I hate to say it, but I always thought of Eat Pray Love whenever I thought of Bali. But that has changed. Bali is in fact a Southeast Asian startup hub. As if I ever needed a reason to visit the tropical island, I started legitimately thinking of relocating to the place. I began with some innocent research (trying to answer some of the questions posed in my last post) and next thing I knew I was searching job listings instead (turns out there are very few actual jobs in Bali, aside from starting ones own.)
Let’s rewind for a minute. I have already established the high prospects of Indonesia as a whole in my CIVETS post. But to reiterate, big things are happening in Indonesia. It is already the world’s fourth most populous country. And now McKinsey suggests that by 2030 their economy may be the seventh largest in the world, surpassing Germany and the UK. Even more, it is important to note that Indonesia follows a democratic government system with smooth running parliament and presidential elections. And the nation’s economy has been steadily growing at about 5-6 percent in the last two decades.
According to Boston Consulting Group, Indonesia is Asia’s next big opportunity. BCG looks at the growth of the middle-class and affluent costumer (MAC) base as a key indication for the predicted growth.
“Demographic trends show the size of the opportunity. There are currently about 74 million MACs in Indonesia, and this number will double by 2020, to roughly 141 million people. During that period, some 8 million to 9 million people will enter the middle class each year.”
As their middle class proliferates, so does consumer spending. Already more than half of Indonesia’s GDP comes from domestic consumption. Cue the abounding business opportunities.
Measuring Indonesia’s internet usage, a survey commissioned by Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) revealed that the number of users in 2012 reached 63 million people, or 24.23% of the total population. Looking ahead, for 2013 the figure is expected to rise to 82 million users and continue to grow to approximately 139 million or 50% of the total population in 2015. Likewise, Indonesia’s technology industry is expected to flourish. The country already has tech-centered blogs, like dailysocial.net.
Nonetheless, allegedly no quality startups. While Indonesian’s apparently recognize the rampant growth, not able to effectively create domestic companies to benefit from this growth. Lack of entrepreneurs willing to take risks. Opening doors up for outsiders. However, I think I am a bit late at noticing this trend, because apparently tons of foreigners have already relocated to Indonesia—notably Bali.
Two of my friends in Bangkok just returned from a Bali vacation. One of the girls absolutely loved it and wanted to return. The other hated it. ‘Why?” I asked. “Too many foreigners.” She further explained Bali was not filled with the typical backpacker you see throughout SE Asia. Rather, there was an abundance of yuppies. Families in white linen clothing, pushing around toddlers in strollers. And it was clear many of them were not on vacation, but actually lived there.
Still thinking of Eat Pray Love, I wondered what the heck all these foreigners were all doing there. After some internet research, it became obvious they were not doing the typical English teaching or NGO work that so many other foreigners tend to do.
One of the first things I came upon was a blog dedicated to starting a global business from one’s laptop, Tropical MBA. While this guy appears to have startups functioning across many countries, he is chose to live in Bali and explains why in a detailed article.
However, casual searching for jobs in Bali brought me very few results, primarily for IT or web developer positions. Apparently there is a major lack of actual jobs in Bali for foreigners. Less than 1% of the Bali workforce is non-Indonesian; employment laws remain strict to keep it this way. The only exception is being a highly skilled worker who can offer unmatched training to unskilled workers.
On the other hand, search results returned lots of information startups. For example startupabroad.org promotes this concept where entrepreneurial mined people live TOGETHER in a house to exchange startup ideas. Sounds interesting, but also a little too liberal for my taste. (I like the idea of people getting together, but living under one roof? I’m seeing shades of MTV’s “Real World.”)
Similarly, startupcitybali.com is this new “tech startup incubator” (whatever that means). On the whole, it seems like Bali is more of a place to live to build a business network, not actually run a business (at least a business that operates solely in Indonesia).
In sum, Indonesia is filled with growth and people seem to be noticing. Bali itself, however, is more of a place where entrepreneurs from around the world congregate. Something like an ideal location to channel creativity and live short-term, not actually hold down a long-term position for another business.
I still have lots of questions regarding Bali that the internet alone won’t be able to answer. Perhaps I’ll have to make a trip for some investigative journalism. A girl can dream, right?
Image Credit – Photo taken in Bali, by Martin Westlake for New York Times
Graph Credit – Boston Consulting Group Study, captured via technology.xin.msn.com