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Talent is at the heart of why Jokowi brought Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim into his cabinet

By Henry Manampiring, Head of disruption consulting

October 25, 2019 | 4 min read

There was once a time when Indonesia's politics and the marketing world did not mix, well at least directly. Yes, the choice of cabinet composition would certainly have bearing on the economy and investment, but by the time decisions were made the impact on the marketing world was considered mild, if it existed at all.


Nadiem Makarim is the new Indonesia minister of education. Photo: WEF.

With president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) recently announcing his new cabinet for his second term, things may change.

There are three interesting names giving weight behind the President's vision for the country's direction, at least for the next five years.

Nadiem Makarim, minister of education. The appointment of Gojek’s founder, Indonesia’s first decacorn, is probably the most significant. On the outside, it appeared Makarim’s interest in public policy in Indonesia was minimal. In hindsight, this appointment is no longer surprising.

With Jokowi's battle cry during his last campaign to improve Indonesian human capital, obviously, education and training must play a key role. Talent is a global issue, without it, companies’ and countries’ ambitions are restricted. Jokowi recognises that in order for his country to thrive, not just survive, he must equip his people with the skills to battle the twists and turns thrown at them by a highly competitive and rapidly evolving global landscape.

Makarim appointment reflects Jokowi's intention to re-educate and elevate Indonesian graduates, closing a skill gap that’s driven by the speed in which technology is evolving. Technology now leads to value creation and the need for STEM readiness of the Indonesian workforce is imperative.

With Indonesia’s education system being the fourth largest in the world, with more than 50m students, Makarim, a Harvard graduate and a successful start-up founder, has been entrusted with the enormous task to marshal and mobilise Indonesia’s workforce of tomorrow.

Makarim has spoken with the media about his decision to step down from Gojek and take on a ministerial role stating he is ‘a businessman representing the future.’ And with various forces shaping the future of work – at speed, he has been tasked to create a stronger link between today’s education and training, and the future workforce.

Other interesting names are Wishnutama and Erick Thohir, who has been tasked to lead the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and the Ministry of State-owned Enterprises, respectively.

Both hail from the private sector, successfully creating powerful media brands like, Republika, and TVOne. Both have disrupted the status quo to lead the industry in their respective fields by developing offerings that exceed the customer and audience needs and leveraging the power of publicity and marketing communications.

Wishnutama was seen as a maverick in creating a fresh concept of TV channel, which strives for quality content designed specifically for a more sophisticated urban audience. He was also considered a pioneer being the first to transition to digital platforms when many other legacy media companies were hesitating.

Thohir himself surprised the nation when he bought the Inter Milan soccer club, and recently, the success of the Asian Games 2018 was credited to his leadership as committee chairman. An astute media mogul, he will now have to manage the massive state-owned enterprises into the future.

With these three non-conventional cabinet ministers in place, will we begin to witness Indonesia operate at speed, resetting its focus to become a more agile, business and marketing savvy player in the region and the world?

Time will tell, but so far, we have seen the president cast his men in that direction.

Henry Manampiring is the head of Disruption Consulting at TCP-TBWA\Indonesia.


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