Bukalapak, established in 2010, holds a prestigious position in the e-commerce sector. The rapid growth of the company in the last two years has earned them the tag of a unicorn by reaching $1 billion market value. As announced by the Indonesian government, the nation is expecting to establish five unicorns by 2020. Among the unicorns such as ride-hailing app Go-Jek, travel site Traveloka and Tokopedia, Bukalapak is the youngest one. The company is planning to expand the working environment to a wide range of fields apart from online marketing and to enhance the number of working population as they realize the fact that a technology company has to build its own platform to attract people.
In Indonesia, along with offering investment solutions, they function like a distributor company engaged in collecting consumer goods from traditional stores and bringing them to an online platform where customers can order and buy them as per their choice.
Can you share your views about the changes that have taken place in the talent landscape in Southeast Asian e-commerce industry over the last three years?
Currently, we have a workforce constituting more than two thousand employees, and we recruit on a frequent basis based on our business needs. Talent scarcity in both quantity and quality is a major crisis we face, especially in the technical field. There is a shortage of skilled engineers and even though Indonesian universities are one of the biggest producers in engineering, there is a mismatch between their skills and the talent requirements of companies. When I connected with one of my colleagues engaged in the recruitment agency, I came to know that the foreign companies in Singapore and Malaysia are also in a hunt for Indonesian engineers to overcome the talent scarcity they face. Immobility due to the geographical features of Indonesia which comprises both land and islands, adherence to a traditional culture which is diverse, and inconvenience caused by the expensive standard of living in Jakarta are perceived as the main reasons for talent scarcity.
What are the strategies that you follow while hiring employees?
Strengthening employer branding to attract people is one of our chief areas of attention. We focus on developing our engineers and want to make them feel proud of the organization since it has been proven that they will promote us externally and will bring in more candidates when they discover their own progress. The efficiency to collaborate or work together, flexibility and humility are the qualities we search for while recruiting a candidate. Unique training programmes are offered by appointing engineering managers or talent managers who focus on molding engineers to make them quite worth for the company. The attrition rate is not much low or not much high when it comes to expanding the organization.
Can you point out the challenges that you face while engaging with employees of different generations?
Our organization is mostly dominated by millennials. The average age of an employee is estimated to be 26. Personally, I am not able to find out any difference in millennials whom I consider as human beings searching for happiness like everyone else. They too hold a purpose and are more convenient to work in a flexible working environment. We don’t promote employees who are inflexible or unwilling to collaborate with each other as it will hinder the performance of the organization. If you can maintain kindness, flexibility, and speed of learning as well as sharing, you will be treated as an asset.
Can you elaborate on the digitalization process in Bukalapak?
As a part of a technology company, HR at Bukalapak always strives to keep up with technological developments. One of the improvements that we develop is implementing the technology itself into our business process.
Some of the products that are currently available and utilize technology as a baseline are NABILA - Oracle system for our HRIS; BukaCurhat, an internal feedback channel for employees to the HR division; an e-learning system; a virtual townhall named Obrolan Bukalapak that is held every month; an internal encyclopedia named BukaPustaka, and Hacimi - the most innovative HR technology to help our employees by using a chatbot. The idea of Hacimi is to integrate chat with a human resource that can provide personalized support.
How critical is the culture to Bukalapak and how do you ensure a common culture runs through the organization?
Our digital initiative focuses on culture expounded by the company’s founders. It's significant when new employees tend to follow diverse cultures and display a tendency to hold on to themselves. In order to crystallize the culture, we have organized it as five values of the organization. First one is ‘gotong-royong’ which means collaboration and is meant to develop a bond between the employees. The next value we uphold is ‘try, fail and try again’ to prove that mistakes are the ways towards learning and no one has to feel afraid of it. ‘Customer obsessed’ forms the third one which is beyond customer service. When you create a product, you should not only be focusing on your competitors but also have to be really aware of your customers. ‘Going for the extra mile’ is the fifth one and ‘speak up’ goes for the last principle which aims at promoting transparency in the organization. These all five values are our main keys in empowering Indonesia in this digitalization era.
How does the HR structure help in implementing the digital agenda?
Company’s HR areas constitute people training, HR strategy department, HR work culture, HR services department and HR facilities dealing with general affairs. We categorize HR into several heads. The first part, the administration is digitalized in the whole process ranging from recruitment including online screening to transaction such as payroll and database. We also view HR as an organizational structure or system as well as a business strategy. Another dimension is in the form of people’s consent. Fortunately, we haven’t been facing any challenges in the digitalizing process since most of our employees are youngsters and the millennials are easily adaptable to the transformation.
How do you manage the gig economy and the talented workforce?
We try to accelerate the gig economy. In order to promote our culture which gives value for establishing a bond among the employees, we have incorporated in the gig economy policies a provision that requests the employees to visit the office once in a while. While managing the talented workforce, sometimes we might come across employees who are not able to understand the present and future requirements of the company. We keep them motivated through our concepts of ownership and partnership to generate a feeling that they are entrepreneurs and a part of the bigger company. Anyone who wants to join Bukalapak should have the ambition to empower the Indonesian business sector since we are obliged to the growth of the nation. We always maintain a balance between hiring fresh candidates and professionals. The search for professionals will be made when there is a need for right skills and talent which might be absent in the company.
What are your views on manual labor being replaced by automation and AI?
We believe in relying on the human mind rather than on the machines for artistic creation and designing. Technology companies will find human talent more efficient and productive for innovation.
How do you envisage the future of work and the Indonesian e-commerce industry?
Indonesia has to strive hard to dominate the market. We have to make effective use of opportunities outside the e-commerce industry including transaction via social media. In the future, we expect a huge demand for technical skills. Also, time demands us to promote vocational education which would improve the skills and talents of candidates as required by the organizations. It is also significant to connect the Indonesian islands to each other which are so diverse in order to widen the exchange.