‘Humility is hunger’: B-boys and diplomats motivate at business conference (AIYA Long Read)

A sunny Saturday afternoon spent indoors all suited up and shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers seems like a mediocre event. But PPIA Monash’s Australia Indonesia Business Conference (AIBC) at Monash University Conference Centre was anything but that!

The inspiring lineup of speakers guided us all through the tasks for the day (21/04): breaking barriers and building connections. After the opening address and welcome, everyone headed off to hear from speakers in one of two panel rooms. I was fortunate enough to hear from 2Tor Co-Founder Lawrence Tann and AIC Engagement Coordinator Ghian Tjandaputra.

From b-boy to 2tor

Lawrence focused on how he found the courage to start his own successful business called 2Tor, an app for peer-to-peer mentoring. Dressed in a smart white shirt, he surprised us all in explaining how his idea for this newly launched app came from breakdancing. As a b-boy (break-dancer) he wanted to help his friends get recognised and find work.  From this humble beginning he was quickly shut down because the idea was too niche.

Along with friends, he went away and took on a ‘normal’ office job, but just could not let go. They took their Monash business studies to task and built a business case and plan which lead to successful seed funding. Now, they have 4,000 pre-registered tutors eager to teach what they know across Melbourne. 2tor is focused on making sure these people are quality and safe while rolling the company out. Lawrence said he broke into this space by never giving up and staying humble. This ensured he continued to build a community to support his app and personal growth.

From student to diplomat

After a bite for morning tea and a chat with new friends, I sat with Ghian from AIC for his talk. He provided a lively talk that went to space with Elon Musk before finding his ikagai (which is Japanese for purpose based on a very intersectional approach). Ghian got the audience to question their bias through Musk’s ‘first principles thinking’ approach. From this interrogation of fundamentals Ghian elaborated on how he applied this to question his own assumptions about seemingly being fated to go from Monash directly to Indonesian Government diplomat.

In question time, Ghian elaborated that nine years of being outside Indonesia has been important in developing the critical distance needed to see the first principles of his thinking. This made it easier to establish ikagai, which is about more than passion. He emphasised that people need to do more than do what they want to do – do what you enjoy and help the world.

Using this nuanced self-awareness, he has launched into a four-year (and counting) career with the AIC, diplomatically strengthening the bilateral relationship. Further crowd questions uncovered that his key value is diversity; this has enriched his ability to embrace different people and ideas in his work. Diversity and community launched these two careers through persistent barriers.

“Failure is learning, and humility is hunger”

Meanwhile, AIYA Victoria President Stephen Sebastian Tedja listened to innovator and businessman Alexander Rusli, before we both sat down with him for his thoughts on breaking barriers at the end of the evening. This was an exciting talk that covered his interesting career, tips for students and graduates plus some ideas on the Australian-Indonesian relationship.

Alex has worked in many different companies and industries, liking being someone who solves problems by taking action. Alex explained how opportunity and personal interest drove him to move between diverse roles, including as Australian academic, Indonesian government advisor, technology innovator and more. Alex enjoys using quick concrete decisions to be constantly impactful by addressing core issues. An awareness of the market is essential, which is why he praised government culture shifts that promote people faster so they are better able to make realistic changes for Indonesia.

This man of action stressed that failure is learning, experience is growing, and humility is hunger. These three maxims combine to make a graduate a powerful recruit who adds value to an organisation. His other ingredient is speed; the world is fast, so make mistakes quickly, learn quicker and get the next opportunity faster. Alex stated “the fear of failure needs to be erased … to pivot quickly” towards the next opportunity.

He also stressed that if you aren’t working, make plans and connections constantly – just like the conference attendees. Alex emphasised that students must balance study with getting on-the-ground insights; study and then work to chase your passions with experience.

Building resilience through shared communities

After a short snack and room change we were back to the plenary to be delighted by Monash Business School’s Director of Engagement Professor Edward Buckingham. Despite the casual presentation sprinkled with Indonesian and Mandarin, he gave our minds some serious work.

Everyone explored Donald Rumsfield’s known-unknown matrix to build strategies that get us out of routines and address the unpredictable. Professor Buckingham urged the students to find commonality in the uncommon, to go beyond their familiar friends, and to seek new experiences. Professor Buckingham closed with how getting of your comfort zone is about getting in touch with ideas you have not thought of before. Transforming the uncomfortable and the unknown is the professor’s advice to break barriers.

AIYA later chatted with him and focused on strategies to build resilience through shared communities. He discussed how getting in early with a network like AIYA is important to make lasting connections. This gives students the opportunity to have new experiences they would have never dreamed of, and also to build resilience. He added that sometimes, diving into the deep end can be too much, so you need to know your boundaries and be aware of others’ limits too. His advice is for students to record their experiences, set regular goals to expand their world, and reflect on change often.

More poor Indonesians than the Australian population

The day didn’t end there! Pak Eko Putro Sandjojo, Indonesia Minister of Village Development, Disadvantages, Regions and Transportation, captivated the crowd with a detailed explanation of his Ministry’s work. Pak Sandjojo made it quickly clear that he is a hard-headed man with a head for facts.

He draws motivation to act from the fact that more Indonesians live in poverty than the population of Australia. His passion keeps him calm under immense pressure. Mr Sandjojo stamped out corruption in his own department, lifting them up national public service ranks and gaining acclamation. One thousand employees were found corrupt according to an official investigation. He had no problem standing by his decision, which is admirable given the months of protests and legal proceedings against him.

Mr Sandjojo emphasised it is up to strong government administration at a village level to lift people out of poverty. That is his focus in delivering training, audits and targeted construction works across Indonesia. Yet just as he focuses on Indonesia beyond the city limits, Jakarta awarded him a prestigious public service medal. They recognise that strong villages reduce the strain on cities like theirs, which are already overworked.

He finished with a reminder from Made Utari Rumyanti that it was Kartini Day, and explained how his wife has been instrumental in his extraordinary efforts to break barriers in his work.

Final thoughts

Over some delicious dinner (thanks Bu Diana!), AIYA got the exclusive chance to chat with Lutfi, PPIA Monash Co-Project Manager for AIBC 2018. The motivated team leader is studying a Bachelor of International Business and Political Science to get a hard start on his future in the Indonesian public service. For Lutfi, this was a chance to get inspired and discover some real skills in project management.

Mr Sandjojo made it clear to him that you need to lead with faith and surround yourself with great people to make excellent things happen. This clearly was already in his mind as evidenced by the quality international event- speakers came from across Australia and Indonesia to inspire people on this day. Lutfi made it clear that PPIA Monash has responded to their members interests when selecting this topic. He discussed the trick in balancing studies with passion to make a future for yourself.

The idea of getting out of your comfort zone requires breaking barriers such as fear of unknown. That is what Lutfi hopes people got from the conference; a bit of confidence and insight to do what you want to do.

With the day done, it was all about what we can do. Going forward, how can we break barriers every day and reach the next goal? If you attended the event, this proved not too hard to do with so much semangat on show and new friends for a passion-filled future.

Diversity is resilience: perspectives on tourism and the economy with PPIA Victoria

PPIA Victoria’s special lecture with The Honourable Mr Edwin Hidayat Abdullah, Indonesian Deputy of Energy, Logistics, Metro and Tourism from the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, emphasised that diversity is resilience on Friday night.

The mostly Indonesian crowd attentively listened to the 45-minute English language lecture on the range of tourism operations that exist in Indonesia.

Post-event photo opportunities with Mr. Edwin Hidayat Abdullah. Photo credit: PPIA Victoria

The ‘10 new Balis’ project has already been discussed from many perspectives. This time, it was a focus on economics, specifically its role in one in ten world jobs; its projected 14% share of Indonesian GDP; its function in motivating the Indonesian infrastructure boom; and much more. A focus beyond Bali aims to shift 40% of all Indonesia tourist arrivals across Indonesia. This supports Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s Nawacita (‘National Vision’) and develops a robust economy.

Mr Abdullah cogently explained how easy it is to capitalise on the natural beauty of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands through experience tourism. He discussed the diverse work being done to spread word of the wonderful times that can be had on beaches, in resorts, with locals and without cost.

In response to the role of technology to supercharge these efforts, the Ministry has launched an app called Xplorin that creates connections between all the different opportunities already available.

While natural beauty is the draw, it can also be a danger. Recent volcanic eruptions emphasise how Indonesia is at risk of billions of rupiah lost through travel cancelations and empty hotels if this project fails. Strength in diversity is emphasised by the long list of tourism modes being implemented across the archipelago by the Ministry. There will be environmental, luxury, cultural and homestay options, with many more besides.

This is drawing major chains like Paramount to establish themselves in new frontiers like Mandalika. This success champions the Ministry’s track record in clearing road blocks to benefit everyone.

All the projects emphasise the importance of addressing ‘government, business and local interest’. That order seems to suggest the way things have been done in Indonesia for a long time, but there is also the feeling of innovation. The homestay programs and cultural tourism involve the local population without creating over-dependence. My own experience in remote communities makes it clear that this is integral to Indonesia’s long-term success.

Question time focused primarily on two aspects – environment and community. Abdullah Mansoer, President Director of Indonesia Tourism Development Centre, Edi Setiono, Director of Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur and Prambanan, and Haryo Yunianto, Director of Patra Jasa, joined Mr Abdullah onstage. The four individuals answered a variety of questions from the enthusiastic student crowd.

Evelynd from Monash University asked about the intersection between reducing floating plastic and tourism. She suggested that environmental issue is one block to increased tourism. Mr Mansoer responded with a focus on the work being done to involve Bali locals in beach clean-up work. In response to a push to go beyond, there was acknowledgment that these strategies could be more broadly implemented with the right support.

Diski Naim from the Indonesia Diaspora Network asked about the role his members can have to promote Indonesian tourism. He made the point that they uniquely understand both why Indonesia is amazing and how Australians would best understand that. I added the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association would be able to support such an effort even further due to their position in the bilateral relationship.

All the officials present agreed that something must be organised and officially supported to make the most of this impressive people power. This notion provided in-principle support to Mr Naim’s idea that community goes beyond experience branding when getting Indonesia into local minds.

All questions emphasised the importance of a diverse and decentralised system. On the night, Bhineka Ika Tunggul (‘Strength in Diversity’, Indonesia’s national motto) was indeed linked to a robust and capable Indonesia for the future of tourism.

Film Review: “Three Sassy Sisters” (IFF)

The 12th Indonesian Film Festival (IFF) entertained audiences for another year in April with a fresh array of films. With this year’s theme, ‘Fragments of Time’, the festival explored the cinematic development of the Indonesian film industry throughout the years. Nia Dinata’s Ini Kisah Tiga Dara (Three Sassy Sisters) serves as a homage to the classic 1957 musical film Tiga Dara. AIYA Victoria President Sam Shlansky reviews the 2016 remake.

Songs, soul and sass makes this a fun movie showcasing wonderful Indonesia. As part of the Indonesian Film Festival in Melbourne, I went along to this movie with an AIYA Victoria mate, Ade. It is always great to go to these community events because I get to see lots of friends from AIYA, PPIA and the Indonesian Australia community- there’s just such a nice vibe of kesahabatan here. (Less mush and more movie might be good though, hey!)

This was a really fun film that reimagines an iconic moment in Indonesian cinema. The original Tiga Dara (directed by Usmar Ismail) was a pivotal feminist celebration. It did well in the Indonesian box office at the time and pushed the envelope.

This film follows three sisters who have returned home to help their Dad with his hotel. It is enjoyable getting to know these girls who are all reaching for something. The central and eldest sister is being pushed towards love and family while fighting for independence. The middle child has a lot of the middle child syndrome. Desperately jealous, she demands the central male love interest to spite her sister and despite an old friend. Last and least is the youngest sister. She is a young lover with a handsome blasteran boyfriend. Grandma twists, dances and “ibus” her way through the story. It is a really great film for its focus on women and their character. It is really interesting that the men in terms of character are a trigger (love interest) or a setting (Dad and his hotel) mostly.

Aside from pushing along as a dramatic love story with lots of fun and songs (still in my head), this is a showcase of Indonesia. The setting is beautiful and “Bali” enough to feel accessible to a Western audience. Even more Indonesian is how the boys are basically a pair of hipsters with full on emotions and desires, and they listen (astaga). This adds to the feminist rope tugging this story along. It is a refreshingly complex idea that Indonesia has many kinds of men (the father and his friends are the chauvinistic archetypes we often know) and many kinds of women (the sisters and grandma fit a spectrum). This is a new character of Indonesia that I have met.

This modern celebration of the original film’s feminism trips over by the end. Maybe this reflects certain people’s insight into Indonesia. As Elizebeth E. Pisani says, “Indonesia is the bad boyfriend you keep coming back to.” Truly, this bad boyfriend cuts off its hip manbun and chops down the ideas of female freedom.

Tatyana Akman, Shanty Paredes and Tara Basro (L-R) star in the film. Image: Ini Kisah Tiga Dara

The ending leaves a lot to be desired. Love wins, men win and the film loses something. The magical complexity simply strung together with catchy, cutesy songs ends on a pretty standard note. Each sister finds a jodoh and even Dad does too. Standard dua anak cukup families are ready to be made with Grandma’s blessing. The sun sets over the magical waters of Indonesia as nothing much changes.

Or is it really that boring? Is it really that standard? Is it the film’s fault? The men get rejected in their proposals by their leading ladies… with a promise of “later” that is more than a nanti tossed across a market holder. Dad’s success is surprising, but then he has no actual background or arc so it is kind of a strange moment. It feels standard stuff that love wins and women cannot be independent of some greater structure. The historic Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? kiss gave us this Indonesian film formula that girls will live, and then get a boy.

In the end, Ini Kisah Tiga Dara is a fun film with a few faults but also great songs and ideas to explore. The sass of this movie keeps it going and makes us all laugh. The soul of this movie is modern and fresh. The songs keep it fun and interesting. Overall a great movie to get us thinking about Indonesia… or singing about the matriarchy.