Published On:25 September 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Female Entrepreneurs Blaze a Trail for Women in Business

By Shirley Christie

One woman believes generating electricity for the poor is her calling. Another struggled for a decade to nurture Internet business.

Tri Mumpuni and Shinta Witoyo Dhanuwardoyo, two of the nation’s leading female entrepreneurs, say the role of women in Indonesia is changing.

“Looking at different cultures in Indonesia, from Aceh to Papua, women are playing a very significant role. Some have even become breadwinners for their family,” said Tri Mumpuni, a director of the People-Centered Economic and Business Institute (Ibeka).

Puni, as she is known, said that today women have more choices — from being a professional, to supporting her husband’s business to becoming a spoiled wife.

“Women should stay focused and do what they love to do,” the development studies graduate told the Jakarta Globe last week. Women just need to be given a chance and a little training to get them started, she said.

Puni, 46, is a social entrepreneur and the wife of Iskandar Budisaroso Kuntoadji, an engineering graduate who learned about micro-hydro generators in Switzerland and established Ibeka. Until the early 1990s, she was active in a project to provide low-cost housing for the urban poor. However, the project was struggling to make an impact, because, Puni said, the urban areas had become “money-driven” societies.

In 1992, she decided to join her husband’s project because she realized that poor people in rural areas need electricity to make a better living. “Electricity is just a tool, a means to empower people, so they can improve their welfare,” said Puni.

With the micro-hydro plants, the villagers could generate their own electricity and sell the extra power to state utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara.

Puni received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award this year after her Ibeka foundation built 60 small power plants harnessing the energy of water stored in dams to bring electricity to half a million people.

“There are still 90 million people living without electricity in Indonesia,” she said.

Her plan is to continue raising funds from the corporate sector. She is also sharing her story with the world, this month alone meeting with senior corporate and community figures in five cities across Europe and the United States.

“For the past 10 years, most of the sponsors were foreign companies, but now there are more domestic companies supporting this cause,” Puni said.

Aside from “evangelizing” the micro-hydro power concept, she also manages more than 20 other projects, including managing farming to improve irrigation, a biogas program, butterfly breeding and a dairy farm.

She advised young female entrepreneurs not to give up, especially during the early years. “The first three to five years would be difficult, as you might face failure,” Puni said.

As a woman who has experienced many ups and downs over the past 16 years, fellow entrepreneur Shinta echoed the advice.

The chief executive at Web development company Bubu said she was entering a new zone when she decided to grow her business through Bubu Internet, which she set up with friends after returning from school in the United States.

“In 1995, the Internet was still quite rare for many people, but at that time I had always believed that it would become big one day,” she said. “I have failed many times. It’s only in the last two or three years that I have begun to reap success.”

A graduate with a master’s degree in international business from Portland State University, she stayed true to her passion and made Bubu a full-service digital agency. This year, she also invited several international speakers to speak at Indonesia’s largest digital event IDByte.

Shinta, 41, said there were no easy ways to generate funding, so every entrepreneur should be prepared to “bootstrap” — allocate capital from a personal budget.

To stand out from competitors, she stressed the importance of diversification and adaptability. “Innovation will set you apart from the rest,” she said.

Shinta will this week attend an APEC meeting on innovation, trade and technology in San Francisco.

(Courtesy: The Jakarta Globe)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on September 25, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on September 25, 2011. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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