Indonesia needs to embrace failure and competition: Trade Minister

  • Competition and open-ness bring out the best in business
  • People the most important element in building the economy
Indonesia needs to embrace failure and competition: Trade Minister

ALL stakeholders in Indonesia’s digital economy – from corporates and the startup community, to the Government – need to embrace failure, urged Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong (pic above).
“The faster the business environment moves, the more people are going to fail – and it is okay.
“Do not make those who fail outcasts; embrace them instead,” said Thomas, who before he took on the trade ministry portfolio, was one of the founders of Singapore-based private equity firm Quvat Management.
Failure can strengthen a startup, and many investors see it as a value point, he told the Indonesia E-Commerce Summit and Expo 2016 last week.
“Investors are done hearing success stories – we actually want to hear of your pain and challenges, what made you stumble, and how you got through it,” he said.
Indonesia has declared it wants to transform into a digital economy, seeing startups as a key element towards achieving this vision.
Many have highlighted what they see as key ingredients needed to achieve this vision – from improving infrastructure and allowing competition, to cross-sector mentorship and the recent talk of a state fund for startup development.
But Thomas also argued that the first step is to change old mindsets and embrace openness.
“All of us need to have that sense of tolerance [for competition]. The digital economy is a very dynamic era where change is constant.
“It is important to prepare the hard and soft infrastructure, but our changing our own mindset is the basic requirement to make this vision come true,” he added.
Thomas warned that as a nation, Indonesia has been resisting new technologies and business models, pointing to the recent violent protests by taxi drivers in Jakarta against ride-sharing apps.
This is perhaps to be expected – companies and governments are very comfortable sitting in a stable business environment, but he argued that the mindset needs to change now.
“If we are too stubborn and do not want to let new business models come into our market, we will be too busy fighting each other internally rather than grabbing the momentum and expanding globally,” he added.
With its digital economy vision, Indonesia needs to get used to running, trying new things, failing, trying again, and facing massive competition, according to Thomas.
“It is the new normal – the digital era opens up opportunity for everyone, which is a blessing, but the challenge is how to face massive competition,” he said.
“We need to remember that competition brings out the best in people – we need to be open, change our mindsets first, and only then worry about others,” he added.
Openness, competition, and embracing failure, according to Thomas, will definitely make people stronger, and people are the most important element in building a country’s economy.
“The more people we have taking part in developing our digital economy vision, the fewer people we would have wasting time worrying about new business models.
“When we finally develop the correct mindset, we can focus on creating the best products, the best solutions, and looking for the best ways to make it work,” he added.
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