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Young Indonesian business leaders push for global engagement
With an election in about a year's time, many young Indonesian business leaders are pushing for greater global engagement from their next government.

Corruption remains a problem in Indonesia, and some presidential candidates are arguing for Indonesia to be better protected from international competition.

Jim Middleton speaks with managing director of Endeavour Indonesia, Sati Rasuanto.
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: In about a year's time, Indonesians will vote to elect a new president as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono completes his second term.

Many of the president's democratic and political reforms to the test. Corruption remains a problem, and some presidential hopefuls are arguing for a return to protection.

But young business leaders are pushing for greater global engagement.

Sati Rasuanto served as chief of staff to Gita Wirjawan, Indonesia's trade minister, when he was chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board.

She's now managing director of Endeavour Indonesia, a foundation dedicated to fostering young entrepreneurs.

Sati Rasuanto, it's good to talk to you.


JIM MIDDLETON: Fostering high impact entrepreneurs, that’s your organisation's brief. Sounds good. But is one of the reasons you've set up in Jakarta that opportunities for young entrepreneurs has been one of the missing links in the Indonesian economic jigsaw, if I can put it that way?

SATI RASUANTO: Yeah, definitely. Statistics have been thrown around in terms of how many entrepreneurs there are in Indonesia. And the latest number showed that it's less than 1 per cent of the populations are what they call productive entrepreneurs. And another research shows that for a country to be having a sustainable economy and to thrive you, you need between two to 3 per cent.

JIM MIDDLETON: It's early days yet, you've been set up in Indonesia for about a year, a little over that. So early days I know, but what's been the dividend so far?

SATI RASUANTO: One thing that we try to do is explain to people how important it is to have inspiration close to home. So, for example, I think, Silicon Valley was fuelled by people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, more recently Mark Zuckerberg. These people enable the young people to say, ‘hey, this is a good option for a career path.’ It's high risk but high return.

Indonesians don't yet have those kinds of inspiration at home. So what we want to do is cultivate these new young Indonesian entrepreneurs who can then be those role models.

JIM MIDDLETON: Is there a danger, from what you have described about economic and financial conditions in Indonesia, that young people who have the skills that Indonesia might need, as far as being entrepreneurs is concerned, that if they don't get the kinds of encouragement here that they will go overseas and that they will be lost to Indonesia?

SATI RASUANTO: It is, I think, more true in the past than now. I actually see a lot of young Indonesian professionals who are more and more interested to going back to Indonesia.

I think the challenge is when an Indonesian professional have worked overseas all their life and come back to Indonesia, they may not get the kind of financial return. But now the young entrepreneurs in Indonesia actually also realise that and they realise they need the skill set. So we see more and more young Indonesians who are willing to actually provide the kind of financial compensation that these young professionals would have gotten elsewhere.

JIM MIDDLETON: Let's talk more generally. This is a very different city from the one I first visited a quarter of a century ago. You are a young professional. You are a young professional, you are a woman. Is this city now providing you with the opportunities that would encourage you and people like you to think that your future is firmly set in Indonesia rather than having to look elsewhere to achieve your career ambitions?

SATI RASUANTO: Yeah, I feel very lucky actually being a woman born in Indonesia because, even though it has the largest Muslim population in the world, we are seen as just as like other professionals. They don't really see us as woman. Having said that, you see the competition, though, of being how do I say this? I think Cheryl Sandberg put it best in her book Lean In, I know it's mentioned many times, but she said something along of the lines of when you're a woman and a leader you can't be likeable and competent; it's likeable or competent.

Right, so our challenge as I think our challenge, as a female Indonesian, is how do we not lose the fact that we are female, and be a female leader instead of just being a leader who tries to follow.

JIM MIDDLETON: For you and people like you in Indonesia, if there were one thing that you think could be improved either by in terms of social attitudes or in government initiatives, what would it be?

SATI RASUANTO: I would say two actually, maybe three. One is infrastructure. I am sure that you've seen how...

JIM MIDDLETON: It’s a very difficult city to get around, I’ll say that.

SATI RASUANTO: Yes, and it really ruined our productivity. It really does. You can only do two or three different meetings in one day, right, or you will have one meeting in one place. It has come to a point where the infrastructure in Jakarta really hampers the productivity of people; it stops people from connecting to one another.

Second, related to that, is institution. Right the infrastructure doesn't work because the institution doesn't work. Our democracy have come to a point where, I mean it's improving a lot, but the ability to make big decisions such as infrastructure is hampered.

JIM MIDDLETON: And number three?

SATI RASUANTO: Number three is the risk of complacency, which is the one that is less obvious perhaps. All these projections about Indonesia is all projections. It's not reality.

JIM MIDDLETON: Sati Rasuanto, thank you very much indeed.

SATI RASUANTO: Thank you, Jim.
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