Monica Oudang talks to Ajeng G. Anindita about setting up a foundation during the pandemic and how it has helped daily income workers survive.
Eighty percent of Indonesia’s economic backbone is supported by the informal sector and many of them survive on a daily wage.”, states Monica Oudang, Chairwoman of Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa (YABB). YABB was founded recently by Gojek to address the economic woes of the informal sector during the past few months.The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the people in the informal sectors specifically and has affected many lives negatively. While many of us are privileged to be able to go through the pandemic without any significant impact, the informal sector has seen its income grind to a literal halt due to safety policies taken by the government to help combat the spread of the disease. “We realized that the plans for the foundation that we had been discussing late last year had to be fast-tracked due to the pandemic. Gojek was built around the mission to enable the underserved of society; whereby our business thrives when they thrive. They were and are always there for us and now more than ever, we need to be there for them. That’s why we have decided to start Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa.” Monica recounted.
Monica Oudang took the reins at Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa earlier this year in March. She first joined Gojek as Chief Human Resources Officer back in 2015. She recalled her journey from an entrepreneur to join a start-up as a difficult choice at first, but an opportunity she could not resist. The Boston University graduate is quite fortunate to be able to find her passion early in life. Starting out her professional career as a financial analyst in the US, she quickly realized that numbers were not necessarily her passion. Her love to interact with people and to learn about what drives them pushed her to seek other career alternatives. She contemplated many career choices before ending up choosing marketing as HR was not “sexy” enough back then. Armed with an MBA in Marketing from Elkin B. McCallum Graduate School of Business, she started her career shift as the Marketing and Communication Manager at Global TV.
In the midst of her career path, her life goals of marriage and starting a family were also realized. Not one to pass up one for the other, Monica chose to start her own recruitment consulting firm called Staff Search in 2008. This gave her the flexibility to have a career and to be a loving wife and mother to her family as well. It was through Staff Search that she got to work with and become a friend to Nadiem Makarim, Gojek’s founder and the current Minister of Education and Culture. Realising her potential, Nadiem pitched her an idea of helping to transform Indonesia and make an impact on millions of lives which she could not pass up.
“In my early days at Gojek, my job was not only to take care of our people, I did driver training, I did PR, I did so many things that I never imagined I would do.” Monica recalls. “I joined the company when there were only around 100 people including the call center agents and now that number has grown to more than 5,000. The impact that Gojek has on the change of Indonesia has been phenomenal and this is the same impact we want to make with Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa.”
One thing that really resonated and was pivotal in why she joined Gojek is the company’s commitment to help change the lives of millions of people. If you look at Gojek, Social impact is extremely ingrained in the company, “It’s in our DNA.” Monica elaborates. “Since last year, we have been discussing how we can extend our social impact beyond Gojek’s ecosystem. Obviously, our ecosystem has propped up millions of people from our driver partners to merchants, however, there are so many other informal sectors that are untouched. Being in Indonesia, our lives are inseparable from the informal sector from the street vendors to the cleaners. here are so many informal sectors that have contributed to our lives.”
The foundation is here to stay. Just as Gojek has managed to transform the lives of millions of people in Indonesia, we want to do the same. We want to extend our social impact DNA to the rest of Indonesia.
Monica continues: “The conversation started late last year and the idea was to start the foundation sometime by end of this year. But things changed. The pandemic happened and as it spread quickly worldwide and hit Indonesia, we realized that this was something that couldn’t wait. We quickly set up the foundation in order to support all of these people whose livelihoods are dependent on day to day income and that were greatly impacted.”
Driver partners at Gojek lost their income significantly overnight due to the temporary closure of the GoRide business to comply with government regulations. But Gojek’s driver partners and merchants make up only a small portion of these groups of people who are reliant on a day to day income. Looking across the empty streets in Jakarta, there are many more people impacted by the large-scale social restrictions mandated by the government. To Monica, the time to act was now.
“The Senior leadership team at Gojek quickly assembled and donated 25 percent of their salaries as the initial fund to set up the foundation,” Monica explains. “On top of that our employees, united with the same purpose, decided to jump on the bandwagon. All of the merit increases that were supposed to happen this year was instead donated to the foundation as well. It is such an amazing experience to see humanity come to rise and how the Gotong Royong spirit led us to be able to raise 100 billion rupiah as our initial fund.”
Setting up a foundation during the pandemic has been challenging and exciting at the same time. Realizing that time is of the essence, speed is everything; from fund-raising and designing programs all the way to distributing the help to the people who need it the most. Thankfully, Speed, Innovation & Social Impact have always been the pillars of Gojek culture which helps Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa deliver on its mission.
Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa has so far reached over 450,000 people who received staple good packages across 59 cities in Indonesia; 600,000 people if we also count the people in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam where Gojek also has a presence. The foundation has successfully raised funds from multiple partners who are united for the same cause, enabling YABB to reach more people across the whole region. “We have developed many programs to help support the front liners who are risking their lives everyday so we can live safely and comfortably.” Monica explained. “We have helped people build sustainable livelihoods through the provision of staple goods packages and distribution of free meal vouchers that can be redeemed at selected small and medium enterprises. This, in turn, helps those small and medium businesses earn additional income. To date, YABB has distributed around 2.900.000 meals to Gojek’s driver partners and their families, and over 230,000 meal packages to healthcare workers across 15 hospitals as well as to the informal sector.
As part of the foundation’s effort to raise awareness of COVID-19’ impact on the informal sector, YABB also collaborated with celebrities and artists by creating the #SumbangSuara campaign. The Sumbang Suara movement is a public donation program organized initially in collaboration with the band Slank. According to the foundation website, “it aims to amplify the voices of those people who are dependent on daily earnings that have lost their only source of income due to the strict implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures”
“Slank, inspired by our driver partners, created a song in the midst of this pandemic, and that became our source of inspiration to collaborate with more artists and celebrities to raise awareness and actually create a movement to support the informal sector.” Monica continues, “We had celebrities such as Rich Brian, Luna Maya, and many more rolling up their sleeves to help this campaign. Rich Brian also released a new music video showing his collaboration with Gojek drivers to deliver his donations to help people who are impacted in Indonesia.” The #SumbangSuara movement managed to garner 60,349 unique donors and has raised over 11 Billion Rupiah – every cent of it dedicated to the informal workers out there.
Now that the government has eased restrictions, we are faced with a “new normal” discourse that will take months or maybe even a year to adjust to. How has the foundation reacted to this? “I think the pandemic has changed the way we ultimately live, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done to help people adjust to this.”, Monica opines. “For example, there are about 45 million children – who potentially are unable to continue their education due to the change in ways of learning. Since the government has implemented online learning most likely until September or maybe even December. One of the major challenges that children of parents working in the informal sector face is a lack of infrastructure. They don’t necessarily have the devices needed to learn. They also don’t have a proper Internet connection for online learning.
She firmly adds: “From March until now our focus has been all about immediate relief. As the economy opens up, these people will need support during what I call this recovery period. That’s what we’re going to focus on in the next few months: helping these people who are dependent on daily earnings to adjust to the new normal. The foundation is here to stay and our dreams are big. Just as Gojek has managed to transform the lives of millions of people in Indonesia, we want to do the same. We want to extend our social impact DNA to the rest of Indonesia.”
“The foundation is here to stay. Just as Gojek has managed to transform the lives of millions of people in Indonesia, we want to do the same. We want to extend our social impact DNA to the rest of Indonesia”