Sharing Economy in Indonesia


Indonesia and Sharing Economy

22 Jan , 2016  

I found the following story in the Internet. It’s an English version of a very popular joke in Bahasa, popularized by some people who are disgruntled with Soeharto’s regime in the past (1966-1998), but were too afraid to speak their mind openly for fear of the consequences.

Once upon a time, God was smiling with satisfaction while he looked at the new planet that he had just created. An angel asked him about it, “What did you just created, My Lord?” “Look, I has just created a new planet called  Earth,” said God while he was adding a couple of fluffy-looking clouds above the Amazon’s rain forests. God then continued, “This planet is going to be the most amazing planet than the others I have ever created. In this new planet, everything is going to move and evolve in balance.”

Then God explained about how he managed to do just that. “One benefit in a place is always come at an expense.” he said.  “The land can be full of opportunities, but the weather will be cold.” The weather can be extreme, but the people there will be strong-built..” and so on and so forth…

Then the angel pointed at an archipelago while exclaiming, “Then what area is that My Lord?” “Oh, that,” said God, “is Indonesia. A country that is so rich and beautiful. There are millions of bio-diversities that I have created in there. There are millions of fresh fish in the sea that are ready to be harvested. There are a lot of sunlight and rains; beautiful landscapes and fertile lands.  The inhabitants, I created them to be very hospitable, helpful and varied in cultures. They are hard workers. Ready to live a simple and modest life, resourceful, and they also love the arts.”

Feeling confused, then the angel protested, “Huh, but it was said that every country will be created with balance. Then where is the balance forIndonesia?”

God then answered, “Wait, until you see the idiots I have placed in their Government.”

This story came to mind when a score of new regulations were brought up in a move that can only be seen as dampening the growth of sharing-economy entrepreneurship in the country and, with it, the entrepreneurial spirit of any future startup founders.

Regulations. When some changes emerged, new stuffs, new models or whatever, what these idiots do (idiots according to God above, not by me) is to grab the new entities by the collar and smashed them against the proverbial regulatory wall. And that’s that. The end.

This is a mindset that of course is faulty by default because it doesn’t factor unprecedented things, like the services the startup provides.

Just recently, Gojek, the native, ever-popular, motorbike-sharing startup barely dodged the grab-and-smash move with the regulation if the President himself didn’t take the matter into his on hands. Indeed, the ban was valid only for mere hours before it was lifted, made it the shortest ban ever and somehow, a joke, more than anything. The joke was even funnier if this move was instigated for the purpose of political popularity like some rumors said.

In 2014, it was also reported that every VC that wanted to invest in Indonesia ecommerce (retail involving direct selling to customers) had to bite their nails in desperation because a regulation happened to block their way to make investment.

Ever so resourceful (like God intended above), some Indonesians and foreign firms worked together and ways to bypass the so-called Investment Negative List were invented.

Bedazzling as it was, the government argued that the counter-intuitive move was set to bring order. That must be a special kind of order, especially if what the regulation did was only to make thousands of people lose their jobs and income.

Maybe it’s true what God said in the story above they said that innovation and regulation never mix harmoniously.

Do share your thought about what Indonesian government need to do in the era of sharing-economy in the comment below.



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