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.

7 Days in Indonesia

I’ve never been to Asia before. Actually, living in Miami and Southwest Florida for most of my life, I hadn’t even known very many Asian people. Broadening my social network was huge attraction of Columbia Business School, and the opportunity to make friends from all over the world has been an incredible experience. One that tomorrow morning will become even more amazing when I travel with my friend and clustermate Aphrodita, a native Indonesian, and 18 other students to Jakarta and Bali for Chazen Indonesia.

The anticipation for this trip has been tremendous. Excitement over the wide range of companies and government officials we will be meeting. Awe of the natural beauty we expect across the country. Disbelief at the incredible properties at which we are staying (seriously, wait for the pictures). A touch of anxiety over the 27 hours of travel to get there. Confusion as to what exactly “cat poo coffee” is, and why we will want to spend $8 on a cup.

I’m told the aromas are powerful

My mind has been racing with excitement about this trip for weeks now, but two aspects of the experience stand out as most interesting: batik and Nyepi.

Having lived most of my life in tropical climes, I can attest to how sweaty a business suit can be on a hot day, but our itinerary calls for plenty of business formal. Enter batik, a traditional pattern that is found on lightweight, open-collar shirts and dresses. This traditional garment is acceptable wear for westerners in formal situations. We all plan to purchase one there, and some guys are planning to skip the sport coat all together.

If Batik is good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for us.

Then, while in Bali, we are lucky enough to be present for Nyepi, the New Year’s celebration for the Balinese style of Hinduism. While the day itself is something of a day of atonement during which the entire island shuts down and many locals take day-long vows of silence, the celebrations on the eve of Nyepi promise to be a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience. Some Balinese people make statues of bamboo and paper to symbolize the demons of the past year, which are then paraded around the village and burned. Truly a cultural experience unlike any I have experienced.

Ogoh Ogoh, the demon statues for the Nyepi celebrations

These experiences should amount to a spring break journey unlike any other. I am excited to share more of our adventures and meetings as the trip progresses, but until then, I am very behind on my packing.

-Mark Adelman ’16