Coffee, Data and Female Leadership – the Indonesian Style

By: Ivy Lu, Director of Partnerships, WPP Data Alliance

For two days in mid-April, advertising and marketing leaders from both client and agency sides gathered in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for WPP’s annual Stream Unconference. Aside from heavenly Balinese coffee and zen-ful morning yoga, Stream Indonesia 2018 was full of thought-provoking conversations about the future of our trade and our ever-evolving roles to make it better.

Here are the three things I learned from Stream Indonesia 2018:

1. Indonesia has one of the fastest growing mobile landscape in SE Asia and the world, with many mobile data providers competing for consumer mindshare and marketing dollars

One consensus among attendees from around the world was that Indonesia is one of the fastest growing markets for digital marketing and mobile data exchange. From 2015 and 2018, mobile internet user penetration grew from 24% to 31%, and is projected to reach 40% by 2020. In 2017 alone, active mobile social user penetration in Indonesia grew by a whopping 30%. Despite this growth rate, the total amount of internet users and social media users account for only half of the country total population, posing a tremendous opportunity for yet more growth to come.

The three largest telecommunications provider in the country, Telkomsel, Indosat, and XL Axiata—aptly coined as “The Big Three” by the Oxford Business Group—split up over 90% of the country’s mobile network subscription market, with Telkomsel well in the lead. All three dominant players boast a variety of data services for both consumers and advertisers, creating a highly consolidated and yet diversified marketplace for data exchange and usage.

2. The ‘Cambridge Analytica’ earthquake was felt on the other side of the world, and it prompted many discussions on the “third frontier” – an alternative to the Walled Gardens

While it is not surprising to have ‘Cambridge Analytica’ come up in conversations on U.S. coasts these days, it was surreal to hear it heatedly and repeatedly discussed within the ancient walls of Yogyakarta.

The search of a ‘third frontier’ came up a few times at Stream, and among others, the option of creative partnerships between brands and niche data providers stood out the most. With a fast-growing data marketplace like Indonesia where new and diverse products and services are pitched, developed and pushed to market every day, brand owners were vehemently challenged on their willingness and ability to venture out of historic comfort zones provided by the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

3. Women in leadership and female empowerment are a key theme in the Indonesian business world today

In the tight schedule that spans nearly 18 hours a day for two full days, I sat in on a number of formal and informal discussions that explored various facets of female leadership and empowerment. In many ways, the fervor of this conversation mirrored the way #MeToo is discussed in the West, with a few local nuances. Questions were raised on whether region and poverty hinder the growth of female presence in the workforce, given that Indonesia is a highly religious and economically developing nation. One panelist conceded that the geographical complexity of the Indonesian islands also adds to the challenge of a universal female empowerment movement for the country. “As a modern Jakarta woman, I probably don’t understand the daily plights of a West Papuan woman very well,” she said.

However, the sheer number of fierce and assertive female leaders I had the pleasure of meeting in the span of two weeks, and the amount of time and attention given to this topic in the interim are enough evidence that more changes can be expected in this field, and that Indonesia is a country at the heels of truly exciting social, cultural and economic revolutions.

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