Why I’m Moving Back to Indonesia

“Oh, you’re going back for good to Indonesia? So you’ve finished your studies/contract eh?”

Almost invariably, that line of thought is what people — mostly Indonesians themselves — assume whenever they hear that I’m moving back to Indonesia for good. After all, why would anyone made a conscious and deliberate decision to move back to Indonesia for good? Ergo, anyone moving back to Indonesia for good must be doing so without their own volition.

To those people, I happily corrected them that: No, I’m not moving back to Indonesia because my contract ran out. On the contrary, I have a permanent contract as senior engineer with bol.com, the largest e-commerce in the Netherlands and Belgium. Nor was I fired from, or getting bored at, bol.com; I was leading and collaborating with amazing colleagues on exciting, challenging, and high-impact projects. And when I had to announce the reason for my resignation, one of the director at bol.com amicably congratulated me and said that it was, in his own words, one of the best reason to resign that he has seen in years.

So if things were so great over there, why would I decide to move back to Indonesia for good? Part of the reason is family-related: we want our daughter to grow up closer to our family back home. And as any parent can tell you, raising a child is hard, and doubly so when you are deprived of immediate access to the rest of your family. Being able to meet said family only once a year, for a short couple of weeks, and after going through a grueling 17-hour flight, is far from ideal for us.

But we can still move to Singapore, have our family within stone throw distance (relatively speaking), and enjoy the comfort of living in a developed country, right? So what made me decide to move to Indonesia instead, whereas every so often we heard that people were clamoring to get out of the country as soon as they could?

Another reason — and this might be a bit surprising or hard to digest for some people, so I welcome any discussion about it — is that Indonesia has absolutely better growth potential compared to Singapore, Europe, or US. Indonesian e-commerce market, for example, is predicted to sustain a 39% annual growth for the next decade, up from $1.7 billion in 2015 to $46 billion in 2025. Recent (May 2016) report about Southeast Asian internet economy released by Google and Temasek declared that Indonesia is the fastest growing internet market in the world. (slide 7)

Indonesian e-commerce market is predicted to grow from $1.7 billion in 2015 to $46 billion in 2025.

With exciting growth comes lots of exciting challenges, one that the already-saturated market in Europe or the US will struggle to match. I will always be an engineer at heart, so among this exciting set of challenges, the one that I love the most is the challenge of scalability. This love starts early, right after I got my bachelor from Informatika ITB. At the time, I had to design and lead the development of a fintech system that experienced a 100x scaling within twelve months, reaching million-user scale in just six months post-launch.

But challenges in scalability extend beyond technical ones. When a company try to scale up its engineering workforce, it can’t just simply hire more engineers, clump them up together in a single huge room, and expect linear scaling in productivity. A certain kind of organizational scalability is also needed, lest the engineering team will experience lots of cross-interference and bottlenecks in their productivity. This kind of scalability challenge was also being experienced by bol.com during my time there, where our engineering division grew to more than 300 engineers by the time I resigned.

All things considered, when I had some talk with Achmad Zaky and Nugroho Herucahyono earlier this year — CEO and CTO of Bukalapak, one of the largest e-marketplace in Indonesia — we found a perfect match between my plan to go back to Indonesia, my excitement for technical and organizational scalability challenges, my experience in working at leading e-commerce in Europe, and the awesome people and product being constantly developed at Bukalapak.

Thus, I am proud and happy to be moving back to Indonesia for good and officially joining the Bukalapak family since last month as VP of Engineering. :)

The path towards that $46 billion Indonesian e-commerce market in 2025 will be a wild and exciting ride, and here at Bukalapak we’ll be bringing metric tons of best practices, talents, and techs to engineer the ultimate marketplace experience for millions of Indonesians all over the nation.

We’re always hiring for the best talents out there, and for fellow Indonesian tech expats around the world whom — just like me several months ago — thinking about moving back to Indonesia, let’s get in touch through bukalapak.com/careers, our StackOverflow company page, or hit me at LinkedIn, we might be able to surprise you. :)

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