Reflecting on Chazen Indonesia 2019

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The first of many group pictures!

With the semester off and racing, Chazen Indonesia 2019 remains a lovely memory of this winter break. After the trip ended, some of us went on to do a Bali extension and visit Komodo Dragons on the Flores Islands; others hopped on flights to join the GIP Philippines or GIP Myanmar classes; and still others continued on to neighboring countries like Vietnam, Singapore, or Thailand to continue exploring the region during the last weeks of CBS winter break. Personally, I flew to Singapore, where I had the chance to visit one of my best friends from college and travel with her to Hanoi, Vietnam.

As any CBS student who has done a Chazen trip knows, the jam-packed itinerary of the trip leaves little time for introspection. I am guessing that’s why the Chazen Institute requests that we Chazen travel bloggers file a follow-up post with reflections and lessons learned. Speaking for myself, especially as I continued my travels in the Southeast Asia region after the trip, I’ve been able to gain a richer perspective on the experiences we had in Indonesia.

A few weeks after returning home, here are the themes from the trip that are still stuck in my mind.

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Being true to who you are – as a nation
As I consider authenticity to be one of my own personal values, I was excited to hear Thomas Lembuang speak about it on our first office visit at BKPM, an agency promoting foreign investment in Indonesia. His perspective is that authenticity is just as important on an organizational or even national scale as it is on a personal one.

This makes sense – if individuals are more successful when they are authentic and self-aware, why wouldn’t companies and even countries be so as well? But I had never thought about authenticity in this way before. As an Indonesian himself, Mr. Lembuang has a high level of awareness of the characteristics, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses of Indonesian culture, and he uses that insight to understand what types of businesses and industries will be most successful there. For example, based on Indonesians’ national characteristics of gentleness, openness and hospitality, he believes the country is on its way to becoming even more of a tourism powerhouse in the region.

Importing brands – what works and what doesn’t 
One of the highlights of the week for many of us was the opportunity to meet Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, at the opening of the Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sanctuary in Bali on January 12. The impromptu visit resulted from a generous invitation from Virendra Prakash Sharma, CEO of Mitra Adiperkasa, with whom we met in Jakarta at one of our scheduled company visits earlier in the week. The opportunity to attend this invitation-only event was definitely a strong #whycbs moment.

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V.P. Sharma’s presentation about Mitra Adiperkasa
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Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson speaks at the opening of the Dewata Coffee Sanctuary

At 20,000 square feet, the store is the largest Starbucks in Southeast Asia and is meant to give visitors an immersive coffee experience, including a 1,000 square foot Arabica coffee tree farm. Our visit tied into our conversation with V.P. Sharma earlier in the week, continuing our discussion about which Western brands will succeed in the region and which won’t. Krispy Kremes did; Jamba Juice didn’t. And Starbucks did. (For more information on the Coffee Sanctuary, check out coverage in Food & Wine and Business Insider. )

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Enjoying a night at one of Jakarta’s rooftop bars
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Traditional Balinese fire dancers
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Visiting a Balinese temple

A country rich in diversity
While our days were packed with company visits, I appreciated the variety of opportunities we had to learn more about Indonesian and Balinese culture as well. On the first day of the trip, we received our very own batik outfits, and then a few days later, we visited the National Textile Museum to learn how to make them ourselves. We had an impromptu karaoke session at a local bar in Jakarta. When we landed at the airport in Bali, our tour company received us by placing a beautiful chain of marigolds over each our heads. We had “hippie health food” while sitting on the floor at Clear Café ,and then witnessed a local religious procession while driving into the mountains toward Nandini Jungle Resort, our accommodations for the evening. That night, we enjoyed a show featuring traditional Balinese dance, which was slow and mesmerizing. Some of us even joined the dancers out on the floor, though we weren’t sure how to match their pace (apparently, it takes seven years to learn the dance properly.) It was wonderful to encounter Indonesian hospitality at every turn.

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Lounging after lunch at Clear Cafe.
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Cooking class on our last night in Bali
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Acai bowls in Bali

Returning home was certainly bittersweet, as I’m still nostalgic for warm ocean breezes, tropical fresh fruit, and especially those purple Balinese sunsets.

All photos in the post are credit Amber Liang!

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