In the nearly three years since Ridwan Kamil has been mayor of Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city, citizens have been spending less time hanging out in the malls and more time rolling around in the grass.
Kamil, who was an architect in New York and Hong Kong before becoming a politician, has a vision to revitalize the Indonesian city where he was born and raised, largely through green developments.
In the past two years alone, Kamil has overseen the development of 10 new parks in Bandung and is aggressively working on plans to boost the amount of public transit, including the addition of electric buses. His goal is someday see 80 per cent of residents in the capital city of Indonesia’s West Java province taking public transit, instead of just 20 per cent today.
At the recent GLOBE 2016 conference in Vancouver, Kamil was actively seeking business partners and investors to help him fulfill his dreams, the cost of which he pegs at about $4 billion (U.S.) “for green business alone.” He wants Bandung, Indonesia’s “happiest city” to be the prototype for other municipalities across the country.
“What I’m looking for here and everywhere in the coming years is to find a group of businesses that can bring the infrastructure, mostly in green and clean technology, but also bring the capital,” said Kamil during the Spotlight on ASEAN panel at GLOBE 2016. He cited the public-private partnerships that are common in Canada as business model he’d like to pursue in his country.
“When Bandung succeeds, it can become an example for the other 500 cities in Indonesia,” Kamil said.
Bandung’s transformation highlights the rapid change taking place across the 10 countries in Southeast Asia that make up the ASEAN, which can’t be underestimated. The ASEAN is the world’s seventh-largest economy and home to about 10 per cent of the global population.
The Asian Development Bank estimates that the ASEAN countries will need to invest $100 billion annually between now and 2020 in sustainable infrastructure to keep their economic engine humming. That includes everything from water treatment and green buildings to smart grids.
It’s a huge opportunity for Canadian companies, particularly those with clean technology solutions.
“That’s where Canada’s future growth story is, exporting abroad,” Cameron MacKay, director general, Trade Sectors Bureau at Global Affairs Canada, said at the event.
But entering the ASEAN market has its challenges, and can be different from other international markets.
“People say, ‘I’m looking at Asia,’ but that’s a huge geography,” Don Purka, advisor to the Office of the Director General Private Sector Operations Department at the Asian Development Bank, told the GLOBE 2016 audience.
He said Canadian companies need to be focused, including picking one or two countries first, before trying to tackle the entire economic region. Each country has a different culture, economy and government regulations.
“Figure out the best place [based on your product or service],” then build a business plan around it.
Purka also recommends Canadian exporters going into the ASEAN market try to form a joint venture that will provide both financial backing and on-the-ground industry experience. For example, he said there are many energy companies in ASEAN countries looking for clean technology expertise and knowledge to help reduce emissions and increase productivity.
“That is the best way Canadian companies can go after that market,” Purka said.
Developing relationships is also important, said Anthony Watanabe, managing director of Bangkok-based Asia Clean Innovations.
When he moved his business to Thailand nearly two years ago, Watanabe said he thought he knew how to develop business relationships based on his experience in Canada.
“I have been taken to school on how to build relationships,” he said. “I’m still in school. It’s very different.”
Adds Watanabe, “There’s a strategic element that can’t be underestimated.”