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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Blissful in Bali: Taking Hospitality to the Next Level

Lunch at the Potato Head Beach Club, Katamama Boutique Hotel, Seminyak, Bali

Some say that the best way to understand your customer is to become a customer yourself. We had the opportunity to do just that during our three days in Bali on the second half of Chazen Indonesia, as we met with hospitality experts and patronized their establishments.

With 80% of Bali’s economy composed of tourism businesses, it was the perfect place to dive into the hospitality industry. We started our trip at the Katamama Boutique Hotel in Seminyak, Bali. After a delicious lunch at the hotel’s Potato Head Beach Club, we repaired to a hotel suite for an intimate and scintillating conversation with Andrew Steele, the Managing Director Bali & Corporate of the Potato Head Family.

Mr. Steele gave us an overview of his background, and plenty of insights into the current state of the hospitality industry. Having been born in Australia and grown up in Hong Kong, he spent 16 years working at Shangri La Group before joining Potato Head.

“You can’t fake cool – either you have it or you don’t,” he explained. In his view, the hospitality industry hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years, other than becoming more consolidated (the Starwood-Marriott merger.) Large brands are buying smaller boutique brands in an attempt to reach younger consumers. “But you can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” Mr. Steele said.

The restaurant features tons of greenery indoors, including the air plants hanging above the bar!

With the lack of disruption in the hospitality industry, Mr. Steele perceived that the time was ripe to introduce innovative concepts in customer experience that set Potato Head apart from other hospitality brands. He spoke about the importance of truly understanding your customer: Where do they go? What do they buy? What is important to them? What do they want? What do they value?

He also shared his thoughts on millennials – they “want to amalgamate experiences, not assets,” and value sustainability, environmental stewardship, engagement with community, and honesty and transparency in a brand. Handmade goods are more valuable to millennials than a traditional luxury retail item because they reflect the owner’s unique identity. At the same time, millennials are the “me generation” and will prioritize getting a good selfie above all. “Give them a green wall and they’ll ignore everything else,” Steele said. Companies should leverage this understanding to enable the millennial consumer’s journey toward self-expression.

A thought-provoking art installation in front of the Katamama Hotel

As far as doing good, Potato Head has several initiatives in place. The brand’s merchandising line works with local artisans and factories to use leftover materials in creating their furniture and other designs. They also chose to build a costly desalination facility for their water needs rather than rely on already-strained local water resources.

Mr. Steele spoke about the limitations to technology. “You need consistency to create an emotional journey, and tech doesn’t give you that,” he said. Brands need to use other means to create emotional touchpoints with customers because without an emotional connection, there is no sale. At Potato Head, he’s handled this with some innovative approaches to improving customer experience. For example, he eliminated the traditional hotel check-in desk and welcome drink. Instead, guests check in easily via a digital check in process and proceed to their rooms, where a bartender meets them and mixes a complimentary drink of their choice in the room.

The beginning of a beautiful sunset

Our conversation with Mr. Steele certainly gave us a lot of food for thought. Afterwards, he joined us at the resort’s bar for a poolside sundowner party accompanied by an out-of-this-world Bali sunset. As the sky danced through brilliant shades of peach, orange, pink and purple, we frolicked in the warm waves and lounged poolside — the perfect close to a blissful day in paradise.

Traditional Balinese dancers at the opening of Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sanctuary

Another highlight of our time in Bali was the serendipitous invitation we received to the exclusive opening reception of Bali’s new and one-of-a-kind Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sancuary on January 12. Earlier in the week, in Jakarta, we met with MAP (Mitra Adi Perkasa) executive Virendra Sharma, who generously invited us to join him at the event “if we happened to be in Bali over the weekend.” (MAP operates all of the Starbucks stores in Indonesia.) It so happened that we would be in Bali, staying at a resort near the new Starbucks over the weekend — in fact, we even caught the same flight from Jakarta to Bali as Mr. Sharma!

The Sanctuary is the biggest Starbucks location in Southeast Asia, and at 20,000 square feet, includes multistory cafe space and a lovely garden courtyard where customers can experience the coffee journey from bean to cup. At the reception, we had the opportunity to meet Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, as well as reconnect with Mr. Sharma.

Other highlights of our time in Bali included a tour of the Kopi Luwak “Cat Poop coffee” plantation, a visit to the Ubud Monkey Forest, a stay at the gorgeous Nandini Jungle Resort and treatments at its transportative River Spa in Ubud.

Learning the art of Balinese cooking under the watchful eye of Chef Uduyara

We celebrated our last night together with a cooking class, dinner and night out at La Favela club. At our farewell dinner, each of us shared our favorite moments of the trip. Students mentioned the great diversity of companies we visited, our impromptu singalong with the band at the beer hall we visited, the chance to get a massage and wash off under a waterfall in Ubud, and encountering the tropical plants (Bali is one of the most biodiverse places in the world.)

I’ll be back soon with a final wrap-up blog post with reflections on the trip. Until then, everyone on Chazen Indonesia offers a huge thank you to our trip organizers Sanchit Ladha ’19, Diana McKeage ’19, and Bolu Adeyeye ’19, as well as Professor Liz Webb and Amber Liang of the Chazen Institute who accompanied us on our journey.

Breakfast in Bali. I think it’s going to be a good day…

Doing Business in Batik

Office tour at Go-Jek

“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.

Our visit at BKPM
Mr. Lembong (center) in conversation with CBS Professor Liz Webb and CBS students.

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.

Photo following the tour of the Citra Abadi Sejati factory

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.

Joining in with the band at Paulaner Brauhaus
Batik workshop at the Textile Museum
Enjoying the view at Skye Bar

Stay tuned in the next few days for a recap of our adventures in Bali during the second half of the trip!

Indonesia Here We Come!

Hello from the Coral Executive Lounge in Don Mueang International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand! In a moment I’ll be boarding my flight to Jakarta to kick off Chazen Indonesia. I’m Beth Connolly and I’ll be your official Chazen Student Travel Blogger for this trip.

This trip comes at the midpoint of my first-ever trip to Asia. I spent the past week traveling through Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and Bangkok with CBS classmates and friends. I’m excited to share my experiences with you here on this blog and over on the @ColumbiaChazen Instagram account, so be sure to follow along in both places.

Our illustrious trip leaders Sanchit, Diana and Bolu have planned for us a week of company visits and cultural activities that will help our group of 26 CBS students better understand Indonesia’s rich culture and heritage. We’ll begin the week in Jakarta, where we’ll conduct the majority of our company visits, covering a wide range of industries, and gain a broad understanding of the country’s economy. Then we’ll head to Bali for the second half of the week, getting a closer look at that region’s tourism business and enjoying the fruits of its hospitality for ourselves. Throughout the week we’ll have the chance to interact with local experts, including CBS alums based in the area.

Our group at Nyonya

In preparation for the trip, we gathered last semester at Nyonya, a restaurant in NYC, to enjoy Rendang and other traditional Indonesian dishes. We even learned about the cultural significance of the dish with some helpful reading materials.

Last month we also held a pre-departure meeting on campus to cover the essential preparation for our trip. Most important task: getting fitted for the Indonesian batik shirts we’ll receive upon our arrival and will be wearing as formal attire to our company visits!

That’s all for now, our flight to Jakarta is departing soon and I don’t want to miss it! Stay tuned for more updates coming to this blog and the @ColumbiaChazen Insta.

Economic, Cultural, and Ethnic Diversity in Emerging Indonesia

With a full week back in New York to reflect on my experiences in Indonesia, I can’t help but dwell on the implications of the stark differences between our time in Jakarta and Bali. The more I reminisce on our robust economic discussions with the Minister of Finance and breadth of market leadership of the Lippo Group, the more the contrast with the rich cultural adventure we had in Bali begins to crystalize into several interesting takeaways about Indonesia.

  1. Despite its size and potential, Indonesia faces difficult challenges to establishing itself as an economic powerhouse. If a visitor saw only Jakarta, he might walk away thinking Indonesia needs just an investment in infrastructure to establish itself as an economic power. However, the night and day contrast with Bali highlights the geographic fragmentation of the nation, which is much more daunting challenge nationwide than the infrastructure in the capital. For instance, e-commerce is a tremendous area of interest, but can a company like Amazon truly offer two-day shipping to 6,000 inhabited islands each with its own infrastructure issues?
  2. That said, Jakarta may be poised to compete as a regional center of business. I left Jakarta with a strong interest in visiting Singapore and seeing how a more developed Southeast Asian city economy operates. While there are geographic hurdles for the nation as a whole, Jakarta’s infrastructure challenges seem manageable with shrewd planning and wisely-utilized investment. It seems, anecdotally, as though Indonesian talent may be staying or returning home more than in recent history, indicating that the minds may be there to make Jakarta a player in the region.
  3. The challenges Indonesia doesn’t face are as interesting as the ones they do face. Indonesia is a country that is very ethnically diverse and features a tremendous array of cultures and dialects. In addition, it has the largest population of Muslim people in the world, as about 88% of its 250 million people practice Islam. In the 21st century, many other countries that fit these profiles are facing issues of disjointed populations, civil unrest or violence, religious extremism, and other cultural challenges that prevent economic issues from being addressed. This is not the case in Indonesia. Despite cultural differences, Indonesia is largely a unified, harmonious country whose issues are economic, not civic. This speaks volume about the people of this country and its future prospects.

This trip was a great first experience for me in Asia. The opportunity to learn so much about the business environment in an emerging market combined with the utterly unique cultural experience of the Balinese New Year celebrations made for memories I will cherish for years to come. If current or prospective students reading this blog have any doubts about the Chazen experience, I can promise it is among the most enriching I have had.

A tale of two trips: natural beauty and Nyepi in Bali

It took about 30 hours to travel from New York to Jakarta. It took about one hour to travel from Jakarta to Bali. When we landed in Bali, if felt like the second trip had taken us further. We had heard that Indonesia is an extremely multicultural country, but witnessing the divergence between these two regions separated by just about 750 miles was an eye-opening experience.

From the first step out of the airport, it felt like a another world. Lush greenery, shimmering blue waters, cloudless skies unscraped by buildings, scaffolding, and the developmental signs of an emerging economy. The only evident emergence was a need for sunscreen.

It's green in Bali
It’s green in Bali

While nearly 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, most Balinese practice a local form of Hinduism, bearing deep effects on the culture and cuisine of the island. We saw this quickly as we dined on suckling pig prepared several ways for lunch and cooled down with cold Bintangs, a popular Indonesian beer.

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Babi Guling and Lawar. Balinese roast pork. Delicious.

 

The character of the trip was instantly different. From visits to a Hindu water temple and a park to feed monkeys to a traditional Balinese dance recital and a dip in the Indian Ocean, it was almost baffling that just the day before we were discussing tax incentives for investment and strategies for raising the collection base with the finance minister. The challenges of infrastructure in an emerging economy felt worlds away on this picturesque island marked by such unique culture.

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Purifying the sacred springs of a water temple

 

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The natural spring at the water temple

 

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Afternoon snack with new friends

 

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Maybe better friends than some of us hoped

 

No experience better embodied this than the preparations and parades for Nyepi, the Balinese New Year. Nyepi involves several days of preparation culminating with a day of silence symbolizing purification for the New Year. During the day of silence the entire island shuts down and tourists are not to leave their resorts (was not a problem with how beautiful our resort was), but the night before includes parades in every village. The children of these villages spend weeks building Ogoh Ogoh, demon statues made of bamboo frames that are destroyed at the end of the night. To be quite honest, being at this parade was a once in a lifetime cultural experience that I never dreamed I might witness. Undoubtedly a #WhyCBS moment.

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They put big time work into these Ogoh Ogoh
 

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Electric Ogoh Ogoh
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Our resort. This is a school trip. Seriously.
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It was snowing in New York as I took this picture.
 

The day of silence was extremely relaxing at the Mulia resort. Hours by the pool, a little tennis, a lavish dinner, and good times with great friends new and old. One of the most relaxing and enjoyable days I have had in a long time. GDP per capita didn’t cross my mind once.

Growth, Issues, and Infrastructure in Jakarta

With travel delays behind me, I arrived in Jakarta on Monday night in time to join my classmates for a family style Indonesian dinner before retiring to the single nicest hotel in which I have ever stayed. Well done, Mandarin Oriental, you’ve found yourselves a new brand advocate.

Seriously though, this view, with $40 massages.
Seriously though, this view, with $40 massages.

Fish head stew, sauteed beef, chicken, and all kinds of Indonesian goodness
Fish head stew, sauteed beef, chicken, and all kinds of Indonesian goodness

As we settled in for our days of meetings, we learned a little background on our host nation. Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world by population, and actually is a G20 economy, but has seen uneven periods of growth over the years under different political regimes and macroeconomic conditions. Geographically, it consists of more than 17,000 islands, roughly 6,000 of which are occupied, that spread a wider range than the US coast to coast. About 10% of the population lives in Jakarta, a developed cosmopolitan city of skyscrapers.

This is not a small island nation
This is not a small island nation

Our roster of meetings in Jakarta had a wide range, from a public school, to public officials, to a social network and a state-owned bank. Yet across these many meetings, several recurring issues facing Indonesia as they posture for growth continually arose.

During our 3 days of visits we had the opportunity to meet with the following firms/officials

  • An elementary school
  • Saratoga Capital, a private equity firm
  • The Governor of Jakarta
  • Lippo group, a diversified conglomerate that has market leading entities in telecom, retail, and other industries
  • Mandiri Bank, the largest bank in Indonesia
  • Astra International, another large conglomerate in manufacturing, automotive, commodities and infrastructure
  • The Minister of Finance for Indonesia
  • Kaskus, a social network/tech startup of sorts with strong engagement among Indoesians

Taking selfies with Jakarta's governor
Taking selfies with Jakarta’s governor

Ok so the selfie stick was kind of a thing. This time with John Riady, Director of Lippo Group
Ok so the selfie stick was kind of a thing. This time with John Riady, Director of Lippo Group

Storytelling at an Indonesian elementary school
Storytelling at an Indonesian elementary school

While these officials and business leaders all offered their own perspectives on the country at large as well as their individual challenges, several overarching themes emerged. There is nearly universal agreement that Indonesia is an economy with tremendous potential that is currently unmet. Recent growth in the middle class and expanding internet penetration could help this country move its economic rankings closer to its population rankings. However, there are serious issues impeding this movement.

For one, corruption has historically been an issue, though the new regime seems intent on curbing it. Further, infrastructure is a tremendous challenge both in the capital and across the nation. Jakarta lacks effective public transport and its roads are a perpetual logjam of disorganized traffic. On the trip from the airport to the hotel, we saw a man walk up to the driver’s door of a public bus and take over for the driver, who walked across the street to the mall. No one on the bus seemed to find this unusual.

From a national infrastructure perspective, several companies with which we met saw ecommerce as an area of huge potential in Indonesia, yet no one appeared to have an answer for the logistical challenges of making deliveries to 6,000 islands in a country without reliable postal service. Nor did they have much of an answer for how domestic players could compete with the Alibabas and Amazons of the world if they chose to enter Indonesia.

Castrol did a study that found Jakarta's traffic worst in the world. After sitting in this, we believe it.
Castrol did a study that found Jakarta’s traffic worst in the world. After sitting in this, we believe it.

Our meetings in Jakarta were hugely educational and leave me with a tremendous interest in this high potential economy moving forward, yet the obstacles Indonesia must overcome are formidable, and many in our group question how they will be tackled. Nonetheless the public officials with which we met were undoubtedly charismatic and aware of their nation’s issues. As such, Indonesia will be an exciting economy to follow in the coming years.