Entrepreneurs Nathan Roestandy and Piotr Jakubowski explain the severity of the problem that is Jakarta’s air quality
The air we breathe today is more important that it has ever been – and appropriately so as breathing accounts for our very existence and plays a bigger role in our health than we have been giving it credit for. Over the years, we’ve seen a growing sentiment in driving down global warming which had been getting progressively worse especially in developing countries like Indonesia where things like roadside trash burning is a regular sight. But this might all begin to change, thanks to NAFAS.
Established with the aim to educate and raise awareness, NAFAS is a Jakarta-based start-up that has developed an app to show local air quality within a 10-minute window, making it much more accurate than the more conventional air quality information found on your favourite weather app. It determines air quality based on, in part, the amount of particulate matter 2.5 or PM2.5 present in the air. PM2.5 itself is made up of very fine dust, much smaller than a grain of salt, which primarily comes into existence when things like fossil fuels, agriculture waste and trash, among many other things, are burnt. This compound is extremely dangerous to our health as once we breathe it in, it goes deep into our lungs and bloodstream, causing things like cognitive and neurological impairment in children and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attacks and lung cancer in adults. In the words of Piotr Jakubowski, co-founder of NAFAS: “Simply put, air pollution makes us dumber, sicker, and die earlier”.
The two co-founders of NAFAS, Nathan Roestandy and Piotr Jakubowski, come from vastly different professional backgrounds despite the two having known each other since high school. The two reconnected after returning from their studies abroad and soon found that their different careers actually complemented each other. Jakubowski’s specialty is in marketing and advertising, as demonstrated through his work with brands like Coca-Cola, Adidas, and BCA, to name a few, and more recently, through his tenure as Chief Marketing Officer at GoJek. Roestandy, on the other hand, had a more eclectic career as he took over his family business which focused on both manufacturing and building brands in the garment industry after the years he spent studying and working in Canada. He would then go on to establish ZULU, a GoJek-backed start-up focusing on wearable tech accessories. And this is where Roestandy started working closer with Jakubowski, reigniting their friendship which led to a partnership
Living in Kemang at the time, Jakubowski, out of pure curiosity, took an air quality monitor to his garden where he realized that on that particular day, the air quality index in his lush green garden was 10 times over WHO guidelines, whereas the air quality was slightly better in Sudirman, where all the cars were. Roestandy’s interest in air quality, on the other hand, began on his travels to China where he took a ride around the city with while carrying an air quality monitor with him. The experience opened his eyes to the severity of the world’s air pollution problem. Somehow, at the same time, they both realized that something needed to be done, and so NAFAS was born.
The problem with air pollution is that it’s not something that a company or an individual can change, as the scope of the undertaking is simply too large. To change things, everybody needs to be involved, and this means that the government has to levy its support of the initiatives brewing beneath the surface. The U.K., U.S., and China have laid clear their positions in the fight against air pollution, with the U.K. signing the Clean Air Act in 1958 after the devastation caused by the London Smog, the U.S. following suit with the signing of its own Clean Air Act in 1970, and China waging war against its air pollution problem after the Beijing Olympics. Indonesia can learn from these examples and support the initiatives created and taken by companies like NAFAS to combat the situation before it is too late. “Looking at these examples, it’s clear what works: a strong commitment to providing a healthier life for a country’s citizens, and a plan that is implemented unilaterally,” says Roestandy.
With the largest network of air quality sensors in Indonesia – about 120 sensors in the Jabodetabek area alone, NAFAS plans to integrate solutions into creating a healthy air quality bubble across urban indoor environments, effectively reducing exposure to polluted air by about 85 percent. “If you multiply that over the course of several decades, surely this will have a profound impact on your health and longevity,” adds Roestandy.
NAFAS is already beginning to move on this idea, with plans to launch its ESG partnership initiative which invites companies in Indonesia to collaborate with NAFAS as part of their ESG commitments. This will take the form of a program called Clean Air Zones, allowing businesses to provide real-time air quality monitoring and filtering which will be custom fitted to the size of their business with transparent data available to their teams. This program is aimed to create a new standard for healthier indoor environments