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Encouraging entrepreneurial endeavour

Article - September 3, 2012
A strong entrepreneurial sector is vital as a source of employment and opportunities for the largest youth population in the world
Last year a BBC survey indicated that Indonesia was the best country in the world for an entrepreneur to start a business. Surveying more than 24,000 people across 24 countries, the BBC asked how highly innovation was valued in their country, how difficult it was to start a business, how highly valued entrepreneurs are in society and whether people with good ideas were generally able to put them into practice. When these answers were analysed, Indonesia beat out the US as the most supportive country for entrepreneurs.

Despite this positive indicator, the current level of entrepreneurship concerns many prominent leaders within Indonesia. “The number of entrepreneurs in Indonesia is so low: 0.18% of the population,” said Suryo Sulisto, the Chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN). Estimates hold that at least 2% of a national population should be entrepreneurs in order for a country to evolve into an ‘advanced’ economy. 

The Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Hatta Rajasa, explained during a speech to the Stekpi School of Business and Management in Jakarta that Indonesia needs more entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurs want to give added value to anything they touch and see.”

At the young age of 29, Nischal Jain fits this definition of an entrepreneur perfectly. When speaking about his motivations for setting up his business in a foreign and complex business environment, he explains: “It is as rewarding as it is challenging but I am driven by my passion for creating value. When I see an opportunity, my first instinct is to see how I can create value from it. Indonesia is an incredible land of opportunity and when I look at the value we have created for the country, I am very satisfied.” 

As arguably the youngest international entrepreneur operating in Indonesia, the Chairman of Apple Coal has a clear strategy for long-term success and expansion. “For me personally it is very important to keep on learning. I am 29 years old; I got into the game very early into my career. I don’t consider myself as a born leader, but I am somebody who is eager to lead and I am willing to learn.”

Mr Jain sees the worth in the statement made by his professor at Harvard, Robert Steven Kaplan, ex-Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs: “Great leadership is not about knowing all the answers; it is more often about asking the critical questions.”

The critical question today for Indonesia is how to encourage innovation, establish new businesses and create greater employment. Chris Kanter, the President Director of the Sigma Sembada Group, responded to the need for an estimated 4 million entrepreneurs by establishing the Global Entrepreneurship Programme Indonesia (GEPI). GEPI aims to place entrepreneurship as a key pillar of Indonesian economic development through raising awareness, improving the regulatory framework surrounding start-ups and helping to ensure that emerging entrepreneurs have access to finance and investors.

Members include such notable businessman and entrepreneurs as Rachmat Gobel of PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia, Shinta Widjaja Kamdani of Sintesa Group, and Guiseppe Nicolosi of Ernst & Young Indonesia. “We are working together to provide what we might call the right ‘ecosystems’ for emerging entrepreneurs,” says Mr Kanter.

Whilst there is certainly still work to be done in creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs here in Indonesia, Nischal Jain’s success and long-term commitment to Indonesia is indicative of the incredible potential here for other entrepreneurs, and supports the conclusion of the BBC’s survey.

Mr Jain feels that Indonesia is a rapidly growing and evolving nation and therefore needs business leaders who are willing to change and grow along with it. “A leader needs to know where he is going and how he is going to get there, but he also needs to be open to feedback and bring in the necessary changes. You should not be stubborn about change, as it will always happen, whether you like it or not. A successful entrepreneur needs to adapt to his environment and instigate change within his company and within himself in order to succeed.” It is for this reason that he has made the motto of Apple Coal ‘be courageous’. 

“Being courageous does not mean to be fearless. For me, courage means to be scared to death, but to still do the right thing,” says Mr Jain.

As Indonesia moves forward, a strong entrepreneurial sector will be vital as a source of employment and opportunities for the largest youth population in the world. This will require a commitment from the private sector to invest in technical training and human resource development, the government to ensure educational opportunities for all its children and young adults, and for individuals to have the courage to venture into new economic areas currently untouched.

Mr Jain’s advice to this bourgeoning entrepreneurial population is to never give up. “Entrepreneurship is about chasing your dreams. Sometimes you fail, at other times you succeed, but just keep on trying.”