There is a world of opportunity in Asia, and business knows this. There is also considerable uncertainty, especially for those with no experience of or knowledge of the region. There are people that can help navigate the unknowns. Give them an opportunity to use their skills, and they can help a business power ahead.
They see the undercurrents of a fast-changing landscape, know how to work collaboratively across cultures, and can help business, and communities, adapt to a different but exciting future.
They are out there … Here are three.
Until early last year, Yohendro Kiliwandono had been working with the federal Liberal party on their national election campaigns, a role he’d held for four years after being encouraged by his university lecturer to apply.
His work for a large Indonesian political party, and his technical design skills, landed him the role.
The party’s campaign officer at the time, Andrew Hamilton, recalls that “it was a very different portfolio of artwork that he presented.”
And as Yohendro worked on other campaigns and started generating his own ideas, the campaign team saw that the different cultural flair of his designs struck a chord with Australia’s multicultural communities in a way that the usual materials had not.
“He has a different background that he brought in and that resonated,” says Andrew.
Yohendro is now back in Jakarta, with his wife, baby and a new job.
As a digital marketer, he wants to be near the emerging and faster-paced trends that he is seeing in his own country.
“It is different here. Things change very quickly in areas such as the digital infrastructure, development and community habits. And I wanted to understand it further.”
“The use of social media over here is quite crazy, everyone is up-to-date.” As in other parts of Asia, people are constantly posting about their daily activities, purchases are made through social media and e-commerce networks, and sites such as Instagram are the “shop-front”.
Global companies are trying to keep up and work out how to place their products.
For Yohendro, “Understanding the behaviour is a key, especially as a digital marketer.”
Another young Indonesian who also studied in Australia is using her knowledge and skills to help a large joint venture keep on-track in an evolving marketplace. She returned to Jakarta in 2011 when the economy was growing strongly (it’s now posting about 5% gdp).
Alyssia Sastrosatomo is employed by Telstra, the business collaboration between Australia’s Telstra and Indonesia’s Telkom; giants in their own respective spaces. Based at the Telkomtelstra office, the Country Program Manager says she helps bring the understanding that “it’s not just about laying out the value of a business plan, we must also understand the cultural barriers of doing business.”
According to Telkomtelstra President Director Erik Meijer “She (Alyssia) combines deep knowledge and understanding of the Indonesian way of doing things with understanding and appreciation of Australia and Australians and how they work. This helps bridge the two cultures and creates greater understanding.”
Alyssia says that she can provide a different perspective on why the Indonesian government, for example, is going things a certain way, especially if the path is not as straightforward as expected.
Alyssia says that foreigners are wary of the investment climate, “which is a shame as Australia has so much to share and Indonesia to gain.”
Melina Chan is using skills gained while working in Cambodia to help Melbourne City Council tap into and support the city’s start-up scene.
As the Start-Up Ecosystem Adviser, her goal is to facilitate between the two different groups of traditional bureaucracy and fluid start-ups, and in the process give Melbourne’s residents a stake in a changing world.
For several years Melina lived in Cambodia, learning how to work with people from different cultures, by acknowledging their different backgrounds and experiences and using that to create a business, rather than dictating what kind of system should dominate.
“I am very passionate about working at the intersection of things as there is a lot of potential.”
She’s also on the Board of Inspire 9, a community led co-working space, using her vision to make it a “part of a bigger movement of entrepreneurship, creativity and global integration with business, technology and art.”
Born in Australia, she spent her formative years in Malaysia, the United States and Australia.
“Sometimes I feel like change is happening to us .. rather than us moving towards the future and embracing change.”
Melina also says Australia’s position close to the region of Asia presents an “incredible opportunity to transition into a future era.”
“We are so close, we may as well be a part of it.”
Entering an Asian market, or even just getting to know one or some of the countries within it, means stepping into the unknown – language, culture, relationships.
These three people are a snapshot of the kind of talent and skills that exist to help make that journey less unknown.
They can see the undercurrents of a fast-changing landscape, know how to work collaboratively across cultures, and can help business, and communities, adapt to a different but exciting future.