 1

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