From providing student loans to empowering marginalized groups and farmers, these Indonesian startups are revitalizing local communities
Many startup founders are trying to change the world, or at least certain communities, for the better. Certain startups come closer to that goal than others. While a startup like Uber has created jobs and changed how people use public and private transportation, a startup like microfinance pioneer Kiva creates hope and changes lives.
In a country as populous and diverse as Indonesia, there are many areas in which entrepreneurs can create positive social change. Some of these, like poverty, have traditionally been within the purview of the state or NGOs. Others have been overlooked, lack new solutions, or are differently underserved. Here are a few Indonesian startups worth reading about that have had a positive social impact.
Finding a job has always been difficult for the disabled in Indonesia. Many companies fail to recognize their value as skilled workers or accommodate special needs. Saujana, a social enterprise that works in environmental conservation and social issues, decided to tackle this problem.
Saujana started Kerjabilitas, a job search and resource platform for disabled job seekers. The jobs board describes the position, its location, and the types of disabilities accommodated for by the employer. The website also helps disabled job seekers prepare for working life through such resources as training on how to adjust to the workplace and advice on starting a business.
Kerjabilitas is free to use for disabled job seekers. It was first established through a grant from the Ford Foundation. Since then, Kerjabilitas has sustained its operations by offering additional paid-for benefits/services to companies that post job openings.
As is the case in a lot of countries, many Indonesians have to apply for loans to finance their children’s education. Some parents take out regular loans, unsecured (without collateral) or with collateral. The terms can be burdensome for families who are financially less well off, especially while the student is still studying or searching for a job.
DanaDidik offers a partial solution to these families’ problems. Students in their last two years of university or vocational school can apply for a loan from DanaDidik starting from IDR 2 million (US$140). They do not have to pay interest on the loan until after they start working. Once employed, the student repays the loan based on how much he or she earns. Loans made by DanaDidik are crowdfunded, and the startup charges the students a platform fee to pay for operational costs.
The Indonesian government is now considering creating student loan programs. Some state-owned banks have said they are offering student loans, but availability is limited. Until relevant legislation is passed and more banks get on board, DanaDidik can serve as an interim financing method for students pursuing higher education.
Ruangguru is one of the most popular education platforms in Indonesia. Via the Ruangguru app, students can access lesson videos, test questions or join group chats with teachers and other students in the same grade from across Indonesia. Ruangguru can be used to match with private tutors. During exam season, students can access practice tests on the app to prepare.
Ruangguru’s pilot project to help youth who have been unable to finish their education due to external circumstances - e.g., their families require their financial assistance - earned the startup accolades and funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve competition.
Through its digital bootcamp, Ruangguru has reached out to orphanages and cram schools to enroll out-of-school students. The startup then helps these young people, who may hold informal sector jobs, study for high school equivalency exams during their free time. Once the students have earned their HS certificates, Ruangguru helps them find better paying full-time jobs.
Du’Anyam seeks to empower an often overlooked group: women in subsistence farming households. The startup employs women from villages in Flores, an island in Eastern Indonesia, to weave wicker crafts. These are then sold to bulk buyers and individual customers.
A not-for-profit enterprise, Du’Anyam has received financing from angel investor Mariko Asmara and Northstar Group, as well as through a grant from the DBS Foundation. The money the startup earns is primarily used to fund its operations and to pay weavers a living wage.
Flores-born entrepreneur Hanna Keraf founded Du’Anyam with her friends Azalea Ayuningtyas and Melia Winata. Many women in subsistence farming communities often continue to work in their families’ fields even after they become pregnant. These intensive working conditions often lead to malnutrition in the mother and child, as well as complications at birth. For these reasons, the three founders chose to focus their efforts on improving these women’s lives. By working as weavers, pregnant women can earn money to buy food and pay for midwife services without risking their health.
Founded by social media veteran Sanny Gaddafi, agritech startup 8villages began as an SMS subscription service that provided farming news and advice. As smartphones became more commonplace in Indonesia, 8villages developed the PETANI (Indonesian for “farmer”) app, which continues to provide these services.
The startup’s latest product, RegoPantes, helps farmers sell directly to buyers, simplifying the supply chain and cutting out middleman fees. Launched last year, the app was first tested by farmers in Central Java during a trial period. In a show of strong support, the Central Java provincial government allowed 8villages to obtain farmer data from the government’s fertilizer subsidies program.
8villages is not alone in its mission to reform Indonesia’s agriculture industry through technology. Karsa, a social media website for farmers, provides price information as well as web forums that foster communication between farmers and agriculture companies. Like 8villages, PanenID, Sayurbox and Eragano, among other startups, also connect farmers with buyers directly to protect them from price-gouging middlemen. Agritech, a sector worth watching, is growing at a healthy pace in Indonesia.
Read more about 8villages and Indonesia's fast-growing agriculture technology sector in Indonesia Agritech Report 2020.
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