The world as we know it has changed. I have lived through three different crises in my life.
The first one was the Indonesian political turmoil in 1998 that coincided with the Asian financial crisis, and the second is when I graduated from college in the United States. Having graduated with an electrical engineering degree, I faced a job market reeling from the burst of the dot-com bubble. Even though I was lucky enough to find a job in Boston, the highlight of my second day of work was 9/11. The third one was when I was about to finish my MBA at Stanford University in 2008. While learning about the debt market, we saw the mortgage-backed security crisis unfold, which brought about the global financial crisis.
When COVID-19 started to gain traction in every country in the world, I knew that this would be another crisis. A serious one. This pandemic that has been happening since the beginning of 2020 has altered the plans of so many people, and caused a dent in the world’s economies, but it has also transformed businesses faster than ever before.
We have to acknowledge that this virus is dangerous regardless of your age, and it also has successfully pushed people to their limit in the name of survival. What I have learned from facing three crises in my life is to always move forward and increase your survivability. This year is not only about survivability, but it weighs more onto your ability to adapt. To keep an open mind despite the circumstances, and also to be flexible with whatever you are working on.
Here is the beauty of survival. It transforms, and it evolves whoever is embroiled in it, and that’s what I’ve been seeing in the past six months since the beginning of this pandemic. We’ve been seeing the increase of technology adoption by our micro-, small and midsize enterprises in the past months. Interestingly enough, this also spurred people to move their space into digital channels and platforms in order to keep their businesses running.
I can see that people are building resilience and toughness as the crisis goes by. There’s always a choice in perspective of how you look at things and I prefer to look at things optimistically. Despite the chaos, we can still find a lot of positives coming out of this. What I’ve also learned is to always believe in the mission. I believe that it’s always important to be mission driven, whether you are a person or a company.
At Bukalapak, we have this important mission: to create a fair economy for all. We believe technology can transform our society by opening access and opportunities, removing burdens from people’s shoulders and making life easier. With technology, we want to address obstacles in doing business, particularly for micro-, small and midsize enterprises, and boost their performance by broadening the market, increasing productivity and being more efficient in doing business.
I am hoping that with this mission, we have more opportunities to enable more entrepreneurs, especially the young ones, to create and innovate to solve the problems that we have now in our country. If South Korea can be a major player in technology, then I believe it’s time for ASEAN countries to come forward.
Korean exports have already invaded the world, from Samsung products to K-pop, and I believe that this has also been an inspiration to other ASEAN countries. It shows that with the right strategy, anything is possible.
It is evident that Asian culture is on the rise, from what we have been seeing on the internet. Asians have been one of the major sensations worldwide. We have an Indonesian rapper, Rich Brian, who is now one of the most sought-after artists in the world. In Indonesia, this was a catalyst that saw more and more young Indonesian artists coming into the spotlight. They all have the same mission: to represent Indonesia on the international stage.
I think that painted the whole picture in how a mission-driven environment is vital. When you set a goal, it makes you more focused and more determined in doing so. This is what I am hoping to achieve with Bukalapak and all of our employees: to create sustainability in this digital ecosystem. At the end of it is our contribution to Indonesia’s economy.
I hope future entrepreneurs will have something to learn through this tough and trying time of a global pandemic. I hope they will keep an open mind and an open heart that every adversity always needs a crystal clear perspective in order to see the positives.
By Rachmat Kaimuddin
Rachmat Kaimuddin is the CEO of Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak. -- Ed.