UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Metha Trisnawati: Cofounder of Sayurbox

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Metha Trisnawati, co-founder of Sayurbox, currently handling operations. People think I’m reserved, but I’m actually very curious. That’s why I took industrial engineering as my major; I learned about so many fields.

I graduated in Bandung, then worked for IBM and Unilever. After pursuing a master’s degree in the UK, I moved back and co-founded Sayurbox.

Did you know Amanda, one of your co-founders, from the beginning?

I met her through another co-founder, Rama, whom I bumped into at a conference. He was working on this project with Amanda and wondered if I was interested. Luckily, Amanda and I really clicked.

Sayurbox is pretty different from your university studies! How did family and friends react?

I‘m surrounded by people who are supportive of me and my decisions. My parents told me to be whatever I want to be; to find what makes me contented. After I tried tech and retail, I pursued a degree in technology entrepreneurship.

How do gender stereotypes in Asia affect women and their careers?

The stereotype of a woman being attached to a man is still prevalent, but – as women’s access to education increases – there are more options for them in entrepreneurship and the corporate sector.

Tech was dominated by men but now there are many opportunities. As more women receive higher education, they achieve greater things. Female entrepreneurs can also create employment for other women.

Sayurbox employs mothers who live near our warehouses, so it’s easier for them to care for their families. We also allow them to bring children to work.

Approximately what percentage of your workforce are women?

A good 70% at our warehouses. They know how to choose the right kind of fruits and vegetables.

What are Sayurbox’s milestones?

We started really small at Amanda’s house – our initial warehouse. Delivery was via GO-JEK and we only sold items through Instagram – it was so simple. To test the idea, we put out the Minimum Viable Product, selling just sixty a month. After the website, it started to take off.

We have built our own logistics now. Around 60%-70% of deliveries are drivers we have created a partnership with – they get extra income if they deliver for us.

Investment-wise, we closed a seed round last year in Jakarta, with investments from VCs in the U.S. and Indonesian angel investors, through ANGIN. We are currently trying to close a Series A investment.

Everything moves fast as a startup. Our immediate focus is to scale up operations, reach more cities, and for more farmers to join our network.

What’s your vision for Sayurbox? And why does it matter?

We want to become the leading platform that connects farmers and suppliers in Indonesia, enabling them to sell their products. Making high quality, fresh produce accessible to everyone – that’s our mission.

We see farmers and suppliers dealing with many middlemen. This is inefficient, as farmers don’t have direct market access and prices are being squeezed. They have little idea about market demand.

One farmer only knew how to grow low-value cassava and simple vegetables. Cassava is about 600 rupiah per kilogram – less than 10 cents; however, kale is enjoying great demand with few suppliers. Farmers growing kale would make 100 times more than by growing cassava. Kale is valued at around 60,000 rupiah per kilogram, but they are unaware. At our suggestion, the farmer switched to kale and made a lot more money.

What’s it like being a female entrepreneur in the primarily male agricultural space?

Whenever we meet farmers, they are very welcoming. They never see us as two women doing things beyond their capabilities – one of the many things we are grateful for.

Being in the field has been really exciting for me.

Who is one of your mentors?

Rama, our co-founder, has been extremely influential. He worked in Silicon Valley and here with GO-JEK, so he has experience and a well-developed network, which really helps.

What does wealth mean to you?

Wealth is something you use to make an impact if you can provide for yourself, then you can contribute to someone else and society. More than just dollar and cents, it’s about you and having the means to impact the world.

What makes you unique or sets you apart from the rest?

Definitely Sayurbox. Meeting Amanda was a random stroke of luck from the universe – we complemented each other from the beginning. Being a curious person is also a blessing, because I’m always excited and willing to learn.

Do you have any advice to share with fellow aspiring women entrepreneurs and leaders?

One of the most important qualities is having the courage to go after whatever you aspire to. There is a lot of stigma surrounding a woman’s image in society; the kind of expectations that seem completely archaic, but still prevail.

Once we reach a certain age, we are expected to marry and start a family. If you are clear about your goals, go after them and don’t fall for societal expectations about what other people think is good for you.

Amanda and I were very lucky to have great mentors. They helped us prepare pitches, talk to investors and sell our proposition to ‘new ears’. Find a good mentor – that would be my advice to younger female entrepreneurs.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Veronika Linardi: CEO of Qareer Group Asia

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Veronika Linardi and I’m the CEO of Qareer Group Asia.

What got you into entrepreneurship? When did the entrepreneur bug bite you?

I returned from America to help with my family’s manufacturing business. I didn’t enjoy it so much. However, my brothers were interested and succeeding in it. Hence, I felt a freedom to find another career.

I looked at work within multinational companies in Hong Kong and Singapore, but my parents really wanted me to be close by. I therefore joined an industrial conglomerate to do strategic planning in Jakarta. It was a great learning opportunity for me, giving me a helicopter view of diverse industries. Working for Charoen Pokphand, I was exposed to diverse fields, including chicken feed, shrimp farms and telecommunications. It was – such a variety! However, I felt I should pursue something related to my passion: people.

I decided to venture out on my own, leveraging my core competency: connecting good people with corporate organizations, a.k.a. headhunting.

My parents didn’t approve initially; like most Indonesian parents, they wanted me to settle down young. They suggested I help my brother with his new business. I forged on alone. I flourished! Now, my parents are very proud of me.

How did you find the courage to start a business as a young person?

I was lucky to have the family business to fall back on. I was also young and still living at home. Initially, there wasn’t a stable income, but as my reputation grew, satisfied clients gave me more business. It’s all about managing expectations; under-selling and over-delivering – so people trust me.

What does success mean to you?

I define success by knowing oneself and measuring up against my own benchmarks – not other people’s. Needs evolve over time, but we’re only in competition with ourselves. We should always be thankful and happy about how far we have come.

Success is to be grateful for what we have and yet, always, see ourselves as a work in progress. Success is to be bold, to expand beyond our boundaries and create our very own legacy.

Do you have any role models?

My parents.

My mother is a hard worker. When she was young, she had to overcame a lot of discrimination related to gender and race to become a Doctor. Then when I went to school in Singapore, she gave up her ambition and career to take care of us (her children). How Great a Mother’s Love is!

My dad was a self-learner. Unlike my mom who always stayed in school and received scholarships throughout her life, whereas my dad learnt everything on his own. My dad taught himself Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. His ever curious and persevering spirit propels me to continuously improve.

What are your passions?

I love helping people. Through headhunting, I am able to match jobs with people and their passions. It’s rewarding because I get a sense of achievement for recommending talent to flourish in the careers they love. My friends often tease me, calling me a matchmaker (playing cupid for both careers and love life), and I made a career out of it!

I also love food. Good food and great company always brings family and friends together!

Have you faced any obstacle or challenge because of your gender?

I grew up with two brothers who treated me like an equal, so I had to be creative and resourceful to get things done. I feel I’ve been raised in a way that considers men and women as complementary in many ways and have respective duties and responsibilities.

How is Indonesia in terms of gender progressivity in the workplace?

In Asia especially, there are expectations about women. In Indonesia, despite women being seen as primary caregivers in the family context, there are many women leaders heralding business organizations. I also belong to an entrepreneurial organization where women account for 40% of the membership. In other countries, there may not be a single female member.

You can still flourish in Indonesia because we have the right support network: our parents, in-laws — even nannies here are affordable compared to other countries. In addition, having had a female President really makes a difference.

As a woman in Indonesia, people tell you to start small. How did you dream big?

You have to start somewhere, but you must reverse engineer. Think baby steps on how you can grow. I started with Linardi Associates, my headhunting agency. Over time, my contact base grew. Satisfied clients became friends; some also became investors. Today, we connect millions of professionals to the careers of their dreams.

I believe that you are first and foremost accountable to yourself. There are responsibilities and priorities but you can always go back to your dream. Women who have children can still return to work and flourish in their careers.

Can you share some of the milestones that your company has achieved?

The first was establishing Qerja.com, which improves transparency in workplace and reduced the taboo of discussing salaries. From my headhunting days, I knew that many fresh graduates felt a sense of urgency to quickly secure their first job. However, many have little understanding of their strengths and ambition hence often felt dissatisfied because their expectation of first job is far away from the reality of their job.

Another milestone was when we launched Jobs.id, securing Series A funding from SB ISAT Fund. And very recently acquired Karir.com and secured our Series B funding from Emtek group.

Wealth can mean so many things: money, fame, knowledge…. What does it mean to you?

Money is important as a means of exchange to help us enjoy life, the conveniences money can buy as well as to utilize these resources as a means to further our end goals. Wealth means peace at heart and contentment. Some of my team members buy their families budget trips overseas, sharing what they have with their loved ones. I feel that having such purity in your heart is the basis of being wealthy.

Do you have any advice for young women who want to live their dreams?

Yes – follow your heart’s desires while you are young. Some things can wait, but I believe that at every stage of life, you can always choose to focus on your priorities, whatever they are.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Evy & Mulyati Gozali: Co-Founders of Sababay Winery

Tell us about your journeys.

Mulyati Gozali (Mother): I love Indonesia: it’s culturally rich and people are kind. For decades, I worked in a public company dealing with tire factories, petrochemicals and mining. I decided that I didn’t just want a pension; I wanted to reach more for people and at the same time to teach my daughter to be strong, meet challenges and turn the tables in her favor.

Evy Gozali (Daughter): I worked in a Kalimantan mining company and I didn’t like it! I was happy to move to Bali with mom and become an entrepreneur.

Why did you choose the wine industry?

MG: First, I considered property; however, I really care about helping others. Sometimes, I’d do a road trip from South Bali to East Bali to see what it offered. While rich in natural resources, farmers were poor because they didn’t have fair pricing. The middlemen bought their crops; no one would buy direct. Farmers would leave ripe fruit hanging as they couldn’t get a good price.

We conducted an extensive field analysis. Indonesia saw 10 million tourists in 2015 annually, half of them in Bali. They spent around USD 140 daily – IDR 32 trillion per year – but Bali’s national income was only IDR 4 trillion. Why? Bali imports commodities like fruit, beef, and rice. The money went straight overseas.

So I thought, okay, that’s a problem. Most Balinese live on the 90% of land that tourists never visit, where farmers should be planting the fruit instead of us importing it. There was no ‘bridge’ between rural farmers and their markets, so, I built one: Sababay. Now farmers come to our winery to make wine. In 2015, based on Bali tourism data, 21 million litres of wine are consumed annually, only 1% made locally. In 2017, it grew to 25%.

Why is it so necessary to create businesses in Bali? What is the situation in Indonesia?

MG: People in rural Bali have little money. Approximately 60% have only been educated to middle- and elementary school. High school leavers only earn min wage of 2,7 mio rupiah which is about IDR 27 million Rupiah (roughly USD 1,846) annually. Just 10% of Indonesians can afford decent education to get high-level jobs, like banking. Only now is the President introducing free education.

How is working with your daughter, compared to other staff?

MG: It’s the same. I gave my daughter the required education, and she studied just like the other staff.

How is working with your mother?

EG: I was given the opportunity to run the business as the CEO as I co-founded the business. I know I skipped many steps that people go through in this industry, so I have a lot to learn. I like working with her because it feels natural. We’re a business, yet we have a family culture. I understand her vision and mission. Her passion in agriculture potentials, I learn so much from her, we share the same values and she listens to me too.

What challenges and hurdles have you faced while starting your company?

MG: In Indonesia, the alcohol industry can be viewed negatively. I knew Bali was good for grapes and that I could help people through income from wine production. I called a French winemaker to work with our local team for transferring technology and presented to the government the grape potentials and how farmers can benefit from the partnership.

There is a kilo of grapes in a bottle of wine. After I presented to the government they said: “We have grapes?” “Yes”, I replied, then told them about the 2000 hectares of lands belong to grape growers and that if the grapes weren’t sold, they would become cow food and they remain underprivileged. It still took three years to get the license.

You had no previous wine experience; how did you acquire this knowledge?

MG: If you are focused and determined to help people, you do your research then support will come from people with the same passions. We learn and share ideas and knowledges. Soon, I was teaching farmers how to manage plantations and harvests. Bali has the right kinds of grapes, but not the right industry.

EG: I’m glad that we can inspire others. We have so many capable Indonesians here, just from my mom’s crazy idea. She’s perfect for this job: well-connected and with a great eye for details. That’s how we do it!

What challenges do you face in this industry? How can other women learn from these?

MG: The wine industry has been male-dominated, but times are changing. Here at Sababay, we are training a female winemaker, a local one. I don’t think there’s any form of discrimination. We have women hand in hand working as a family. We just all learn along the way.

EG: We should all work together. As a woman, I can do anything, yet people sometimes see us as purely maternal figures. Indonesian women are strong – see the way they carry themselves and work. Sometimes, we take the responsibility of three people: a mother, wife and businesswoman. We’re changing roles constantly, which makes us tough.

What does wealth mean to you?

MG: I believe that all money and assets are gifts from God. Knowledge is a great asset that you use by teaching others. I wanted to share my abilities with farmers so they could prosper too.

What are your goals in life moving forward?

MG: I want to help this generation to bring Indonesia’s potentials forward by improving life for everyone. We must give back to our country.

What’s it like to have a mother that is so accomplished, ambitious and successful?

EG: I’m very blessed and proud to have a mother like her, but there’s also pressure because the next generation is supposed to do better. She built this for her children, grandchildren and her country. You see family wine businesses that are 200-years-old. We want to continue the legacy and benefit more people around us.

Do you have any words of advice to inspire other Indonesians?

MG: Indonesia has so much potential; the younger generation should tap into it. Bali is a really easy place to showcase products to tourists: local leaves and trees can be used for cosmetics, for example. People just need ideas, passions and integrity.

What would be your advice to other mother-daughter teams?

MG: Do not compete, because you and the next generation are different. You already have the experience, so share your knowledge and don’t expect younger people to know everything from the start.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Michelle Tjokrosaputro: CEO of PT. Efrata Retailindo & Founder of Bateeq

Tell us about yourself and how you started in business.

My name is Michelle Tjokrosaputro and I’m the CEO of PT. Efrata Retailindo, as well as Founder of the fashion line Bateeq.

In 2004, there was a big split in the family business and my father was handed the textile manufacturing business. At that time, I didn’t feel ready to join.

Unfortunately my father suffered multiple strokes. The doctor advised him to retire but our company was still recovering from the 1990s financial crisis. My father knew that without him the company would fold. So he asked me to help and I agreed.

How did you turn the business around? What challenges did you face?

In 2005, my father became paralyzed. The company had just laid off around 1,000 people due to its precarious financial situation and there was a strike. The factory descended into chaos.

I was lost. I majored in Business and Communications and didn’t know anything about textiles or running a factory. I told my parents, “I don’t know if I can make this work, maybe the factory will close. But I promise you one thing: I will fight to the end.”

Previously my father had run the factory almost single- handedly – he called all the shots. But I knew that I had to do it differently; after all, I didn’t have his qualifications and experience. I told my directors, “I don’t have all the answers but I’m here with you. With your experience, wisdom and knowledge, we will come through this together.” This collaborative approach helped us to turn the corner.

What does success mean to you?

My goal is to grow the company, so it has to be profitable. Statistics such as absolute sales and staff strength don’t overly concern me. What matters more is my employees’ wellbeing. Do they feel that they are being taken care of? Do they have the means to send their kids to school? I’m happy when my shareholders, customers and employees are happy.

How do you see the role you play in educating and nurturing future female business leaders and entrepreneurs?

Every year, I run leadership classes for about 100 employees – both women and men – to develop their professional and personal growth.

For the women specifically, I want to empower them to overcome societal expectations that make them feel guilty all the time. When women are at home, they feel guilty for missing work, and vice versa. This constant feeling of inadequacy erodes their confidence, and subsequently when women are paid less, they think that they deserve it.

To help my female employees cope better, I try to talk to them individually, not as a teacher or employer, but as a supportive friend.

Sometimes I try to help in other ways. Many of my workers are not financially savvy and make decisions they regret. So I give them simple money management advice; I bring in banks to educate them and to improve their financial literacy. This helps them to better manage their money.

Are there times when you felt that being a woman has helped you to overcome challenges in life or work?

It helps to be good at multi-tasking, and also having a woman’s compassion. I think it’s important to be able to empathize with people and to show that you genuinely care about them.

Are there any glass ceilings that exist in your industry for women leaders?

I don’t really feel that in my factory or in Indonesia; maybe it’s a different story elsewhere. For example, when I go to Japan or China, almost all the people I meet in leadership roles are men.

Then again, I just came back from a conference in Kenya, held by the International Textile Manufacturers Federation. I was elected to be the first and only woman on the board in its 114- year history, and the first Indonesian as well. So even when you think glass ceilings exist, it’s possible to break through them.

How do you juggle your personal and professional life?

Thankfully, I have a really supportive husband who encourages me to pursue my goals, but who also reminds me not to lose track of what’s truly important to me in life.

What’s your recipe for success?

You need to have the wisdom to make the right decision for yourself. It’s not just about profit or money; sometimes it’s a question of what’s in line with your values. For example, if I open more stores, I might be more successful financially, but I’d spend more time away from my children.

It’s about taking a holistic approach to your priorities in life. You should have strong values that anchor the decisions you make and guide the steps you take, going forward.

What would be your advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs?

Know who you are, and what’s important to you. Then put in the effort to make it work.

Personally, I’m more focused on my work so I know I cannot be a stay-at-home mother, as much as I love my children.

To spend time with them, I fly back and forth a lot. I’m probably not as successful as other people who devote themselves entirely to work. But I don’t mind. The moments that I spend with my kids are precious to me, and they make everything worthwhile.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Ayu Hakim: Owner of Rumah Maroko & 2Creatives Media

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ayu Hakim; I’m the owner of Rumah Maroko, an event space, and a mobile solutions business called 2Creatives Media.

What is something unique about you?

Well, in high school, I learned to fly a single engine plane before I got my driver’s license (laughs). My late father liked to dare me to do things, so it’s always been, “Yeah, why not? Why should I be scared?” He wanted me to be adventurous and courageous, for which I’m thankful. He made sure I knew that, as a woman, I shouldn’t be weak.

How have you applied those childhood lessons to your business?

With business, you need to network and socialize. I’m an introvert, but I pushed myself. When I started Rumah Maroko there was no marketing budget, so I would attend every event to promote it, guerrilla marketing-style. I was Managing Director, marketing and PR, so yes, my upbringing helped me venture beyond my comfort zone.

How did you get started with entrepreneurship?

My parents, grandparents, and even my grand-aunt were all entrepreneurs. I jumped into entrepreneurship early. Some say that doing business in Indonesia is difficult, but there are pros and cons. Compared to Singapore, setting up a business here takes longer, but there are many gray areas where you can be creative.

What’s it like to be a female entrepreneur in Indonesia?

In more developed nations, people talk about ‘glass ceilings’. Being a female entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean starting a huge company that will IPO; a secretary might sell home- made cookies in the office; housewives might sell prayer outfits or mats. Indonesian people are creative; it’s in our nature to be entrepreneurial at many different levels.

What’s next for Rumah Maroko?

My goal is for it to be a timeless rather than a trendy venue. People ask, “What’s your five year exit plan?” That’s very common in MBA classes. But I want something that endures, like Bluebird, Teh Sosro, Indomie, etc. The founders didn’t just think, “Okay, we’ll build this for five, ten years and then we’re done.” I want my business to always exist. Of course, you have to reinvent yourself and be flexible to survive.

What career milestones are you most proud of?

Founding Rumah Maroko wasn’t just about starting a business – I wanted to create something meaningful. Since 2004, Rumah Maroko has become a sort of landmark in Jakarta, especially for people in the events industry. To me, that’s quite an accomplishment, because we’re not tied to any big commercial name.

What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?

Deciding to embark on this path was one of my first challenges. I was working in Australia, finding out what I was passionate about in business. I ended up having to choose between corporate life in Australia or returning home to pursue entrepreneurship – starting from zero.

I became an entrepreneur earlier than expected but, in life, nothing ever goes as planned. At this point, I don’t even bother to plan anymore (laughs).

Do you have any role models?

When I was at college, it was Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard; one of the first female tech bosses. In Indonesia, I admire the lady ministers, Susi Pudjiastuti and Sri Mulyani. They do more and talk less. You can see many progressive results of their actions today.

I also looked up to my grand-aunt, who lived to almost 95. That’s amazing in itself. When she was younger, she started a family business: she was a woman, a mother, a provider, and a store owner. Afterwards, she became a teacher – even in her late 80s, she was still teaching. She never slowed down. To me, that’s very inspiring.

What do wealth and success mean to you?

There are more important things than just money: wealth is your health, your energy, your life experiences. You can be wealthy, in financial terms, but you may have no time to

travel and your loved ones feel neglected. To me, that’s a poor life – surrounded by material objects but not the substantial matters. Wealth is holistic. Having time for loved ones and to do the things you love is also important.

What advice would you share with fellow women entrepreneurs?

The key is just to be. Don’t be apologetic, saying, “Oh, I can’t do this because I’m a woman,” or, “I’m sorry I’m a daughter and not a son.” Just be you and don’t feel guilty. Be as you are.

There are no such things as crazy ideas. Some people still think that being CEO is a man’s role. Just be persistent and go for it.

Sometimes, rather than breaking through obstacles, it’s better to be flexible, like water, to go around them. The key is to move forward. Don’t be apologetic and always know who you are.

Wherever you are, be you.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Jasmine Prasetio: Sotheby’s Country Head – Indonesia

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Jasmine Prasetio, I’m the country head of Sotheby’s in Indonesia.

How did you become the youngest country manager of Sotheby’s in Indonesia?

I’ve always been passionate about art since I was very young. I was fortunate as I was exposed to this world early on, visiting museums, galleries and auctions, including Sotheby’s in Singapore. At that time the auctions for Southeast Asian Art were still held there. We talked about art often and the opportunity to join came up when I was chatting with the Managing Director. I was at a career crossroads and she asked if I would be interested to join, as I was so passionate about art. I started as an intern and the rest was history.

How have the Southeast Asian and Indonesian art scenes grown since you joined Sotheby’s?

I began my career at Sotheby’s in Singapore in 2004 and being in a smaller sale center, I learnt about various aspects of the business in a comprehensive way. When Sotheby’s centralized all Asian auctions to Hong Kong, I moved there in 2009, as a Specialist in Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, where we saw the collector base grow across international boundaries. I had the wonderful opportunity to see the category grow from regional to international. When I started, the sale volumes were around USD 5-8mn a year; now, the range for the Southeast Asian category is between USD 25- 40mn. It’s a great leap.

At the end of 2012, I was tasked to spearhead the conception of a new auction category as well as executing its successful inaugural auction that features Asian and Western contemporary art and design for the first time in Sotheby’s Asia. That was an enriching experience that I will always remember and one that has strengthened the bond between my colleagues and myself until today.

When I came back to Indonesia in 2013 to take on the regional role, it was a great time for art here because Indonesia was at, I think, one of its best economic performances so it was such a big opportunity for art and culture to flourish. That was the period when it really went global. It’s not only about Indonesian art or Southeast Asian art. It’s about Indonesian artists being on an international platform, being collected by international collectors, and vice versa: having Indonesian collectors collecting international art. The scope has just grown so much over a period of fourteen years or so.

What makes you unique?

You know among all the questions, I find that the most difficult. Because I don’t see myself as unique, I think that I’m quite ordinary, actually. But I am able to lead a unique life

because I’m so fortunate to be in a unique industry. Art is such a powerful platform and a powerful link that connects people from all walks of life. We can have people from different backgrounds at the table: a banker, an industrialist, a teacher, a Bohemian, a professional, an artist, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Furthermore, I have also found that art and passion are boundless and are also found in the other categories like Jewellery, Watches, Wine and Automobiles. Everyone is so connected because of their passion. I find that unique and very enriching to my life. I have learnt a lot from all of these relationships and friendships that I’ve forged. Being surrounded by these very inspiring people, there is this intangible spark that we get from one another, that has the ability to inspire, energize and provide a different perspective. I think that’s the best part.

Speaking of inspiring people, is there a unique woman that you look up to?

There are so many amazing women, but personally, I think the most inspiring person for me is my mother. She is not only my mom, but also my best friend, and I think she is unique and special. She has managed to build a business of her own, which has been established for 33 years now. And yet, with all of that achievement, she has a balanced life. She is the best mother, a devoted wife, and a great and fun friend. She manages and fulfills all of our needs, putting all of us before herself. No matter how busy she is, she’s always there for us whenever we need her, and she does it all so effortlessly and with so much wisdom and humor.

Actually there is a little comic piece I want to share with you that illustrates this perfectly. It’s a Mother’s day comic strip, where it says, “Mom we’ve hired a few people to fill in for you while you relax on Mother’s Day,” and there we have a big group of people substituting for one person. You have a clairvoyant, a teacher, a nurse, a clown, a chef, a priest, a driver and a maid.” Being a mother is the most admirable job of all.

How do you deal with challenges that come with the job?

I have learnt that life will never stop giving you challenges, so addressing it is just a matter of perspective. Challenges are opportunities; once we overcome them, that’s when we grow. Most of us don’t know the strength we have within. I believe that there is really nothing that we cannot overcome if we have faith. We wouldn’t be given burdens that we cannot bear. Each day has its own problems, but each day we will always find a solution to that. So let’s not view it as a challenge, but as an opportunity. Let’s not see it as a burden, but as a footstool that we can use to step up and grow as a person.

What is an instance where you’ve overcome a career challenge through leadership?

Well, there was one incident when we were preparing for an auction in Hong Kong. Our auctions are usually held at the Hong Kong Convention Center and we would build the panels and space from ground zero; everything is from scratch. So it was on a crucial set up day that there was

suddenly a typhoon level 8 warning. But the show must go on and we had to open the exhibition the next day. This freak of nature happened and it was something we couldn’t control. Unfortunately, during a typhoon this severe in Hong Kong no one can take public transportation because everything is shut down and taxis won’t take us because they are not covered by insurance and the art movers couldn’t even come in. So I think for 10 hours, we had no one but ourselves to set up. It was

a challenging time, but we – all the Sotheby’s team – came together. And we did it! I don’t know how, but we did it. It must have taken a small miracle, but we completed everything on time, and that auction week became one of the best auction weeks in our history! That was a triumphant moment that would not have been possible without strong teamwork and leadership.

How is the gender dynamic in the art world? At Sotheby’s specifically?

I think I have been so fortunate, that I am in a company where they value and give opportunities for women in leadership roles. And I feel grateful that there are also gentlemen in leadership roles who are unafraid to be champions of women’s empowerment. They have also given great support to me in my career.

There are a lot of women working in the art industry, and as far as Sotheby’s is concerned, we don’t shy away from having women as leaders. Our chairman for Asia, in fact, is a woman. But I understand that it is a real privilege to be in this situation and that not everyone is as fortunate. And now we are also seeing an increasing appreciation for women artists, such as the Indonesian artist Ay Tjoe Christine (who, by the way, we just sold for around USD 980,000 last April in Hong Kong), as well as Joan Mitchell and Louise Bourgeois, to name but a few. They are getting a lot more news headlines and breaking market and scholarly barriers. These are all very positive indicators of what is to come in the future.

The biggest revolution is that more and more women are supporting other women and empowering other women. There is serious value in that. Although at times we can’t control our environment, we can always make a change, no matter how small it is, by starting with ourselves. The women’s empowerment movement has left a very profound mark in my heart, because it is inspiring to see how we are empowering other women. I think that is the big mission that we can be more involved in.

What tangible steps can we take to empower more women to fill leadership positions?

That is a huge responsibility of which I feel I am playing only a very small role. But speaking generally, a small role can make a big impact. What we can all do is to hire more women and give them fair remuneration; that’s just one step towards this goal and mission. There are so many amazing and talented women — even if we ignore gender and base hiring on qualifications, we can easily find plenty of qualified women in the workforce.

In addition, perhaps we can help other women by simply being available. For example, I would always like to spare some time for someone who is young – perhaps just starting in the art industry – who would like to hear my experiences in the art world.

Many define success as being linked to wealth. In a way, wealth accumulation enables the art industry to grow. What is your view on the relationship between wealth and success?

Maybe I will first share my view of success, because that has changed over time. In the past it’s always been about something tangible, like breaking the next world record, or

bringing an Indonesian artist to an international platform, or having an exhibit in an international institution. But that is just a small part of the picture; I have learnt a very important lesson – that success is not a one man show. Whatever achievements that we have achieved, where we are today, are all due to an intricate ecosystem of people, all of whom contribute different elements into that success, and none can thrive without the other. So, success is about teamwork,

having a great support system and a great team. I have been very blessed because I’ve worked with the best – my own wonderful team and my colleagues at Sotheby’s globally. So I think the way I view wealth is not only in financial terms but more importantly, an enrichment of knowledge and forging meaningful relationships.

Financial wealth – well, you can never stop chasing this type of wealth. One day we have it, and the next we may not. But when it comes to knowledge and relationships, we will always have that.

If you were to give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

I would say, know more, learn more, and listen more. I feel that I have embarked on the journey that is planned for me, and I am grateful for that journey, so there is nothing that

I feel is not good enough. But I think that if I had I known what I know today, I would probably be able to do more. Sometimes when we’re young, we think we know everything, but we don’t. (laughs)


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

Liris Maduningtyas: CEO of JALA

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Liris Maduningtyas and I’m the CEO of JALA. JALA is a data services company that provides services for aquaculture, specifically for shrimp farms. We enable shrimp farmers to increase their yields through technology and smart data. We’ve been in this sector for about two and half years now. I started out with my co-founder, who is actually a shrimp farmer himself. He’s been in the shrimp farming industry for 17 years already, and he started to look at the problem at this shrimp industry and start to gather a team. At the time I was working as a field engineer in an oil and gas services company. I’d been working a lot with data logging and data collection. When I eventually left my company and met with the farmers face-to-face, I started to realize that there is still no such technology breakthrough in this kind of business to improve and optimize the work they do.

Surprisingly, there is actually no available data at all to help farmers make decisions. Farmers must rely on their instincts. For instance, to estimate water parameters, farmers will typically use their fingers by putting them in water. It’s completely insane. In this part of the world, where technology is already booming, we should be able to create a technology solution for these farmers. At JALA, we want to actually help the farmers to gather, all of the data necessary that for them to actually make predictions, to actually make decisions based on the actual data, starting with sensors. So that’s how we started JALA, and how I actually personally jumped into aquaculture.

How does it feel to be one of the leading woman, and furthermore, a C-level woman leader in the aquaculture industry?

It’s quite challenging. If we talk about the shrimp industry and the aquaculture industry in general, there are not a lot of women working in the sector. Most women working in the aquaculture sector usually work with the feed company in managerial roles or research and sales – and not sales in the field, but in the office. I rarely meet female farmers, actually. I’ve only ever met three. But it’s not just about the lack of women in the aquaculture industry, but also the shortage of young people in aquaculture as well.

It can be quite challenging, being a female C-level leader in this sector, especially because of the very small female representation we have here. I always have to prove myself in front of the farmers, who are often quite old and knowledgeable. But I am coming to the table with something; I also have knowledge in this business, and I actually can help them. Being a female leader can be beneficial as well, because I’m different. And people typically love something that is different.

What societal expectations do you face as a young woman? What’s your family’s and friend’s opinion about you joining the aquaculture industry?

You may have already guessed that the environment didn’t start out super supportive. I mean we’re living in Indonesia and it’s part of the culture that women are supposed to be at home, not at the office. It’s changing, sure — you can go to the office, but you know, maybe as a secretary. My parents actually encouraged me to become sort of a certified lecturer, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Once again, I had to prove to my parents that I could actually do it. The process took hard work and patience, but it paid off. I actually won a pitching competition on behalf of JALA and then started gaining revenue from the farmers. Now my family is starting to realize that I can actually do it. They’re really supportive. One hundred percent. But they needed some sort of proof first.

How is the startup ecosystem in Yogyakarta? Are there many women entrepreneurs?

In general, there many women entrepreneurs in Yogyakarta, but those specifically working in the startup ecosystem are quite rare. I do find a lot of female entrepreneurs in Jakarta and maybe outside of Indonesia, but in Yogyakarta, you can probably only find a small handful of C-level women in this business.

The majority are in offline, then?

Yes, yes, exactly. The majority of women entrepreneurs are in offline businesses, like coffee shops or restaurants, you know, desserts and the like. But I do really want to encourage women to consider aquaculture and agriculture as career paths. Aquaculture and agriculture are things that you don’t really have to be afraid of.

So in your opinion, why there is there such a limited number of startups?

I think it’s because of people’s perceptions of startups. I’ll tell you a story from my university days. Only two startup founders came from my major, which is electrical engineering. That was in 2010. But then in 2011 with the younger generation, that number started to grow. Although it still wasn’t a lot, I still hope that the trend will continue. There are a lot of women trying to actually become entrepreneurs in the startup scene. Especially in technology.

Who are your role models?

I have a lot of role models, but I’ll just tell you about someone who is currently inspiring me – Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook because I think she’s funny and energetic and patient. She really faced a lot of challenges as a woman entrepreneur at the beginning of her career. And I feel like part of her story also resonates with my own story. So the way that she overcame all of those challenges is something that I draw motivation to also overcome my own.

Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

I really want to own more than two companies. One company is this one. For the second one, I do really want to own a farm — a high-tech aquaculture farm. I really want people to know that working as a farmer is not a low profile job. I just want to open people’s minds, to tell them that farming is actually a good business. And when it comes to farming, technology, and young people, it could be something that is seen as desirable and lucrative.

What is your advice for young people out there, especially for women who want to start their careers as an entrepreneur in the startup ecosystem?

Girls, don’t be afraid. You have equal rights and equal potential as a person, and you’re equal in every potential skill that you’d need to actually become an entrepreneur in the startup ecosystem. And I hope for you to not be afraid. Don’t just wait to have a secure job. Be out there. Find the problem, find the solutions, and start to build something that is really cool — and make money out of it!

Marianne Rumantir: CEO of Member.id

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Marianne Rumantir and I am currently the CEO of Member.id. Member.id helps businesses create great value for their customers by providing end-to-end loyalty solutions. Our mission is to change the loyalty landscape in Indonesia.

I come from a diverse background; I studied Communication and Advertising at university and ended up working in the corporate world, I was in corporate communications for several banks for about four years. Then I started a family.

As someone who is a career chaser it was very hard, especially because I was living overseas with no support system. So I started my own business back in 2009. My first business was a restaurant that I started with some of my friends in Melbourne. That restaurant actually still exists; it’s been there for the last 10 years. We expanded and opened up a few more branches, expanding to the US. This led me to move to Los Angeles, California.

While abroad, I would always get requests from others to buy them something and bring it back. You know, with Indonesians every time you hear someone is traveling overseas, you’re always asking, “Can you buy me something?” (laughs) That happened to me a lot. I’m actually not a big shopper, but I thought that I could actually make a business out of this. That’s how I started getting into technology. I established an e-commerce business where I would shop US products for Indonesians for a small fee. I had to use my credit card quite frequently because of this, so I ended up collecting a lot of points. From there, it kind of became my obsession, because I found out that I could actually use my points as a currency.

I’ve always had a passion for travel. At the time, I’d never been to Europe and I had no budget as a struggling business owner. And it wasn’t just for me — I had a family to consider as well. I did a lot of research and apparently there are a lot of people in the US that use points to travel everywhere; they can even upgrade to luxury cabins using points. I became obsessed in reading all these blogs, learning about how to travel hack.

When we finally flew to Europe, we basically spent nothing. We flew business class and we stayed in a luxury hotel for free. Combined, we had accumulated over 500,000 worth of points every year. Everytime we went on a holiday, it would be for free. I started sharing these points experiences online, creating a points-hacking blog targeting Indonesians.

Then, I started exploring about the Indonesian market and found out it was quite feasible. I was introduced to Edy, now an advisor at Member.id. Edy actually offered me a role at his other company. He said, “Why don’t you come back and work with us where you can bring some value?” I immediately told Edy yes to Member.id though, but I told him that we would need to change how people perceive loyalty programs in Indonesia. My initial idea wasn’t commercial. I wasn’t trying to make money. It was about how can we help Indonesians do the same thing that I could do back in the US.

I came back last year and then we took it from the ground up.

How is it like to be a pioneer in the loyalty space?

We are trying to take advantage of being the very few players who provide these services. This is why we cater to a very specific, niche market. At the moment, our clients are all mid-market to large enterprises, because a lot of them require some sort of customization. When you go to other smaller companies, they don’t really do any customization because there is one product for everyone, which is another product that we are developing at the moment.. For us, one selling point is that we can hit different kinds of verticals. That’s why we have clients ranging from hotels, retail, lifestyle, food and beverage. We’ve always believed that no one size fits all. After all, the way you create a loyalty program for hotel clients and F&B is completely different.

We’re very grateful that we’re one of the first ones. There will always be new companies in the industry, so it’s good to be the benchmark for others, right? It’s also been a blessing for us to be the first, because client acquisition becomes easier. We stopped looking for clients because we get so many from referrals. It’s a great testament of our services from existing clients that they would actually recommend their contacts to use us. I’ve never really thought of us as pioneers, but I want to take that as an advantage for our company to grow even faster and to hold the biggest market share.

What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

When we first started, pricing was a huge challenge. Many were not familiar with our service, and didn’t understand why they should pay so much for a service that they had no idea about. Our response was to provide value to clients and prove to them that our pricing is worth every penny. That’s why we are quite big on the data team, because a lot of clients sit on a tremendous amounts of data that aren’t being used properly. That’s where we bring value. We can help you analyze all these transactions, create insights, craft targeted promotions, and ultimately increase sales.

As a woman leader, I’ve never really experienced anything too extreme. Most of the time I feel like women have achieved a place in the startup world, even though I know that looking at statistics women still make up a comparatively low number of startup founders. It’s very rare to find women entrepreneurs. But compared to the US, we’re doing better. I know for a fact there’s a big wage gap between men and women in the US. However, I remember working in an Indonesian company, and between myself and another male sharing the same position, we were paid the same. Here, it’s more of a position and level gap than a gender wage gap.

Back then, when people heard about startups and tech companies, there was this perception that you need to be an engineer, right? It was a man’s world, and if you didn’t know how to code, then forget about it. Whereas these days, startups are all about creating disruptive businesses – who can be the most innovative, who can achieve the best product-market fit, who are the founders. So expectations are different as well.

As a female founder, how can you create your own niche and get started?

So you can be a health freak for example. Maybe you want to change people’s behaviors and increase the amount of exercise people do. So it’s not just about coding and programming; it’s everything else. There are many female entrepreneurs in the travel industry and the beauty industry, for example. That’s what I like about the startup world. It’s open. You’re not just creating code or making mobile apps. It’s the whole package. But it’s also the perception and message that we need to create for all women out there to say that hey, the door is open. It’s open for everyone.

Are there any benefits to being a woman founder?

In a way, yes. Since statistically there are fewer women founders, you actually get noticed quicker. But that’s not what success boils down to. It really comes down to your leadership style. And I think women have a definite advantage when it comes to that. We have more empathy. It has its pros and cons of course, but I’d like to think that as a woman I can understand people’s situations better. For example, we have an employee who is also a mother. I would understand if she needs to take time off because she has to look after her family. I also understand that even men who have kids who want to go home early should be able to as well, because they need to spend time with their kids. I always strive to make sure that our company culture is healthy, that our employees know that, look, you are supposed to work hard, but that doesn’t mean that you neglect your other obligations.

How do you balance your time as a founder, a mother, and a family member?

The key is: it takes a village. So I do have a good support system. If I were doing this overseas, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I’ve achieved right now. In comparison to what I’ve achieved over the past one year here, I’d probably only be able to achieve it in three years overseas. Living overseas, I didn’t have a support system. I have no family overseas, and hired help would be too expensive. Whereas here, the support system is very strong so I get to go to work without having to worry about picking up my kid at the daycare or something. That’s one element.

Second, the most important thing to survive is to make sure I myself am happy. I know that a lot of mothers always put their family’s needs above they ended up neglecting themselves. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but we’re also in charge of our own happiness, right? If we know how to make ourselves happy and content then our families will also feel that positivity. I still socialize and work, but I have my own time at night and on weekends with the family. And of course the weekend is for catching up on sleep. I guess it’s all about quality. It’s not quantity. Making sure everybody gets enough time. As a result, the aura I bring in at home and at work and everywhere, it’s always positive. Then again it takes a village. I can’t do this alone.

What did you learn from failure?

My background has always been working in a corporate world, right? And so I had always been an employee. Growing up, I never thought I would ever run my own business because my parents are all professionals. I mean, I don’t have a trust fund. So I was taught that as an professional, you have to climb the corporate ladder to progress in your career.

I’m actually the only person in my family who is pursuing entrepreneurship full-time. I’m kind of a rebel. I am the risk-taker. Thankfully my husband has the steady job, so even if I failed, at least we could still eat. Honestly, the first six months to a year — that was a big struggle. I almost quit my first business because I wasn’t getting paid monthly, and it was definitely less than the amount that I used to get from my corporate salary.

It was a big struggle for me, but the thing that made it sustain is because I have a good business partner, my business partner came from a background of entrepreneurs. So he was the one who motivated me and told me I needed to be patient and persistent and to just do our best. So he was the one who believed in our venture, and that’s why we continued to expand. Not all of the expansion was a success. But that didn’t mean that we had to stop.

And I’ve learned that in order to succeed, you can’t do it by yourself. You need a team and you need a business partner because otherwise I don’t think you can handle all the hard stuff on your own. When you face issues or problems, sometimes you can’t think of the solutions all by yourself.

I may not be the person with the most brilliant ideas in the company,  that’s why we like to hire a lot of smarter people. My job is to be able to facilitate all these people so that their ideas can come to life. That’s what a leader should do. When you manage something, it doesn’t mean that you have all these great ideas all the time. What you need to do is to facilitate others. Again, the failures that I’ve experienced were largely because I did not have the right team. That was my lesson.

What are the ingredients for the right team? For the right business partner?

You need to find someone who complements you. Don’t find someone who is exactly the same. At the moment, our senior management team all have completely different specialties. I’m more on the external side, like marketing and business development. Robert is more the data/insights person and he’s very good at strategy. All three of us have completely different specialties, so we would complete each other, right? Every time we are facing issues, we can work together to think about what’s next. It’s a good combination when we put our heads together.

Do you have any role models?

I always say that my mother is my idol. She has been a professional all her life, but I feel like I was never neglected by her despite of how busy she’s always been. I have always seen her as someone who knows how to balance things. She knows her priorities. In terms of leadership, I like to see different types of people leadership. I like to follow Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg for womens’ rights heroes. I like to combine lessons from all of these women and decide what would best apply to me. I don’t think one person’s leadership management is something that I can exactly copy. So I just try and follow different types of leaders to see what would fit my style.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I’m a very open person. That’s why we don’t have doors in our offices. I want people to be able to talk to me anytime. Whatever position you have, whatever department, whatever your specialty — if you feel like you have something that you know bothers you, if you’re not happy then you can come talk to me. I want to maintain that open culture. Second, I want to make sure my employees are happy. This is why I like having a lean company, because I know each one of my employees personally. I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy, and how I can help them grow professionally. I don’t micromanage, but I know exactly what everyone’s doing. That’s why we have alignment meetings regularly, because I want to know what people are doing without stepping on their toes too much.

Are you the only girl in the family?

I’m the only one — I have two brothers. Maybe it was because I was raised by a working mother, I was never expected to become a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always wanted to work. Like I said, I’m probably the only rebel in the family who took a big risk with her career through entrepreneurship. I see it as a way to set a good example, at least for my nieces, you know, and for the other extended family. I want them to know you can actually make it as a working mother as long as you know your priorities.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to start their own businesses?

Looking back at my experiences, the fact that I didn’t start my own business straight out of school was a good lesson for me. Because through my professional experiences, I’ve learned how to become part of an organization first, to kind of build my career up from the very bottom. So I know how it feels like, being at the lowest level first, and then how it feels like to collaborate with other people and how to have a boss. Having mentorship is also important because I know these days a lot of younger people start their own businesses straight out of school, so they lack mentors. I mean, it’s not a wrong way to approach entrepreneurship. It’s just that for me, I had a better learning foundation. Either way is fine, but for me, it’s better to gain experiences not as an owner but as an employee, so that you know how to treat your team.

Michele Soeryadjaya: Director of William and Lily Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Michele Soeryadjaya and I’m the Director at the William and Lily Foundation, which is a family foundation that my father started with his sister about nine years ago. I joined about two and a half years ago and at the time it felt like I just stumbled into it. Although looking back at how I got to that point now, it was actually kind of an organic process. I studied business in college and I was planning to get into finance after graduation, but towards the end I had also developed an interest in sustainability. Luckily I ended up at a private equity fund that focused on sustainable agriculture and water in Singapore, so I was able to pursue both interests. In the two years I spent there, I grew a deep interest in the agricultural space in Indonesia. I really wanted to learn more about it, specifically about working with smallholder farmers.

That’s when I reached out to JAVARA and asked to volunteer with them for a few months. I ended up spending six months with them, half of which I spent in Flores. I instantly fell in love with the island, and at the same time realized that there was a great need in the region. So when my father suggested that I should join the family foundation and help grow its efforts, I jumped at the opportunity to do so and direct its focus towards eastern Indonesia. Today, the foundation’s target areas are marginalized communities with an emphasis on those in that part of the country.

What’s your day to day like at the foundation?

As a grant-making foundation, we do not implement or operate our own projects. It’s not dissimilar to how a private equity fund operates – we find partners who can execute programs we want to run, and work with them closely to ensure we maximize effectiveness and impact. So there are two main blocks of activities, sourcing new projects and monitoring current projects. We are a lean team, so everyone is a little involved in all parts of the foundation’s operations even though we do all have designated roles.

What motivates you to keep doing the work that you’re doing at the foundation?

Growing up in Jakarta, you are exposed to the disparity and inequality that pervades everyday life from a very early age. I’ve been more than lucky and grateful to have been born into the easier end of that spectrum. And even though I’ve always been aware of the difference, I can’t say that I’ve always understood or fully appreciated what that really meant. Being able to go to college abroad in a developed country like the US was what made me really start to realize the impact of that difference, the real difference of opportunity. And from early on I knew that I wanted to do something that would have an impact for more than myself after I graduated, whatever that meant, like many people my age and my generation. For me, a lot of it was also due to the timing – it was also the spring of 2009 when I started my studies in Business Administration, right after the height of the financial crisis. So while I learned about the appeals and advantages of capitalism, its risks and perils were also deeply ingrained in me. My key takeaway was a lesson in accountability and responsibility.

And I feel like if you look at all the big issues around the world today, I think all of it really boils down to inequality. And a lack of accountability. I know there are a lot of people who want to change that and who want to make an impact for those who have been dealt less opportunities in life, and so many people are doing exactly that but there are also many who want to that don’t have the right support or means to do it yet. I feel like I am in a very lucky position to have both the support and means to do it because of my family, and this all is what really motivates me to keep at it.

As a new angel investor at ANGIN and someone with previous startup experience, what excites you about the startup industry?

I think there is something very optimistic and hopeful about the startup industry. I think more and more people are realizing that the status quo is not working for the majority of the population anymore. We are starting to see some of the consequences and negative implications of what we knew before as tried and proven methods of doing things, and there is a need to change some of those immediately. And I think that’s what the startup industry represents for the most part, how to do things better for more people and with less harm. That’s what I find most exciting.

What was one of the most interesting things that you got to see or do during your experience at JAVARA?

I spent six months at JAVARA, half of which I spent at their office here in Jakarta and the other half in Maumere, Flores. At the time they were setting up their production facility there, and I was kind of the defacto mandor (building contractor) because they didn’t really have anyone else who could dedicate their time to it on the ground. So my main role was just really to be their eyes and ears on the ground, and help oversee the construction process. Everything was new to me. I was completely out of my comfort zone on all fronts and I learned so much because of it. The whole experience was really interesting for me. What was really cool was that I just got to speak and interact with all these people with completely different lives than my own. And especially because I got to meet and talk with all these different farmers, which was why I sought out the experience in the first place, and understand more about the issues they face and how they thought about different things. That has definitely been really valuable in guiding some of my decisions and thought processes throughout my time at the foundation because many of our direct beneficiaries are very much like those farmers.  

What are you most excited about joining ANGIN as an angel investor?

I’m really excited to just learn and get to know all the different kinds of companies and ideas that are starting up. Like I said earlier, I think there is something really optimistic and hopeful about the space. The idea that there are people everyday working and thinking about how to do things better is really awesome to me. That may be a slightly naïve way of looking at things, but I do think that that is the most exciting part of the whole startup space. I’m particularly interested in agriculture, food and financial inclusion, and I know there are lots of innovation going on in those spaces so I’m particularly excited to learn about that.

How is the gender dynamic like in the foundation space?

My personal experience was that it was a bit tough for me coming in. The foundation was more alike to a typical, traditional corporate kind of experience here in Indonesia (or in many parts of the world for that matter): mostly or all men in decision-making roles and women in strictly supporting roles. So I was joining a team of four excluding myself, one woman in the administrative position and three men in active operational roles. Obviously being someone directly from the founding family of the organization gave me a boost and helped a lot, but it was definitely difficult in the beginning. There was this one person I particularly had a really tough time with. It was clear that he didn’t take me seriously, he would always just laugh when I talked to him and was just really patronizing and dismissive towards me. And I could see his attitude towards women reflected in the projects he put together as well, he never included women in any trainings the foundation held, for example. Luckily though, that has been to date one of the hardest attitudes I’ve encountered, within our own foundation and other foundations we have interacted with.

So far my exposure to other family foundations have been fairly positive and many of them are quite well-balanced in terms of gender equality both in their own teams and their programs. I think because many of the younger generation, especially the younger women, have taken the lead at these foundations and they obviously tend to be more aware of the importance. I do also think that in general the development and non-profit space is more attuned to gender dynamics, because we encounter the harmful consequences of having that gender disparity on the field a lot. Especially in rural and marginalized areas.

Can you describe the gender disparity that you see in those areas?

All of our projects right now are in Sumba, and I think actually relatively speaking the gender disparity there is not as acute as it is in some other parts of the country or the world. There is definitely still a lot of room and need for improvement. For example, we still encounter many women as strong local figures in the communities we work in. But on the other hand, child brides is still very much an issue and prevalent throughout the island and women definitely still play second fiddle to men in household. For the most part I think it is still very much a patriarchal society and women and girls still suffer many abuses and injustices because of this gender disparity, but I do think that we are starting to see some change and progress. That is definitely the sense I get from talking to some people who have worked and lived there for some years.

For one of our projects that is centered around building the capacity of tour guides, almost half of the program participants are women. And that was not actually pre-designed, it was merely based on applications that were submitted and screened through. For another one of our projects though, it was an issue we encountered on the daily in the beginning. The project is focused on training and equipping new mothers and health workers who are mainly women with awareness and knowledge of the importance of proper nutrition. The intervention requires them to participate in an intensive 10-day workshop. We had difficulty getting this going in the beginning mostly due to the fact that husbands wouldn’t let their wives make that kind of time commitment. Time in the workshop meant time away from household chores and working on the family farms or whatever industry the household was involved in. And this is something that you encounter a lot, where the women bear a lot of the responsibilities but have very little decision-making power. Fortunately though many of the husbands were able to be convinced and so we had many of our target beneficiaries successfully participate in the workshop in the end. So although that mindset does seem to be the status quo, we have seen that it can actually be changed.  

Having been in the field, how do you see shifts in terms of gender dynamic and progressivity in Indonesia?

I think we’ve definitely seen some shifts already in our time working there, both after the fact and as it is happening. I don’t know if it’s like a cultural shift just yet. I think right now it’s still really small and happening in silos, but at least we can see spots and glimmers of it. I’m optimistic because there are a lot of people that have and are currently working on this, both within and out of the island, so I think it will take some time before it becomes a whole cultural shift. But I’m hopeful that it will.

What strategies or tactics did your team specifically employ to get women to speak out?

I think it was just a lot of socialization really. So again, we aren’t actually the ones doing the heavy lifting – it’s all our partners grinding at it. But that’s what we hear when we ask all of our partners about it. In this line of work, and in like many else I think, the key is in making the relationships and building that trust. So in that nutrition project I talked about earlier, the field coordinators spent a lot of time in the villages with the community. It took a lot of speaking to both the women and the husbands, understanding what was important to them and how to speak with them in a way that they could recognize the benefit we were trying to communicate. That’s the hardest part I think, because a lot of these things seem abstract if you don’t see the benefits of it first-hand. So I think it also really helps to have success stories of people that they know or can really relate to. Without the success stories it can be really challenging I think. Possible, but really difficult.

What kind of tangible shift did you feel organizationally on your own team by increasing diversity gender?

We definitely hit a point, or a few really, where I just realized that our team as it was just wasn’t going to work out. It was a really hard decision for me and the first of its kind I had to make, but it had to be done for our organization to grow and move in the direction I hoped it would. So we had to let go of the person that had that fixed mentality of the roles of women and men. And earlier this year we added two more people to our team, one man and one woman. Both of them definitely have a balanced and flexible outlook on the roles of women and men. And I think it really has made a world of difference. I don’t think I fully appreciated how much it would either until it happened. For starters I think we have just gotten a lot more thorough and comprehensive when thinking through and putting together projects because we are really considering all the different angles and perspectives now. So I think it has really improved our effectiveness and the impact that we are able to make as an organization. And I think in terms of team dynamics it’s just gotten more positive and feels more like a safe space.  

Having grown up in Indonesia and then being educated in the States, what kind of differences do you see? What are the pros and cons on both sides in terms of gender equality?

I was in an international school from fifth grade onwards, and I never really felt like gender equality was an issue there. Even if it was, it wasn’t acute enough for me to feel it. I was in local school for a few years before that where I did feel it a bit. I was pretty tomboyish when I was younger, so I did feel like I did get made fun of for being a tomboy. That made me feel like there was this expectation of how a girl should behave, how she should look, what she should like, etc. But it was nothing really malicious, just kids being kids. So although it did have an impact on me, it was not that bad to be traumatic or anything. On the whole, I feel lucky that I was able to have the experience of going to an international school and then going to college in a country like the US where the gender disparity was not something you felt immediately at the surface (in recent years I have realized that it is most definitely there, but much less pervasive and apparent than in Asia generally speaking). Because I definitely felt the difference when I came back to Indonesia and started working here, and it was a kind of a rude awakening. Although I grew up here I guess I was pretty sheltered and insulated from it because of the school I went to, and I think my family is also relatively liberal when it comes to gender equality. And also of course you just realize things a lot more when you are older.

Do you feel that there are glass ceilings that are imposed upon women in Indonesia?

Definitely. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are the half of humankind who can bear children obviously. But that does not mean the sole responsibility should fall on us, after all it takes both a man and a woman to create another human. I do feel lucky and grateful to be born in this generation, though, because I don’t think that our grandmothers or even our mothers had the same options or freedom as we do now. Even though that disparity still exists today, it was much worse just a few decades ago. And I’m thankful to all the women and men who have worked throughout the years and are working now to change that. Though there is still work to be done, the path has definitely been paved for my generation.

What advice do you have for young women who are entering the workforce for the first time and who are facing similar hurdles?

I think what really helps in the beginning is to find allies and to figure out who are kind of lost causes if you are facing issues of gender disparity. There will be plenty of both. And I think that’s also something that you have to realize, that there will be people who will forever think with that lens and will forever think that women are only born to perform a fixed role in life. And I don’t think that that is limited to older people, I know plenty of young people who still think that way. But I also think it’s important to not take it personally. Because there is a reason why there are people who think that way, that is just how they grew up and how they were raised. It is a systemic issue, which is hundreds of years in the making so it’s not just going to go away like that. But I think it’s really important to stick to the people who realize it is an issue and who stand against it. I feel kind of dramatic talking about it but it really can feel like an overwhelming fight if you experience it. So my advice would be to find your allies, stick to them and don’t let the haters get you down. And just focus on the job at hand and kill it. It still happens but it gets harder and harder to deny performance. So just stick to your guns and do the best you can.

 

Eileen Kamtawijoyo: COO & Co-Founder of Populix

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Eileen Kamtawijoyo. I am the co-founder and COO at Populix. I met with my co-founder, Timothy when we were studying at the University of Cambridge. I was doing my master’s and he was doing his PhD. When I went back for good, I worked at Djarum’s new business initiative, which is their fast moving consumer goods company. Since there were a lot of product concepts that needed to be tested, I found out how market research in Indonesia is very costly and inefficient. Not only does it take a very long time, but the data quality is lacking as well.

When Timothy came back to Indonesia for good, I had already been working with Djarum group for around two years. We were just sharing ideas and brainstorming together, and he was telling me about the advancements made in academic research abroad. Suddenly, we thought maybe there was something we could do to solve the problems here in Indonesia’s market research space.

Around three to six months after the initial conversations that we had, we jumped in and started the journey of building Populix together. Populix itself has been established since December 2017, but we just started running operationally in January 2018. During the 9 months of Populix’s existence, there have definitely been many ups and downs. However, everything has been very worthwhile; so many learnings took place that forced us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and beyond our capabilities imagined.

Populix is a technology-enabled research startup. We are building a consumer insights platform that bridges companies and survey participants. Participants can come onto our platform, register themselves, and fill out their data: their age, their income level, where they live, etc. They are then rewarded every time they participate in a study. Meanwhile, researchers also come onto our platform looking for participants of their target market. They can conduct the survey and have real-time data analysis in their dashboard. In the future, researchers can also buy off-the-shelf data sets from our library or subscribe to these reports on a periodic basis.

What did you find the most challenging as a first-time entrepreneur?

Back then, we were both effectively managing directors, because literally we were managing everything from the very little things to grander things like strategy of the company. You begin to remember the things that you took for granted when you were working in a big company, and you finally realize how much effort it takes to create your own thing. You won’t realize it until you experience it for yourself.

Another challenge was in terms of skill sets. I needed to learn a bit more about finance; back then, I really had no professional experience on finance. So I took some online courses and watched YouTube to teach myself. It’s important so that at least you can have some sort of a financial statement for you to present to the venture capitalists and stakeholders you’re sharing it with when you’re fundraising.

And then there was product development. Timothy and I are both not really tech people. We really have to try our hardest, even up until now, to learn how to communicate with developers, familiarizing ourselves with the different programming languages that we should use, and the reasons why.

We’re still learning as we go. It’s been difficult, no doubt.

What makes you want to continue being an entrepreneur, then?

Well, I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I feel like it’s so much more rewarding; when you see something that you created yourself — your own vision — coming to life, it gives you a deep sort of satisfaction within yourself. It’s truly rewarding.

And the deeper I go on this journey, I feel that same rewarding sense. It’s just a matter of setting up a strong mentality from the get-go. After all, it’s going to be tough. But you just need to persist. You just need to persevere.

What do you look for in a good co-founder?

I think what makes a good founder is that first you need to know what are the skill sets that you already have — what are your strengths? With the other co-founder, you want to have him or her fill in the gaps or weaknesses that you have, so that you can complement each other. For example, maybe I have more of a reserved personality, while Timothy is more confident. It balances well when we meet with investors or when we are presenting our startup.

What’s more, you both must really believe in this idea. At the end of the day, everyone is going to be against you — even your family and friends. This is vital since there will be times when you may be questioning yourself as to why you are doing this, and to have that someone who can keep rooting for the idea and to keep up the momentum will help you push on.

How is it like to be a female founder? Any advantages or challenges?

So far, it’s been good. I believe that in any organization it’s good to have a balance between males and females because diversity brings richer discussion and richer perspective.

I feel it’s actually advantageous to be a female founder in a way; whenever I was applying for our startup to pitch in competitions, for example, it always have women founders are strongly encouraged to apply, something like that.

I also know that there’s also a lot of organizations who actually are supporting startups with female founders. For example, in the US, you have Melinda Gates setting up an institution to fund women founders. So I think in a way it’s good. I don’t feel like any discrimination or whatsoever. I actually feel encouraged because women are being seen and supported now.

How was it like to be a female employee versus being a female startup founder ?

Perhaps, I just share a bit of my experience. After graduating from my Bachelor’s degree, I was working at Campbell’s Soup in the US, as R&D (research and development). Our CEO was female. It was really empowering for me to see how females can hold such important roles and leadership positions.

And then when I was doing my masters, I found a lot of female PhD candidates, working on amazing and groundbreaking theses.

So, I felt far more encouraged after these experiences than when I was younger. I grew up in a traditional Chinese family, where women are not necessarily encouraged into leadership positions. For instance, higher education and completing a PhD may not be recommended by my parents, since it may result in difficulty finding a spouse. Nevertheless, I feel my journey has been truly blessed, since I am constantly surrounded by many strong female personalities that all encourage me to follow my pursuits.

Do you have any role models?

I don’t have just one per se. I really like Jack Ma; he is really someone who went from zero to one hundred, making it super big. It makes me think that you can’t complain. Like this guy has been through worse. At least I have the advantage of education and having a supportive family. So what’s my excuse? I also really respect his grit and his tenacity of never giving up. He always shares stories of how he pitched countless times, got rejected, but kept on going. I really admire that of him.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I really want to make more of an impact, not just in terms of business but also social impact. Maybe I can assume a role in the government sector. Who knows? I want to be a part of shaping Indonesia for the better, for future generations to come.

Do you have any advice for other young women who are looking to start their own ventures or dive into entrepreneurship ?

My personal advice is to first find out what your passion is. It may sound cliché but there are going to be tough times ahead, so you need to really enjoy what you do. Then, really just dive into it since I believe that if you have the will, you will find a way.

And of course, putting in all the hard work, the long hours, and having the curiosity to keep learning is vital. Since there are so many things that we will never know, you need to constantly have that hunger to continuously learn. And meet a lot of people, because you will learn a lot from them. Ask for their advice – don’t be scared to ask questions. In a nutshell, be a lifetime learner, network a lot, and continually persist.