I sat down with Terje H. Nilsen, Co-Owner of newly formed Seven Stones Indonesia, to get his take on Indonesia’s recent economic initiatives, the impact these are having on foreign investments in the country and whether or not this is a good time to be buying property. Make a coffee and get comfortable. This is what he had to say:
AB: According to a recent article in The Jakarta Globe, World Bank officials have gone on record as saying the Indonesian government’s recent economic policy packages have helped to maintain investor confidence despite global volatility. Does this surprise you?
TN: Not at all! It’s something we’ve been supportive of for a long time now, especially on social media. Can you believe I’ve actually been accused of working for Jokowi’s PR Department because of that support? (Ed. For the record Terje is very active on social media but doesn’t work for Jokowi’s PR department.) People need to realize that what Jokowi’s government is doing is real. It’s happening. Everyone who’s serious about doing business in Indonesia should help to get the message out there so more and more people get to hear about it and importantly trust it.
AB: Do you think there are some business owners who don’t do that?
TN: Absolutely! You’d be surprised at how many foreigners who live and work in Indonesia, especially in Bali, just love to see the negative side and in doing so they completely ignore the positive aspects. Having said that there are also local business owners who seem reluctant to promote their own country. This could be because there are still those who want control for personal gain rather than seeing the bigger picture and the need to adapt and embrace change. We need to understand that the world is transforming rapidly and so is the way we do business. We’re in a paradigm shift and if we don’t learn to read the signs and sail different courses, we will fail.
AB: Are you saying that all businesses need to change Terje?
TN: Some need to change more than others, but as a general observation, yes everyone needs to get on board with the idea of change. We’re lucky to have a president with the vision of Jokowi. He’s leading the way, not just here in Indonesia but on a global scale. This is what the World Bank and others are saying … and we all know the best leaders lead by example.
AB: Let’s just go back to the Jakarta Globe’s report for a minute … the World Bank’s country director for Indonesia, Rodrigo Chaves is suggesting that countries need to diversify their economies and going into the service sector, can and will in the end produce better-skilled labor and higher-paying jobs. What are your thoughts on that?
TN: That’s a great question. For us the customer experience is key. We’re developing a customer-centric culture in our Seven Stones offices, which is having very positive results. We know this is something of a global movement in business and those who adopt and adapt will lead the way. I see no reason why this can’t be translated into a national and even international scale. We saw evidence of this last year when Jokowi led a trade mission to the United States and spent some quality time with the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. What he was doing was trying to get inside the heads of those who want to do business in Indonesia but have, for so many years, been restricted by negative investment lists and literally thousands of regulations which have made doing business here extremely difficult. Jokowi is actively dismantling that perception and those regulations. We see this as part of creating a more positive customer experience. A massive part of this is human resources, training and mind sets.
AB: How important do you think training and education are if Indonesia wants to be recognized as a world leader?
TN: They’re critical. Education is the fuel that will drive the machine. Indonesia has enormous potential and needs to see education and training as supporting these more public initiatives. Vocational training academies, polytechnics and higher education institutes are the most obvious ways to move forward. But so are enterprises like Bali’s Green School, which teaches youngsters values that will define the way the country is perceived and the way it can lead.
AB: Can you expand on that a little?
TN: Environmental awareness is the most obvious of these. Imagine what it would be like if Indonesia had a string of Green Schools across the country which taught the next generation how to love and nurture the planet. It would develop, for example, a culture of Eco-tourism, alternative energy and no plastic bags as well as the concept of creating more and better service industries.
The bottom line is that people pay for this kind of quality service and this attitude of awareness. It says something very important about the country and its people. In the end this would mean higher salaries as well as more vibrant economies across the archipelago.
AB: The World Bank also suggests that the government’s policy packages have helped to maintain investor confidence in the country. How do you see this in terms of property and real estate?
TN: This is a great time to buy property in Indonesia. There are opportunities in nearly every market sector. Indonesia is going through somewhat of a housing boom and the middle class is driving this. Everyone understands that property is the most secure form of investment. Interestingly, the market has become more sophisticated, especially with the penetration of the internet and social media. According to the national internet service provider association (Asosiasi Penyelenggara Jasa Internet Indonesia (APJII)) Indonesia’s Internet user base has reached about 35% of the country’s total population. Think about that for a minute … that’s about 88 million people … and counting!
This means that buyers have access to more choices both in terms of real estate and real estate agents. If I’m a buyer and I don’t get a quick and personal response from an agent, for example, I can simply look for another one. It’s just a click away!
We see people connecting with us at Seven Stones, for example, because they like our blogs and what we post. They connect with us as people who share similar values and who are prepared to listen. They know that if we don’t have what they’re looking for in our listings we can be trusted to find them a great solution.