Boom in digital economy to draw Indonesians home

  • Fifty-eight percent of companies employ returning Indonesians
  • Fifty-three percent of Indonesian companies want to grow headcount this year


Boom in digital economy to draw Indonesians home


INDONESIANS who have overseas experience will be in great demand this year as high-growth industries including the e-commerce and digital sectors are facing a talent shortage, according to recruitment consultancy firm Michael Page.

In its publication, The Michael Page 2017 Asia Salary and Employment Outlook, the company noted that as a relatively young industry, employee recruitment and retention will become increasingly competitive in the technology market, as the rate of growth outpaces talent development.

“Companies are cautiously optimistic with Indonesia’s outlook, which means as long as things stay stable and constant in terms of regulations and politics, 53% of the companies we have talked to said that they want to grow headcounts and hire more,” Michael Page Indonesia’s president director Olly Riches (pic, above) told Digital News Asia (DNA) in an interview last week in Jakarta.

This number is higher than the average for Southeast Asia where only 44% of companies want to grow headcount in 2017.

“That puts Indonesia in a very good place compared with other countries in the region, and the optimism runs across local conglomerates, small and medium enterprises, as well as multinational companies,” he added.

About 58% of the companies surveyed have employed returning Indonesians over the past year and this trend is believed to continue this year.

Riches said that the reason is clearly obvious given the big gap between supply and demand, especially in the e-commerce sector. The new industry is expected to draw most of the overseas talent to the country.

According to the report, in the digital sector, employers face a dearth of creative talent, marketing, public relations, and e-commerce professionals. This is due to the large number of e-commerce firms rapidly expanding in Indonesia, hitting the market hard and fast with large human capital investments.

“More than that, e-commerce is seen to attract talent who work for traditional industries. Usually we see talent who are already working with established companies not wanting to dive into the fast-pace e-commerce sector, but today, talent would work one or two years in say a high-profile management consulting company, and then they dive into e-commerce afterwards,” he added.

This is partly a millennial driven trends, Riches argued, and the trend is not only seen in Indonesia, but also in Asia and the rest of the world, where millennials are more willing to try new industries, rather than stay or go back to traditional areas such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing, or family-owned businesses.

“Not all but most of those who return to Indonesia are trying to move to social media platform companies, or financial technology (fintech) companies, or something that they believe is the future,” he argued.

Digital sector the most wanted

The report stated that e-commerce companies are expected to seek candidates with strong digital skills and product knowledge particularly in fashion and electronics.

There is also likely to be strong demand for fintech, logistics fulfilment, and big data services, with both local and multinational companies seeking candidates with similar profiles.

The competition is getting tougher as more traditional businesses in the FMCG, consumer, and retail sectors are beginning to recognise the importance of going digital, even though many are limited in their understanding of what digital exactly entails, which could result in wrong candidates filling vacancies.

Further challenges in hiring lie in the talent pool’s tendency to move around frequently in the digital sector. In this market, candidates can expect to receive between 20% to 30% increments when they switch jobs, in addition to stock options. Candidates who are skilled in search engine optimisation and social media will be highly sought after.


Boom in digital economy to draw Indonesians home


View from the ground

Last year alone, two high profile pundits returned to Indonesia, namely the current Minister of Finance who was previously World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani, and current Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arcandra Tahar, who was the president of US-based offshore technology development firm Petroneering.

These boosted many analysts’ outlook of the country’s economic growth and confidence towards investment.

“Like it or not, it is not only the company, position, and the salary and perks that attract diaspora back to the country, but it is the development of the country itself.

“The more the country sends positive signals of development, change, and evolution, the more appealing it will be for diaspora to return home and contribute,” Riches said.

He believes that more Indonesians would want to come home as long as they have access to the right information about what is happening in the country, accurate job descriptions, and more industry opportunities.

Riches said that 65% of Michael Page Indonesia’s team are Indonesians who have returned, hoping to seize the opportunities their home country is offering,

“I have been abroad since I was eight years old, but often visited my parents in Indonesia. However, these past four years, Indonesia has grown so much especially in how the government supports investment and innovation. This attracts me and I believe will attract many more Indonesians to come home,” said Michael Page Indonesia’s manager of finance Monico Lim, who came back to the country four years ago.

For Abednego Samudra, the company’s digital and technology consultant, the opportunity and growth in the country’s digital landscape drew him home after 12 years abroad.

“Of course I wanted to stay in the United States and continue to work there, but a part of me knew that I needed to come home to settle down, and true enough, all the memories of your childhood come back the moment you land.

“For me the struggle is only the language, as I am getting used to speaking Bahasa Indonesia all the time. It’s been five months and moving back to the country is actually is not as difficult as I thought it would be,” he added.

For Ingrid Chaiyani, the company’s property and construction consultant, nothing beats the feeling of returning home, especially if you know you can contribute towards building the country.

“Although it may seem cool and you feel superior to have the overseas experience, honestly the idea of returning home is very much all you think of. The good thing is once you have the overseas exposure, you will have more to offer to help build the country,” she said.

Boom in digital economy to draw Indonesians homeAnother diaspora returning home recently is chief operation officer of Indonesia’s e-commerce company Bukalapak, Willix Halim (pic, right). For him, the magnet was always the opportunity of getting a higher position and therefore meeting his self-actualisation needs, besides the cliché reason of wanting to build the nation.

Willix spent most of his adult life in Australia and was previously senior vice president of growth for Australia-listed, until October last year when he decided to come home and join Bukalapak, a decision that he said was a ‘no-brainer’.

The draw was great for Willix as the country’s digital landscape is growing with support from the government and needs help from its diaspora to build it forward.

“You want to create an impact. The bigger the impact, the better it is for you, and for me, applying my skillsets in Indonesia’s growing digital landscape will have significantly more impact than pursuing my career further in places such as Silicon Valley.

“It has also been my intention from the very beginning to return to Indonesia anyway to help better our digital landscape,” he told DNA.

A few Silicon Valley based companies approached Willix, but Bukalapak gave him the opportunity to come home.

“I am really hoping that all the diaspora out there would consider coming back and working together to better our country,” he added.


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