“In business, the only certain thing is failure. Especially when you operate in a place like Indonesia,” Sandiaga Uno said earlier this year during his visit to the U.S. for President Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship. After being laid off during the financial crisis in Asia in the late 90s, Uno decided to try entrepreneurship to pay off credit card debt and put food on his family’s table. He is now the renowned co-founder of Saratoga Capital, the first private equity firm in Indonesia focusing on natural resources that grew from four workers to about 15,000 employees.
Uno said he first heard the word “entrepreneurship” when he was in college. Global Entrepreneurship Week is changing that. One of the objectives of GEW Indonesia is to show young people the entrepreneurial path, which will help strengthen the country’s economy. The week after all calls for young people to explore their creative potential to turn obstacles into opportunities, like Tri Mumpuni did with her rural electrification project in Indonesian villages. Mumpuni found a way to convince former rebels to operate peacefully amid political conflict with entrepreneurial goals in mind. “Making weapons and turbines is the same,” she told the audience at the Summit. “Turbines are more useful for your village.”
President Obama’s visit to Indonesia today is timely. Happening on the eve of the visit by Kauffman President Carl Schramm to launch Global Entrepreneurship Week from Jakarta, the U.S. State Department plans to launch a Global Entrepreneurship Program in Indonesia that was first announced by the President a year ago in Cairo. Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship which kicked off program efforts in Washington, DC was part of his effort to engage Muslim communities around the world. The President is well aware of the vital role entrepreneurs play in building stable economies overseas, which is essential to growing firms worldwide. For last April’s Summit, the Obama Administration invited ten entrepreneurs from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim state. At the Summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Indonesia would be the second country benefitting from the new Global Entrepreneurship Program.
President Obama should be impressed with Indonesia’s response led by the Universitas Ciputra Entrepreneurship Center and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture, reflected in the growing Global Entrepreneurship Week movement in the country. The GEW Indonesia Opening Ceremony will be hosted by The Minister of National Education of Republic of Indonesia at the Directorate General of Higher Education. The Minister of Education, Professor Muhammad Nuh, will meet with Carl Schramm, to discuss ways to boost entrepreneurship and innovation. Among a number of speeches throughout the country, Schramm will share his expertise with a larger audience of Indonesia’s prominent leaders when he speaks at the Civitas Academia of Universitas of Ciputra next Friday.
Also during GEW, local rock-star entrepreneur Mr. Ciputra will join Schramm to host a 1,000-person seminar titled "Quantum Leap through Entrepreneurship" in Palembang. Palembang is considered “the new entrepreneurial city” and during the Week, the First Stone Ceremony on November. 18th will inaugurate the Entrepreneurial City Monument to make the city´s entrepreneurship reputation an official commitment.
Such a celebration of entrepreneurship is not just a one-week, once-a-year event in Indonesia. Thanks to the Indonesian government and Mr. Ciputra, there have been on-going nation-wide efforts to boost the practical entrepreneurial skills taught to students. For example, last October, with help from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the state trained more than 250 teachers to teach a module called “How to Start and Improve Your Business” to students across the country. The Ministry of National Education has also replicated the ILO’s “Know About Business” curriculum and has trained 10,800 teachers in more than 4,500 schools since 2008. In this way, the government wants to address the low rate of formal entrepreneurship in Indonesia, and thereby unemployment. The private “Universitas Ciputra,” a $10 million dollar investment, has in turn incorporated courses on how to start high-growth, innovative companies into the curriculum. With recent help from the Kauffman Foundation´s Global Faculty Visitors Program, this local university was able to augment its teacher-training program. Five lecturers from Indonesia participated in the inaugural 2009 program and another fifteen lecturers in 2010. One of the program's graduates is now deputy rector of academic affairs at Tarumanagara University, which is home to a new undergraduate entrepreneurship program and the first graduate course on entrepreneurship in Indonesia. The seeds of entrepreneurship education were planted.
Quality entrepreneurship education is crucial to equip young people with the tools to become successful entrepreneurs. It is also important to start teaching entrepreneurship as early as possible and to students in all academic fields. The beneficiaries, the entrepreneurs of the future, will be the best allies in leading Indonesia’s strides to become a more featured player on the global stage.