As we network with college students from Indonesia, I am continuously surprised by their reaction to American students. The students that we have met so far are fascinated by American culture and often know more than I do about popular artists and trends in the United States. Students also express great interest in traveling to the United States to study. Compared to the Indonesian interest in American culture, the American interest in Indonesian culture is very low. Many of my peers from home know little about the area and have never even considered visiting or studying anywhere in Southeast Asia. I feel that if there were more programs such as @ America in the U.S., American students would be more inclined to learn more about the area and want to visit. If more colleges and universities focused on interaction and connection with Indonesia, I feel that there would be much more American interest in learning about the culture.
Today was pretty busy, beginning around 7:30am and just ending now around 10pm. We were all over Jakarta today, starting with a breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton where we met with AmCham Executives and discussed some of the major obstacles with conducting business in Indonesia (i.e. corruption issues and the role of women in the workplace). Then we had a meeting with the Ritz-Carlton Executives where they taught us the core values and history of the company’s prestigious brand. I was especially impressed with the “line up” they did at the end of the meeting, where several of their employees came in and were essentially cold called on different service aspects they’d been working to improve here at the hotel. The Ritz obviously has an incredible reputation of outstanding customer service, but I enjoyed hearing their inspirational quote of the day, and personal stories. After this, we got on the bus and after much traffic, eventually made it to the Sari Roti Bakery. This was so cool because we got to actually get dressed and sanitized and go into the factory to see how the bread is made. I was shocked by how fast the employees sort the machine made rolls! Fortunately, they gave us many different kinds to sample 🙂
The Indonesia students were very cool. I thought the girl sitting behind me, Gina, was hilarious. During the talk, she was Facebooking on her iPad… she Facebooked me. She was very bubbly and was microphone happy.
After the main speech, there was some informal time for the Indonesian and American students to talk. I was really impressed by the level of all the students’ English speaking. John Mark and I shared some of our college experiences, they were particularly interested in fraternity life. Animal House: real or fiction? They also asked about American perspective on Indonesia. I talked about reasons of Indonesia’s growing importance, like the obvious: largest democracy, etc. I also mentioned that Indonesia is very commodity rich and is attracting increasing attention. I don’t think they liked that. Must be a sensitive topic.
Visiting the BTPN branch site was an interesting experience to see micro retail banking in action. The thumbprint-based transaction module stood out. It fits well with BTPN’s marketing strategy of targeting the mass micro market, is cost effective, and is useful with consumers who cannot write. The use of the module shows the key differences in retail banking in emerging markets. The tellers go to the consumer, rather than the other way around.
Today was thus far the most interesting day for me. I not only walked to the ‘city’ twice but learned a great deal about the mobile industry in Indonesia and its trends around the world. However, today I would like to address an interesting interaction I had with the Indonesian students at @America. I met 3 girls, Gingo, Monica, and Herra. They first approached to me asking if I was the Korean student in the group. And for the next 20 minutes they talked about the Korean pop-stars and dramas which a half of those I never heard of. They knew more about the Korean music trend and what is on the TV at 9PM (dramas…). They seemed a little disappointing when I told them that I never heard of certain pop-groups. Yet we were able to have fun and continue the discussions due to the common ground we had.
Although my trip to Bali before arriving to Jakarta was not an official part of the study abroad program, I just thought I would go ahead and share my thoughts of the place as well as recommend a couple of places to visit in case anyone is interested in exploring this island sometime in the future…
My top-five list of everything that makes bali GREAT: (places, people, food, etc)
1. Ubud: The Sacred Monkey Forest, the amazing sights as well as the spirituality presen tin this part of Bali are bound to impress and inspire anyone.
I thought it was really interesting how lessons learned from previous crises have shaped and improved industries in Indonesia.
This recurring theme first became evident to me during our conversation with Jerry Ng and Manggi Habir regarding the Indonesian Banking Structure. Mr. Habir pointed out how the crisis of 98′ really affected the way Indonesian bankers approached business in the subsequent years. The changes they implemented in the system after this crisis ultimately helped them wether the 2008 financial crisis.
During the past fall semester, I had the opportunity to be part of a course on Women, Pease and Justice in the world. I found the class to be extremely worthwhile, as learning more about the concept of microfinance highlighted a way for me to combine my passion for social justice and women’s empowerment with saavy comm-school business principles.
As such, I found Mr. Ng’s business model for BPTN truly inspirational and motivating. One thing is to talk about microfinance and helping the productive poor by also “doing well” and reaping profits, and another thing is to actually be able to materialize such a combination. effectively.
Throughout the trip, President Obama certainly comes up quite often in discussions with the native people of Indonesia. Many locals have said great things about President Obama and even mentioned that President Obama alone can change the Indonesian perception of Americans. When I think about our perceptions as Americans of our president, I can’t say we have the same beliefs and confidence that the Indonesians have. Before I arrived in Jakarta, I heard about Bill O’Reiley’s book, titled Pinheads and Patriots and the book questioned President Obama’s patriotism to the country. I’ve have heard endless amounts of ridiculous criticisms as well. I’ve heard that Obama was actually born in Kenya and violates the constitution. I’ve heard criticisms about Obama’s middle name and his Muslim background, and I think about how Indonesians would have a bad perception of America because we’re so eager to criticize someone they think is so great. Certainly it would also be offensive to the largest Muslim country in the world to hear that a country is criticizing its president for having Muslim roots. It will be interesting to see how our perceptions of Obama will change as we recover from our economic crisis and how our relations will continue to change with President Obama in office.
Yesterday I visited 3 places. Here are some notes about my visits, they’re not complete but I just want to highlight a few key things that I learned:
1. First we headed to Bogor to visit one of PTBN branches, an Indonesian bank that focuses solely pensions and retail loans. We got to see an actual field transaction at a wholesale shoe shop in a local “wet” market, which is basically a traditional market. The banks are strategically built around traditional markets because the customer potential is higher. Each branch is meant to serve a radius of 10 km so there is no overlapping of customers, thus there can be multiple branches in the same region.