Indonesia Expat sat down with Leung Kwan Ho, Director of Indonesia, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), to find out about the growing business relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong.
What did you think of Indonesia when you first arrived?
I arrived in Jakarta in 2013 when my company assigned me to manage HKTDC in Indonesia. Honestly, I was quite surprised to see Jakarta because Hong Kong people have a slightly a negative image towards Indonesia. Many think Indonesia is a poor country with a lot of problems. But for me, it’s not really so as Jakarta is a big city and there are so many facilities. Of course, Indonesia also has problems that we cannot deny such as natural disasters. After living for six years in Indonesia, I enjoy my work here and am eager to encourage Hong Kong people to come to Indonesia and prove all the negative images they have about the country wrong. I think they misunderstand Indonesia and just feel worried because of the news they read.
What are the biggest challenges you face in Indonesia as an expat?
Daily life is challenging. I have to say that, in terms of the infrastructure, there is a gap between Hong Kong and Indonesia including public transportation. Sometimes it is hard to find a walk way for pedestrians. Also, for me, public space is important and this is what I can’t find easily in Jakarta. In Hong Kong, the city provides many public parks, sports grounds, and green spaces. Jakarta is totally different. Here, if we want to go hiking or to visit the countryside, Puncak may be the closest from Jakarta and it takes one hour or so.
One more thing, traffic jams, or macet, is very frustrating for me as an expat living in Jakarta. In addition, the mobile connection is not as good. All the challenges I mention are the situation I faced when I first arrived in Jakarta. Now, I can see a new side of Jakarta because the government has made some critical improvements.
What has changed in Jakarta based on your experience?
Jakarta has improved a lot in many aspects: technology, transportation, and also the infrastructure including the roads. Today we have MRT and I always use this mode of transportation. The mobile connection is much better and now we have mobile applications like Go-Jek and Grab that make our life easier. Technology advancement is really helpful for the expats living here. With a simple click, you can fulfil your needs. I really appreciate this and feel happy to grow up together with this city. Now, I think that I feel more comfortable to live here because in some aspects, the level of convenience living in Indonesia is even higher than in Hong Kong. So, I am glad to see the dramatic improvement.
What do you like most about the locals?
What I like very much, and appreciate, is the hospitality from the locals. I think it is a part of Indonesian culture. I see that people are genuine, friendly and have a helpful mentality. People have genuine sincerity to help and it has a good impact when it applies to the service. Whatever restaurant I visit, they always show sincerity to help and serve and it makes me feel welcomed. But in Hong Kong, you may experience a different situation.
Tell us more about HKTDC.
HKTDC is a semi-government organisation of Hong Kong that aims to promote Hong Kong overseas in terms of business and trade. We want to encourage people from other countries to have business partnerships with Hong Kong. On my responsibility, I am connecting Indonesia and Hong Kong, opening the gates to improve trade between these two places. We also encourage Indonesian people to use Hong Kong’s platform to expand their business to an international level. Hong Kong is an international city that can connect you with people around the world.
In Hong Kong, we organise international trade exhibitions and international conferences throughout the year, for example the Belt and Road Summit or Asian E-Tailing Summit. At these events, you can find suppliers, investors, or other business partners you need for your business, not only from Hong Kong but also from many other countries. We hope that by attending this event or having cooperation with partners in Hong Kong, you can achieve something and go back to Indonesia to develop your business. On the other hand, we also encourage Hong Kong companies to come to Indonesia. We organise Hong Kong business delegations to Indonesia from time to time and seek partnerships with local businesses. So actually, we want a two-way relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong. We hope to match businesses in both countries.
How has HKTDC contributed in improving the relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong?
We take part in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong in term of business exchange. On one hand, we help local Indonesian businesses to find partners in Hong Kong and to link them with the international network. On the other hand, Hong Kong companies also have opportunities to expand their business to Indonesia. We want many people to get more interested in Indonesia and Hong Kong. We facilitate Hong Kong people to visit some cities in Indonesia such as Surabaya, Solo, and Makassar to see the potential partnership with the locals. They may find new opportunities in trading, sourcing, or setting up a factory, etc. We can link them with the Indonesian government or business contacts to manage their business including license issues and investments.
What is HKTDC’s target for the future?
I hope there will be an increase in the number of people and business exchanges between Indonesia and Hong Kong, at least for exploratory visits to have a better understanding. We want more Indonesian people to come to Hong Kong to promote their business or investment projects. At our 2019 Belt and Road Summit event, we provided opportunities for more than 100 Indonesian businesses to go to Hong Kong and get connected with businesses from 60+ countries. This is a good example to see how Indonesia and Hong Kong, as well as the Chinese government, can build up a good relationship. Indonesia is one of the close partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. Indonesia needs many investments for infrastructure. China has high capabilities and expertise for building infrastructure. China has developed a lot and is open to transfer its expertise and also funding in other countries. Hong Kong can serve as a bridge to link up both.
What are your thoughts on the Indonesian local businesses?
I am interested to see local businesses improve. But from my observation, Indonesian people sometimes think that they are not capable or not ready yet to go overseas to expand their business. In reality, many Indonesian businesses are ready for international business and their products/services are up to international quality. HKTDC wants to encourage them to look for opportunity overseas and find partners to tackle the problems they face. We always welcome Indonesian businesses to come to our events in Hong Kong to promote their business to global market.
What is your philosophy on team management?
It is important to treat everyone with respect and learn from them. No matter how competent I am, I am a foreigner here. My local teammates always know better about Indonesia than I do, so I have to learn from them. When you are willing to listen to others, new ideas and new opportunities may arise.