Forget salaries and office hours. A growing number of young people are finding a niche in the market and learning along the way.Every year, new graduates struggle to enter the employment market. Getting a steady job at a good company is not easy, due to a simple fact: there are more jobseekers than jobs.
But there is another route to earning a living while enjoying creative fulfillment: entrepreneurship. Many young people are already doing it.
"Don't think too much and be afraid to start. Just get started, and learn by doing," Muhammad Yukka Harlanda, 24, the owner of Brodo Footwear, told Khabar Southeast Asia. His fledgling business recently reached an important landmark, selling its 500th pair of shoes.
While studying civil engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology, Yukka was inspired by Bandung's creative manufacturing environment, and decided to try shoe making.
"I did some research on Indonesia's potential industry, and the answer is creative industry. I choose shoes, because shoe sellers are still rare, and we do love shoes. So we felt we are on the right path," he said.
"When I was a student, there was a mindset that we have to get a high GPA score and aim to get a great job. But nowadays, independent business ventures are popping up, especially in the middle class. Economic conditions are strong now in Indonesia," he added.
Yukka's wares were on display at Pasar Indonesia (Indonesia Market) event at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) from October 3rd through 7th. Some 30,000 visitors browsed 171 booths and displays at the event, sponsored by Bank Mandiri to promote small businesses and Indonesian products. A total of Rp. 675 million ($70,250) changed hands each day.
Batik-based wear for the younger generation
Giffarin "Giffa" Rindiwandana, 23, was also at the trade fair. She also found her entrepreneurial calling while a student. In her third semester at the Bandung Institute of Technology, where she studied textile craft design, she and a friend began to make batik jackets.
They were a hit: their peers snapped them up, and so did Alun-Alun Indonesia, a retailer of Indonesian culture-based products.
"Along the way, my friend and I had a different vision and mission, so I developed my own brand," she told Khabar. "From the beginning, I was interested in Indonesian textiles. I had an idea to make shirts with batik motifs. It is more casual for daily wear."
After three years in business, she continues to sell to Alun-Alun Indonesia and fields orders from individuals and companies. She also enjoys the freedom of structuring her own work hours.
Giffa urged other young people to try their hand at business.
"Just be confident and choose a business which you like, suited to your passion," she said. "You should commit to your business, and don't despair. You can also promote your product through social media, it is very helpful."
Preserving a traditional craft for a new era
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Brigita Elita is carrying on a family tradition: beadwork. The native of Pontianak, Kalimantan learned to make bead accessories and outfits with Dayak design motifs from her mother and grandmother.
"From childhood, I was exposed to beading and learned how to make beaded accessories. I want to preserve the culture of beading, especially in Kalimantan itself, because only elderly people do beading there," she said.
Through her business, Bead House (Rumah Manik), she wants to bring her intricate, handmade accessories to a larger audience. And her goal is to preserve the high quality of her products.
"Maybe consumers can get a cheaper price, but the quality is not good. We still keep product quality, and our fixed price," she says.
Workshops teach business skills
By hosting Pasar Indonesia, Bank Mandiri hopes to bring producers together with potential distributors, and to create an opportunity for formation of strategic partnerships among fledgling businesses. It provided the venue, booth space, and advertising for the event, which was free of charge for both entrepreneurs and visitors.
Simultaneously, the bank is running entrepreneurship workshops at 13 universities and 12 cities in Indonesia, attended by some 26,300 students from elementary school to university level, officials said.
"We are delighted with coaching and mentoring programmes conducted by Bank Mandiri over the years. Some of the partners we managed have built significant businesses," said President Director of Bank Mandiri Zulkifli Zaini.
For Yukka, the footwear manufacturer, the horizons continue to widen. After initially trying to market his products in retail outlets, he is focused on online sales, targeting 19 to 24-year-old consumers.
"We are still very young and don't have a business background. So we will continue to learn the science of business, especially practical knowledge of business. We are learning from our mistakes, and learning by doing," he said.