Bukalapak and taking Indonesia-Australia business connections to ‘the next level’
A webinar run by the Australia-Indonesia Centre has heard how e-commerce giant Bukalapak invested in Australia to access skills and talent.
Talent levels comparable with California’s famed Silicon Valley made Bukalapak’s decision to establish a research and development ‘tech hub’ in Melbourne an easy one, says the company’s chief executive Willix Halim.
Mr Halim was the keynote speaker at an Australia-Indonesia Centre webinar that examined Bukalapak’s plans to expand in both Victoria and Australia. He was joined by Rebecca Hall, Victoria’s trade commissioner to Southeast Asia, who outlined the journey her office had been on to create the partnership.
“I have confidence in Australian talent and for me a lot of the talent is comparable to Silicon Valley talent,” he said.
“It is quite obvious that [Australia] is the second-best thing to Silicon Valley and that is why for us this is a ‘no brainer’.”
He noted the significant presence in Melbourne of such companies as Square, Apple and Slack.
While Bukalapak always would be an Indonesian company, Mr Halim said the pandemic had revealed “other avenues of getting talent” with so many people working from home.
“For the last two years we have been investing a lot in looking at talent elsewhere and one of the countries we looked at was Australia and Melbourne in particular because, in my opinion, there is a lot of good talent.
“There are also a lot of good things that the Victorian government has done”, he said, citing support from Global Victoria.
He also noted the presence of significant centres of learning including Monash and Melbourne universities.
“While everyone else was looking at India or maybe other countries, we are very excited to be looking at Australia because we do feel there are engineers with experience of unicorns and those are the engineers we want.”
Melbourne as a tech hub
The Victorian government’s trade commissioner for Southeast Asia, Rebecca Hall said they were motivated to help Bukalapak in its expansion.
“The investments Victoria has made in the state and the city as a tech hub meant that we could go in with a really strong case.
“The case really is about that infrastructure, the ecosystem and ultimately the talent,” Ms Hall said.
“Because we can’t run or host a tech hub without that talent.”
Australia Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce global talent officer for Southeast Asia, Kendall Draper, worked with Bukalapak on the relocation of key operational staff and talked of a “team Australia approach” and the need to facilitate a “brain gain”.
“We are looking for the best and the brightest to come to Australia and I think this is such a great example of what the team Australia is,” Ms Draper said.
“As Rebecca highlighted, we all work together and while my role is a piece in the jigsaw, it is an important piece.”
“Seeing unicorns come to Australia from South East Asia is so great and this project represents a great opportunity.
“The key thing we were able to do was assist with the rapid relocation of essential staff for that early phase of getting established.”
Taking IA-CEPA to the next level
Earlier, the President of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council, George Irwan Marantika opened the webinar noting that Bukalapak’s arrival in Melbourne represented a convergence of the bi-lateral landscape.
Mr Marantika said the development meant taking the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) “to the next level”.
“So beyond traditional trade we are taking it to the next level which is human capital development,” he said.
Australia-Indonesia Centre executive director Dr Eugene Sebastian concluded the event with comments on digital economy bilateral opportunities.
“If there is an exciting prospect for closer bilateral partnership, it is in the digital economy space,” Dr Sebastian said.
“For the Australia-Indonesia Centre, it is an important area of focus, our researchers are exploring topics like the digital skill needs of enterprises to digital applications like health, transport, logistics and the supply chain.”
Dr Sebastian noted the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade in ensuring Australian businesses benefited from “the huge digital trade opportunities in Indonesia”.
Image at top: Bukalapak