The Jakarta Post
Adi Wahyu Prasetya is trying his best to retain the 44 workers he employs at his small family business, Hj. Mbok Sri, which sells fried onions in Palu, Central Sulawesi. The use of digital platforms has helped his small business despite losses caused by the epidemic.
“Previously, we only sold to customers in Palu but now we also ship to other cities as well,” said the young entrepreneur, adding that his market now spanned from Aceh to Papua. “We have seen quite an increase in profit because of digital platforms like WhatsApp Business.”
Still for Adi, who has been running his business since 2017, restrictions imposed due to the epidemic have led to higher logistical costs and delayed shipments from up to four days to two weeks to reach Jakarta, the first COVID-19 epicenter that recently extended its transitional restrictions.
Adi, who participated in youth empowerment civil society organization Prestasi Junior Indonesia (PJI), manages among the 13 percent of small businesses across Indonesia that use digital platforms. The rest have not digitized their businesses.
To empower youngsters such as Adi in digitizing their businesses, instant messaging platform WhatsApp has partnered with PJI to give six-month training on using digital business platforms to more than 1,000 students in 12 cities across Indonesia.
The partnership, which will take place in, among other cities, Tangerang in Banten, Batam in Riau Islands and Jayapura in Papua, aims at encouraging the youth to become entrepreneurs.
As the country sources 60 percent of its economic growth from more than 60 million small businesses, the government plans to encourage 2 million small businesses to go online this year.
WhatsApp, which is owned by American social media giant Facebook, and PJI plan to introduce the participating students to the mobile app that allows small businesses to communicate with their customers, called WhatsApp Business. WhatsApp Business has more than 5 million users worldwide since its launch in January 2018.
As many as 45 percent of young entrepreneurs, including students, said in June that they were more active on e-commerce platforms, according to a survey of 2,200 entrepreneurs by SEA Insights, a subsidiary of technology company SEA Group that owns e-commerce platform Shopee.
With many people still staying at home, WhatsApp and PJI will create a web page for participating students to download the training materials and create a WhatsApp group in each city to facilitate the discussion related to the training, according to Utami Anita Herawati, the manager of the western region program at PJI.
The training materials include guides on using WhatsApp Business, managing communications with customers, connecting with them and privacy and security of the app.
“They can study on their own first,” said Utami. “If they have any questions, we will have a discussion where they can talk to trainers from WhatsApp or PJI.”
As part of the partnership, PJI is also creating its own account on WhatsApp Business to promote more than 70 small businesses owned by the youth who have taken part in its similar entrepreneurship program.
“This is a free app that millions of businesses have been using in Indonesia,” Karissa Sjawaldy, the public policy manager at Facebook Indonesia, said in a virtual briefing on Tuesday. “We want to focus on young entrepreneurs. We want to train them early on how to benefit from the digital economy.”
The partnership comes at a time when many Indonesians have been forced to move from brick-and-mortar stores to online shops as the country imposes restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Indonesians’ visits and length of stay at retail and recreation places, including shopping malls, had declined by 18 percent as of July 3, from normal levels in January-February, according to Google data.