South East Asia Special #1 – Jakarta, Indonesia

Apr 24, 2018

The essentials of Tech and startups in Jakarta Indonesia. Interview with Steven Ghoos – Managing Director at Lion & Lion

What is Lion and Lion’s main business?

Lion and Lion is a Digital Marketing agency started four years ago regionally. Our headquarters is in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and we’ve been on the market in Indonesia the last three years. Our business is Digital marketing but we go beyond that – we always look at creating value and revenue for our clients. Based on that we will work out a digital strategy which includes media, products, social, creative and strategy. Those are the key components of our service offering.

Can you give us some examples of the customers you’re working with?

Last year we acquired some big clients here such as Danone, we have almost all of their brands now. Another one is Google but also some Swedish brands like Tetra Pak and also some insurance and beauty brands in our portfolio.


How long have you been in Jakarta and what have you done before coming to Jakarta?

I arrived in Jakarta four years ago as a part of the Rocket Internet group. Before coming here I was working as a management consultant in Europe and became a bit bored working back home where the marginal benefits of the clients I served as a management consultant was quite small. I wanted to have some real impact and my prefered way was to become an entrepreneur but I did not have an idea of my own which is why I came in contact with Rocket Internet. At that time they were looking for people like me and I really felt they provided a good opportunity for me to do something where I would have more impact.


What are the biggest differences working in Europe and South East Asia?

Coming to South East Asia I was perceived as senior even though I was still in my early 30’s. That creates a lot of opportunity which landed me in a position where I manages a team of more than 20 people very early on in my career. That experience is really valuable and I would not have had that possibility in Europe.


What are the key challenges in Southeast Asia for companies as you see it?

 There are many but I would really say finding good talent, the educational system here is not great and there are not much core innovation going on. A lot of the innovation is imported from Europe or the US and that is also why you as a foreigner can have a good impact and position here. The cost to hire people is pretty low, but once you find good people the cost is actually quite high. There is a big distribution inequality there.


How would you describe the start-up scene and tech life in Jakarta, and how has it developed during the four years you’ve been here?

There’s has certainly been a big boom here which I think is mainly driven by that Indonesia has a very high population, 260 million. That obviously opens the eyes and wallets of investors but in the last couple of years only a few of the companies started here has been accepted and used by Indonesian consumers. I think the best examples are companies like GO-JEK and Traveloca. These companies have made it and found and where partially funded with foreign investment which is rare. What can also be said is that the market is not as developed as Europe or the US which means a lot of investments are required, and that’s why I think only the big ones will survive for now. There are not too many smaller disruptive companies here right now.

How do you see the development in the future for tech and startups in Jakarta?

One trend that’s coming up is Chinese companies coming to and investing in South East Asia. Companies like Tencent and Alibaba have started taking stakes in in local companies that seems promising, Tencent and Alibaba invest a lot of money into the local companies helping them to become the dominant platform and thereby expanding their influence in this region.


What do you think are the biggest mistakes people do in work life?

Personally I’ve had a couple of learnings from working with Rocket Internet and my own startups and one of the biggest lessons learned is to not spend time with morons. The quality of work is so important and if you work with people that can’t bring the quality it’s a waste of time.


How do you identify a moron?

Well, that’s a bit of an art, but I guess good people always stand out!


What other mistakes do you think people do in their entrepreneurial careers?

Everyone really needs to acknowledge the importance of execution. You can have great ideas but that doesn’t really matter. It’s really all about execution because when you have a really good idea you can be sure that 10 or 100’s of others have had the same idea before, what separates the wheat from the chaff is execution and timing. I also think relationships are a key to being successful, you need to know the people you are cooperation and working with, life is not only about work and you also need to have fun with the people that surround you.


As a leader, how do you try work to motivate and inspire others?

It depends on the person, you need to figure out what drives them. If I manage a team I will always have conversations with the individual team members to really try to find out what their individual motivations are and what drives them, and than try to support and drive them to realize that.


Do you have any advice to european or swedish companies wanting to establishing in Indonesia?

It’s a big country, which is why many people see the potential here and there are a lot of locals here that want to do business. My suggestion would be to come here and see how things work for yourself. The culture is very different which is why you really need to come over by yourself, as a company you should try to have a long term plan, try it out seriously but if it doesn’t work out you should see it as a quick learning experience.


What would you say the main cultural differences between Europe and Indonesia are?

The culture here is very family focused and there is a thin line between your work and private life. Being at work in many ways is more like being in a family than working at an company which of course is very different from Europe. People here are driven more by emotions which means it sometimes can be hard to rely on people.


Who would you suggest we should interview for this podcast?

Someone local, try to get their perspective on Indonesia and try to capture the ambitions that a normal citizen here might have, that would be interesting.

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