By Sarah Eardley-Wilmot (BPP 2017)
The University of Western Australia

If you had of asked me at the end of 2016 where I would be this summer, I would have said relaxing by the pool enjoying some downtime in country WA! However, somehow I ended up in Jakarta – one of the busiest and most chaotic cities in the world with a population of 15 million by day, 11 million by night.

About three quarters of the way through 2016, I was looking for a new challenge! So I set myself a challenge being my final year of uni… to say yes to everything! Every opportunity, every event and every adventure (within reason of course!)

Low and behold, a few minutes after I had made this promise, I received an email about this opportunity in Jakarta and you guessed it, I jumped on it!

I’ve had many people, both in Indonesia and Australia ask, why Indonesia and Jakarta? From my time at PwC, it became evident (and was drilled into us) that Asia is the next big thing and we should be building our relationships and working together. However, I found this was all talk and no action. So, I decided to personally go out of my way and take the big leap into Asia for four main reasons:

  • Identify synergies between Australia and Asia/Indonesia;
  • Identify areas of which we can capitalise on such synergies;
  • Establish how Australia can contribute to the Indonesian business sector; and
  • To build networks which can assist me and my employer in the future.

Today, I’m happy to say that I have adequately satisfied my four objectives through my time working and studying in Indonesia.

During my time at my host university – Atma Jaya, I studied Bahasa Indonesian in the morning and spent the afternoon attending business seminars, presentations and field trips to big multinational company offices in the city.

The biggest takeaway for me was that Indonesia is in such a unique position compared to many other countries at the moment. Whilst they are fighting inflation, many other countries are struggling with deflation, or a significantly lower level of inflation. Further, the median age of Indonesia’s population is 28.8. To emphasis, this means that 50% of Indonesia’s population is below 28.8 years old meaning that Indonesia is experiencing its peak productivity output for the next 20 or so years. This places pressure on the government to continue its investment in infrastructure projects to continue to develop Indonesia and creating jobs for the incoming workforce, all while attempting to manage inflation.

Additionally, while on a field trip, I visited Google Indonesia’s offices and amongst many other interesting facts, learnt that there is a $62 billion digital opportunity in Indonesia mainly due to the rise in the Indonesian middle class.

Away from the general economics of Indonesia, I worked with one of Indonesia’s biggest private economic powerhouses, PT Jababeka Tbk. The Company has one of the most revolutionary visions of any company I have heard – to create 100 modern self-sustainable cities across Indonesia! This is no simple feat and I can report this is definitely progressing well!

With 22 subsidiaries, Jababeka holds a stake in basically every pie you could think of – property development, power plants, water plants, golf courses, universities, age care residences, retail and it even has its own dry port on its books.

Jababeka is full of energetic, engaged and big idea individuals who helped make integrating into such a different culture and work environment an absolute breeze! They have some huge projects and ideas in the pipeline and we should all be so excited to continue to watch this Company grow, and the effects it will have on Indonesia’s growth and economy!

During my time at Jababeka, I was fortunate enough to visit Cikarang, one of Jababeka’s townships it has established about 35km east of Jakarta. What I witnessed was a vibrant fully functional township home to a university, power plant, waste and clean water plants, a golf course and country club and many residential and industrial developments. It was something so very different to the hustle and bustle of Jakarta which made the township so likeable and felt almost as if you were in a different country as the township has been constructed with a western influence. There are grand plans in the pipeline to further expand this township, including the construction of two large shopping malls. I’m very excited to visit Cikarang again in several years time to witness its growth.

I also had the opportunity to network and attend events representing Jababeka including the Indonesia Australia Business Council New Year’s Party, Indonesia Hong Kong Business Council’s Chinese New Year Annual Function, Standard Charter’s Global Economic Outlook, Mandiri Bank’s Foreign Investor Forum and SF Consulting’s Transfer Pricing update.

While I am used to a friendly office, one of the biggest differences I found was the ‘community’ aspect which existed within the office – no matter your rank, everyone in your team would go to lunch together (from intern to Company Secretary). The biggest challenge by far was the language barrier between myself and several people in the office including the office boy, who was in charge of bringing everyone beverages and constantly brought me tea with sugar, despite my best efforts to communicate otherwise!

I can honestly not express how fortunate I was to have had such an opportunity to take my first step into Asia and to work with such a dynamic company who is really taking the interests of Indonesia into its own hands and undertaking huge tasks which are stereotypically done by government. I encourage everyone, if you have not done so already, to take the next step after the conversation and delve into Asia. They are so excited to have us on the ground working, sharing our expertise and really appreciate Australia’s commitment to developing our working relationship and capitalising on the opportunities – after all, they are our neighbours!

For more information about this program visit: Business Professional Practicum

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as ‘Saya tujuh minggu makan, minum dan bekerja di Jakarta! (My seven weeks eating, drinking and working in Jakarta!’. You can read the original article here.