The first coworking community in Indonesia, Hackerspace Bandung, was founded only six years ago in 2010. While the growth was not too fast in the first half of the decade, the number of coworking spaces has increased exponentially since 2014. Currently, there are at least 65 coworking spaces and creative hubs in the country, and it is predicted that Indonesia will have more than 100 such spaces by 2017. The coworking industry in Indonesia is on a rising trend, yet it is still fairly new. With it comes opportunities and, of course, challenges.
3 OpportunitiesHere are three main opportunities in Indonesia's coworking industry:
Opportunity #1: An increasingly important role in the creative and digital economy and ecosystemThe cognitive process of innovation is in the DNA of coworking. Sharing ideas and interacting within a community with diverse and supportive members of different professions can give inputs and feedback from different perspectives. All of these are the essence of coworking communities, and these are the factors that can help the growth of each coworker, whether as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or startup member. Also Read: Faye Alund: Running a coworking space in Indonesia is like promoting a gym membership Indonesia aspires to be the Digital Energy of South East Asia by 2020, and since we had the Coworking Indonesia conference and association in 2016, national-level and local government, as well as big corporations are starting to see the link between the coworking industry and economic development. We hope we can get more support, not only in partnerships and programs, but most importantly to have a big role in shaping public policies related to entrepreneurship and the creative and digital economy.
Opportunity #2: A growing marketEighty per cent of the coworking spaces and creative hubs are currently established in Java. Along with the development of infrastructure in the eastern part of Indonesia -- e.g. Palapa Ring project -- it will open up the market, and the number of coworking spaces in Indonesia will definitely grow even faster. Currently, Indonesia has more than 100 million internet users, and it is forecast that we will have 160 million internet users by 2020. The push to grow entrepreneurship and startups, combined with exposure to technology, will result in growing numbers of location-independent workers. If Indonesia's 260 million population has 2 per cent entrepreneurs and say only a quarter from that number is location-independent, that is 1.3 million people who that can be a market for coworking spaces, makerspace and creative hubs in Indonesia alone.
Opportunity #3: A bridge to the communityPeople often come to a coworking space wanting to 'pitch' their business, research, cause, or access professional talents they might need, but not necessarily want to join the community itself. Coworking Commodity, which is our community, is an abstract concept that most people find difficult to understand. Well, sometimes I compare our business to a restaurant business. People out there are the raw ingredients you can buy in the market.
The coworking space is like a kitchen that has the recipe and makes the food look and taste good. Asking to take whatever you need from the community in a coworking space without being part of it is the same like going to a restaurant and ask to eat the meal for free.Communities and the skill to identify and access it are highly valuable -- hence it is the number one capital of coworking spaces that we can leverage to create programmes, explore opportunities and connections, and to bring more value to our community. Also Read: In Southeast Asia, coworking spaces are no longer just for startups and freelancers Information and access to certain communities in Indonesia are still not very clear and available. Before coworking spaces existed, big corporations, government and civil society organisations had to create their own links and networks, and they spent a lot of energy managing it. In the last one to two years, coworking spaces have proved that we can play a crucial part in linking them with relevant target audience and communities.
3 ChallengesApart from the opportunities, there are also three main challenges that Indonesia's coworking space industry has to face:
Challenge #1: Awareness and cultureThe concept of coworking mainly comes from the west, and most Indonesians do not know yet what coworking is, let alone know the options that they can have from working at a coworking space. The difference between coworking space and a simple working space is also still very blurry, even for some coworking operators. But even after they are introduced with the concept, conducted trials, and attended many events, many were still unsure, and the conversion rate for memberships has remained low. Another analogy I often use when explaining coworking spaces is to compare it with a gym 20 years ago. When the first gyms opened, people asked: Why don’t you just do push ups at home? Or, why don’t you run around your housing complex instead of on the treadmill? But how many people are disciplined enough to do that? People go to the gym because they will be more focused in exercising, they can use equipment that are normally too expensive for one person to have, and they can meet other people with similar values.
It’s a community. A coworking space is like a gym, but instead of exercising, you are working and networking.Coworking in the western world is (probably) a huge success, because in a world where privacy and self-driven motives are highly valued, it comes with the longing to be part of something: A cause, or a community. That is not necessarily the case for Indonesia. Indonesians are very communal, especially in smaller cities. In Bali, where we started Kumpul Coworking Space and where I live, social and religious obligations consume people’s time, energy and money. The family will decide what is best for you, and often older generation prefers to choose 'safer' paths for their offsprings -- such as getting an employment at hotels, running the conventional family business, or being a civil servant. Hence the ecosystem that encourages innovation, starting a new venture, and trying a new way of working (e.g., coworking), is still very vulnerable.