Andre Chandra, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in San Francisco, is the founder and CEO of Propelo Media, an omni-channel direct marketing company that helps clients with lead generation, customer retention and brand building. We asked Andre about his summer vacation, where he discovered interesting insights about tourism that apply to the business realm. Here's what he shared:
During a recent trip to Komodo Island, one of Indonesia's 17,508 islands and home to the infamous Komodo dragon, I saw firsthand how smart political moves can be mirrored to form the basis for intelligent business strategy.
Upon arriving at the airport, my scuba diving group encountered a frenzied scene with people in uniforms whisking by, coupled with unusually heightened airport security. As it turned out, the Indonesian president and his entourage had just landed, and the airport was being locked down for security.
You see, President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he is famously known, has become a very popular president. He runs a country of 264 million people and was elected on a platform combining anti-corruption, anti-drugs and economic improvement.
Political savvy--a smart business strategy
His visit to Komodo was to inspect the government's new infrastructure investments specifically designed to boost tourism in the region, including the airport itself. I can personally attest that Komodo Island is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Yet few people ever visited because it wasn't accessible--until now! President Jokowi's plan was a bold one: boost the economy enough to bring Komodo to the world-class levels of Hawaii, Phuket or Bali.
Ah, economics: Ever the elusive topic, there are many ways to change a country's fortunes. While you and I may never run a country (but you never know!), there are several business strategies I've learned from observing world leaders who have successfully navigated and redirected countries' paths for the better. Here they are:
1. Invest in infrastructure
President Jokowi emphasized investments in Komodo's airports, roads and telecommunications. Tourists were willing to live very simply at local Airbnbs, but without transportation hubs connecting them to the island and its people, no one would've been able to visit.
The very airport where we landed was relatively new and was built using a modular concept--think IKEA for airports. They can simply add additional terminals to the left and right of the existing one as the region grows. Very smart from a development standpoint!
Applying this infrastructure strategy to business, new companies should start with what you need to get the job done right, from start to finish. If you and your team are strong on A, B and E, find talent to help you accomplish C and D. Makes sense, right? Don't worry about expansion at the very early stage--just focus on delivering good, consistent work.
2. Invest in culture
Once your business knows how to do things well consistently, the second foundation you need to build is your company culture. What is your vision? What kind of people do you want to attract to join you? These are key decisions that will result in leveraging the talents of your founding team with like-minded people. This will enable them to enjoy working with you so much that they'll never want to leave.
Indonesia's neighbor to the north is Singapore, a place known for brothels and seedy pubs during British colonial days. Once it gained sovereignty in 1965, one of the first decisions the fledgling country made was to adopt English as a national language.
Now, I am not saying that abandoning one's native language is always the right move. However, this deliberate decision enabled Singapore to catch up with the rest of the developed world--and what a phenomenal decision it turned out to be! Language brings about what's known as the "network effect"--meaning the more people speak and write about something, the faster its adoption accelerates exponentially. Add the fact that the country is strategically located at the Strait of Malacca, and Singapore quickly became the transportation and financial hub for most of Asia in under 40 years.
3. Invest in marketing
Back to the Komodo Island example, President Jokowi partnered with private operators to help promote the region. Under a unified national branding campaign touting "Wonderful Indonesia," various tourism companies promote their services while taking advantage of the platforms the government provided--mostly at embassies, trade missions and trade shows all over the world.
President Jokowi realized that without proper infrastructure, any marketing efforts would've come to a dead-end, so naturally, this branding campaign launched after basic infrastructure was in place. And leveraging the power of affiliate marketing was a strong strategy that yielded great results.
Likewise, in the digital marketing realm, we would never advise a client to adopt a strategy or partner with an entity that goes against its best long-term interests. However, this type of partnership for affiliate marketing is often a win-win for both sides--and as a business strategy, it's more common than most people think. It requires a creative mindset and an open-minded counterpart, but the end result can mean solid growth for two related business endeavors through joint synergy.