For our inaugural Spotlight on Women in Business series, showcasing the achievements of women entrepreneurs around the world, The Wisteria Group interviewed Ms. Nita Yudi, head of the Indonesian Business Woman’s Association (IWAPI) and a leader in the construction industry and education. The interview is particularly timely, given the Oct. 26-28 visit of President Widodo to Washington, his first visit as President of Indonesia.
1. You have just been reelected as the President of IWAPI. Congratulations, I understand this is your second term. Could you tell us a bit about IWAPI and your goals for the organization?
Thank you. We just held IWAPI’s National Congress and I was pleased to be reelected.
IWAPI was founded on February 10, 1975, by two smart and beautiful sisters, Professor Kemala Motik and Dr.Dewi Motik, MSi. These two sisters understood the important role that women play in helping a family’s economic situation. IWAPI started with only a few women and now our membership has grown to include more than 30.000 women entrepreneurs. 85% of our members are involved in micro and small businesses, 13% are in medium-sized enterprises, and 2% are in large businesses. Our members’ businesses vary greatly and include Indonesian foods, garment, household goods, handicraft, fashion (modern fashion and Muslim fashion with traditional materials like batik, tenun, and songket), furniture, shoes, bags, traditional cosmetics, spa, and many more.
IWAPI’s vision is to be a strong Indonesian businesswoman’s organization at the national and international levels. We assist Indonesian women in becoming tough entrepreneurs by giving them advocacy, education and training, and also access to financial institutions. We foster business cooperation among our members and assist in broadening women business networks with global entrepreneurs.
We also seek enhanced cooperation with the private sectors, government institutions and other NGO’s. We want Indonesian businesswomen to be agents of change so that they can be better entrepreneurs. Finally, we support job creation and a good business climate for our members to enable them to participate widely in national development.
2. What kinds of opportunities might President Widodo’s visit to the U.S. offer Indonesian businesswomen?
At the national level, IWAPI engages in efforts to assure that the government puts in place regulations that are pro women entrepreneurs. But at the international level, we also are active, reaching out to other countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Japan, and in ASEAN through the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN). As an example of some of the activities I am involved in as head of IWAPI, I recently attended the World Assembly for Women (WAW) hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. I was on a panel at that event on women entrepreneurship in Asia, organized by The Asia Foundation. As president of IWAPI, I hope IWAPI can have a collaboration with the American government to improve IWAPI’s members’ businesses.
3. How might women entrepreneurs in Asia benefit from the ASEAN Economic Community? What do you believe they will need to do to prepare for greater ASEAN economic integration?
In Indonesia, there are 54.5 million people involved in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and 49.9 million are in micro and small businesses. 60% of the owners of those businesses are women, which means that women entrepreneurs in Indonesia contribute tremendously to the wheel of Indonesian economic growth. With respect to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015, the ASEAN countries all together will have a big single market meaning that we will have a huge market for marketing our products. So the preparation that we need to do to be ready for this single market is to improve the skill of our labor, reduce the interest rate for SME’s to get loans, and reduce the tax burden on SME’s.
4. A final question, based upon your own experience as a woman in business, what advice would you give to women thinking of going into business?
As women, we have to think about how to help our family finances. If we have a business, we are going to have money which we can use for better food, better education, and better health for our children. We are helping grow the next generation. If we have a business, we also can reduce poverty, reduce unemployment, and as a result, reduce crime. So you will get many benefits if you become a businesswoman.