Lessons for a cynical West

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(Photo courtesy Andrew Moore via Flickr)
(Photo courtesy Andrew Moore via Flickr)

Indonesia is a huge and tech-savvy market for brands foreign and domestic. It's a prize to be coveted by Western companies -- but also a model of how to collaborate without cynicism

A recent Cohn and Wolfe study of authenticity found that Indonesia was the happiest place in the developed or developing world. Indonesia also places the most trust in brands and business.

I have just returned from Indonesia, and this positive attitude shows. If you aren’t doing business in Indonesia, you should. It is a huge and growing market (252 million people, the fourth most populous country in the world) but also because it’s fun.

People want to work together to produce great work. Nothing gets in the way of the destination: to create something new and effective together. All the elements of the cynical West are in Jakarta: big TV barons, Google, worries about inflation. Internet startups like Tokopedia receive big cash boosts and usurp established global Web players like eBay. But the city manages to avoid the cynicism.

The happiness and trust spread to business success. Google is praised for collaboration and happily sits with Facebook in their third-biggest market.

Jakarta is the Twitter Capital of the world. Each person in every home I visited had two or three mobile phones — hence the 280 million mobile-phone users in the country. The mobile is the universal access point, prioritized above the house and the partner and second only to the children. Seventy percent of Indonesia’s Web access is via mobile.

There is now a new and hopefully more stable government led by Joko Widodo, who seems to have an Obama-like narrative (although he is not without his challenges from party wars to infrastructure).

Increasingly, the business language of Asia will be spoken in China, India, Indonesia … or as one person provocatively put it, "Greater Indonesia" incorporating Australia!

Global brands are prospering. But the heavy hand of global uniformity hasn’t weighed too heavily on the national entrepreneurial spirit; national brands and, increasingly, Islamic brands are thriving.

There are of course issues and challenges. Like many markets, Indonesia needs a single currency across multiple screens. The challenge of creating targeted, frequent mobile content is a global one, but you get the feeling Indonesia will crack it first.

So if you are not there, get there — but don’t bring Western cynicism; global uniformity; and the divide-and-conquer attitude among clients, media owners and agencies.

Nick Emery is chief executive of Mindshare Worldwide.

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