“In Indonesia, we measure distance in time, not in kilometers,” said our tour guide, Pahet, as he rattled off our packed itinerary for the day on Monday morning, the first day of the Chazen Indonesia trip. Later that day, at our visit to the Citra Abadi Sejati textile factory, our guide echoed the sentiment with a smile after we recounted our multi-hour adventure in Jakarta traffic: “Has that been one of your important learnings from today?”
It was just one of many realities of Indonesian life we confronted face to face in our three days in the country’s vibrant capital city. We also learned how to make the traditional Indonesian attire (the batik); how to breathe air thick with humidity; how to make room in our stomachs for the delightful pastries and treats we are offered at each company visit; and about many of the challenges and opportunities that face Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world.
Over the course of three days in the nation’s capital and largest city, we visited seven different companies, ranging from technology startups to established textile producers and retail managers. At BKPM (Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board), an agency that assists foreigners with investing in Indonesia, we met with Mr. Thomas Lembong, who gave us an overview of Indonesia’s political and economic history. He spoke about the importance of aligning a country’s economic ambitions with a realistic self-awareness of its character, strengths and weaknesses. With Indonesian cultural strengths being hospitality, tolerance, and openness, he expects the nation to continue growing its tourism potential.
Later that day, at the Citra Abadi Sejati textile factory, operated by Busana Apparel Group, one of the largest textile manufacturers in the world, we got behind the scenes to see how skirts and pants are produced for brands like J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and J. Jill. On a walking tour of four different factories, we saw every step of the process, from fabric selection and sourcing to sewing, dying, folding, ironing, tagging and finishing. It was fascinating to better understand this key component of the US and international fashion and retail industries.
Another highlight of our company visits was our tour of Go-Jek’s Jakarta office. It’s reminiscent of a typical West Coast tech office space, with lots of open space and colorful, on-brand design elements. The Go-Play room includes games while the Go-Chill room offers a place to lounge, and when employees need a quick recharge, they can head to the Go-Sleep room.
Go-Jek started in 2010 as an ojek-hailing call center (ojeks are motor scooters that accept passengers, a popular form of transit in Jakarta) and has since become a platform offering users access to shopping and restaurant delivery, taxis, digital payments, event and movie tickets and much more. Go-Jek users can even top up their bank account by giving cash to a driver, who also serves as a “mobile teller.” We learned about their recent expansion into Vietnam and plans for future growth.
Of course, our time in Jakarta wasn’t all work and no play! We enjoyed a batik-making workshop at Jakarta’s Textile Museum, traditional massages at our hotel spa, a meet-up with Columbia alumni in a beautiful rooftop bar, and an impromptu karaoke night at a local beer hall with a live band.
Stay tuned in the next few days for a recap of our adventures in Bali during the second half of the trip!