7 August, 2017

Shinta Dhanuwardoyo: The Road to Digitising Indonesia


The e-commerce entrepreneur tells us that the lack of skilled workers is Indonesia’s greatest challenge in becoming a digital country.

Long before many Indonesians even had access to the worldwide web, Shinta Dhanuwardoyo was already making a business out of it. Bubu.com was launched in 1996 as a platform for website development services and since its inception, it has played a big part in the characterizing the e-landscape of Indonesia.

Today, Bubu.com is a full-fledged digital agency that provides not online solutions but consultancy and analysis services. Shinta Bubu, as its founder is known, is now called onto a higher order, lending her know-how to the government in developing the digital economic sector for the country. The mother-of-two is a mentor in the Chamber of Commerce and Indonesia Industry (Kadin), and a sought-after angel investor within Indonesia.

While Shinta is optimistic about Indonesia’s digital outlook, she recognises the crippling problem for the country.

“The biggest challenge at this moment is the lack of qualified and high-skilled programmers and developers in Indonesia,” says Shinta. She adds that emerging start-ups need to outsource in order to manage their processes as such. Go-Jek, for example, hires its IT professionals from India to manage the multitude of transactions on its app. Indonesian has a huge market. The number of transactions can number to the millions, which is why [start-ups] need to hire IT professionals who are more advanced in their skills and knowledge. It is important that we prepare our human resources to be ready for such roles,” Shinta explains.

To this end, the private sector has a part to play too, even as the government has pledged their commitment to develop skilled workers, especially in the sector. Shinta cites the example of Kudus, a city east of Semarang in Central Java, Indonesia, where private companies have contributed in setting up vocation schools to generate a ready supply of workers in skills such as animation and telecommunications.

Shinta is also confident that women will have a stake in this male-dominated industry. Naturally so, since Shinta not only broke new grounds in Indonesia’s digital scene back in the day, she also went against the grain as one of the few female entrepreneurs then. Currently, Shinta notes that there are some 40,000 women entrepreneurs in the SMEs in Indonesia. “Female entrepreneurs can make huge impact to the national economy,” she says, highlighting that these 40,000-strong community can take on a greater role in the digital aspect of their businesses as well.

“It’s time to change the perspective that IT and digital sector is the domain of men. This is the 21st century. There are so many women who have become successful leaders and entrepreneurs in the digital business.”

The huge potential of Indonesia’s digital economy is a draw for foreign investors, especially when there are some 132 million Internet users in the country. Internet penetration has reached more than 50 per cent of the entire archipelago nation.But in order for Indonesia to become a main player in the digital landscape, it must develop adequate infrastructure, appropriate regulations, and a high-quality IT workforce.

“Mentorship should be a priority as well,” Shinta emphasises, adding that many start-ups fail because they do not get the guidance they require. In fact, many of these entrepreneurs do not know where to find the right mentor.

At the same time, Shinta finds that too many entrepreneurs do not have the right mindset. “Many of them ask me how they can get funding even though they are only in the early stages of their business. As an entrepreneur, their main purpose is to generate profit. Only when they have proven that they are able to can they convince investors to make an investment.

“What’s even better is if the start-up can continue to survive without any injection of funds,” she says.