Published on 14 Sep 2023

Alumni conference casts an eye on Indonesia’s tech and education

At the inaugural NTU Alumni Regional Conference 2023 held in Jakarta, thought leaders and alumni business leaders gave their take on the future of Indonesia’s digital economy and its education landscape.

By Christine Teh

When Adamas Belva Syah Devara, CEO and Co-founder of Ruangguru, was studying, he and his sister wanted to go to a university. However, he felt he needed to find a private tutor who could impart him the knowledge to ace the entrance tests so that his application could stand out.

Adamas decided to solve his own problem. He and his co-founder, Iman Usman, both in their early 20s then, started a private tutoring online marketplace in 2014 to connect tutors to students in Indonesia. From there, the company, Ruangguru, has branched into private education for various levels and launched online learning solutions, earning them the title of being the largest education technology startup in Southeast Asia.

From left: Dr Katherine Kho from Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences, Adamas Belva Syah Devara from Ruangguru, and Merry Riana from Merry Riana Group. 

Adamas shared the upside of edutech and his inspiration to launch his own business at the NTU Alumni Regional Conference on 26 August 2023 in Jakarta. The conference was attended by 200 alumni, government representatives and invited industry partners from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Abu Dhabi and China. 

“Tech is the equaliser that enables more students to take additional lessons outside of school, because it is 10 times cheaper compared to traditional tutoring, and it also transcends geographies whereby students and teachers do not have to travel to meet. Having chatrooms in the virtual classrooms also reduces the feeling of loneliness among learners and makes it possible to personalise the learning experience,” he said. 

The invention of artificial intelligence (AI) may cast doubt on the authenticity of originality in a student’s work. Adamas quipped, “The calculator was invented, but does it mean that people do not learn to count anymore? We can think of good ways to use AI, such as how teachers can use it to create content. We need to also think about how AI will impact how we educate our children as it becomes more commonplace in five to 10 years."

The Nanyang Outstanding Young Alumni Award 2022 recipient, who graduated with a double degree from Nanyang Business School and NTU School of Computer Science and Engineering in 2011, also employs NTU alumni. In fact, more than half of his management team members are Indonesian graduates of NTU. 

The full-day conference consisted of the NTU Singapore - Indonesia Dialogue in the morning and a series of panel discussions featuring leading alumni speakers in the afternoon. 

The session’s keynote speaker, Dr Tito Karnavian, Indonesia’s Minister of Home Affairs, said that Singapore and Indonesia can co-operate in using technology to innovate and create business opportunities, and NTU is in a position to provide customised curriculum for learners from Indonesia. 

The afternoon conference was kicked off by Pramoda Dei Sudarmo, Special Staff to the Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in Indonesia, who spoke about the importance of developing the youth.

Pramoda Dei Sudarmo, Special Staff to the Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in Indonesia, was a graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

Dr Tito and Mr Pramoda graduated from S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information respectively.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to Singapore Mr Suryo Pratomo and Singapore’s Ambassador to Indonesia Mr Kwok Fook Seng also spoke at the event. They touched on the “Vision of Indonesia 2045” where a key tenet is human capital development and the adoption of science and technology. They concurred that knowledge partners like NTU can play a role to support Indonesia’s development.

Bright spots in the digital economy

Other alumni panellists included Victor Lesmana (EEE/2004) from BukaFinancial & Commerce, Merry Riana (EEE/2002) from Merry Riana Group, Alwyn Rusli (CEE/2007) from Trihill Capital, Farhan Firdaus (TIP/2020) from Meet Ventures, and Melisa Hendrawati (NBS/2007, 2011) from Superbank. 

Moderating the discussions were Parlindungan Yonathan Pangaribuan (MSE/2003) from UL Solutions, Dr Katherine Kho (CCEB/2013) from Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences, and Mala Ekayanti (WKWSCI/2016) from BASF Indonesia. 

Over lively panel discussions, these business leaders discussed how to raise capital for startups as well as shared ideas on how to serve the underbanked Indonesian population through digital banking.  

Alwyn Rusli, listed on 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia, has backed over ten early-stage startups and venture capital funds in commerce, fintech, and logistics since he joined the investment company, Trihill Capital, in March 2021. He said that Indonesia ranks sixth internationally with 2,400 startups, and there are plenty of opportunities for acquisition and incubation of new businesses in the country.

Victor Lesmana, CEO of BukaFinancial & Commerce, described how microbusiness funding provided by digital banks has benefitted many families where the business owners are now able to get the cashflow they need to buy stocks and receive payments through digital transfers, ultimately leading to more income for these small business owners. 

From left: Prof Ooi Kim Tiow from NTU Office of Alumni Engagement, Victor Lesmana from BukaFinancial & Commerce, Melisa Hendrawati from Superbank, and Mala Ekayanti from BASF Indonesia.

Johnny Widodo (MSE/2022, 2005 and NBS/2010), CEO of PT Ringan Teknologi Indonesia and the president of NTU Alumni Association (Indonesia), co-organised the conference in partnership with NTU Office of Alumni Engagement and its Professional and Global Network Subcommittee. 

He said, “The interactions among alumni were amazing. We look forward to future events and to widening our alumni networks in every ASEAN country.” 

From left: Farhan Firdaus from Meet Ventures, Johnny Widodo from PT Ringan Teknologi Indonesia, Alwyn Rusli from Trihill Capital.

Check out more conference photos in NTUsg’s Facebook photo album.

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