Leadership Thoughts

Monica Oudang on how Gojek’s YABB foundation has supported the informal sector during the pandemic

Written by Sara Mandagie Published on 

Monica Oudang sheds a light on the goals of YABB amidst economic uncertainty.

Monica Oudang is the Chairwoman of the Yayasan Anak Bangsa Bisa (YABB) foundation, launched in March 2020 by Indonesia-headquartered ride-hailing firm Gojek. YABB aims to create more sustainable livelihoods, specifically for people working in the informal sectorOudang previously served as Gojek’s Chief Human Resources Officer, where she supported the firm’s employment growth from 100 employees to over 4000 in five years.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

KrASIA (Kr): Can you tell us more about your background and how you started your journey with Gojek?

Monica Oudang (MO): I think I am one of the most fortunate people, as I was able to identify my passions, even if it did take quite a while. In college, I majored in finance because it was the hottest industry back then, and worked in the finance sector for a few years. Although it paid well, I was craving to do something more.

I started to think about what I enjoy, and I realized interacting with people is something I love doing. Hence, I started working in the marketing sector for a television station. But somehow, life took me to a different path. I met my husband and started a family. These new family obligations made me take a step back in my career.

However, I started to miss the interactions at work, and I realized that I just enjoy working too much. So, I decided to start my own business, which then expanded into a human resources (HR) consulting firm. This was how I met Nadiem Makarim (Gojek’s founder and current Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture) in 2015, and how I subsequently ended up working in Gojek.

When I first joined Gojek in 2015, my responsibilities were not only limited to HR. There were around 100 people, including those in the call center, and we were located in a one-floor office space with one working toilet. I used multiple hats; handling PR and recruiting drivers as well. I remember when we first launched our app and recruited our initial drivers, I also got to train them on how to use smartphones. Fast forward five years to today, we have over 2 million drivers. It has been an amazing experience for me, and I can truly feel the impact we are creating.

Monica Oudang, chairwoman of YABB. Photo: YABB

Kr: How was YABB conceived and how was it launched?

MO: It has always been our dream to be able to expand that impact beyond our ecosystem. Our initial plan was to launch YABB at the end of 2020, but given the pandemic situation, we decided to expedite the creation of the foundation. With the government regulations and restrictions imposed on large-scale social gatherings, the informal sector has been hard hit, especially for those who depend on day to day income.

We have a lot of drivers that rely on our platform for daily income, and as they have always been there for us, it’s our turn to do the same for them too. We set up the foundation in a week, and throughout 2020, we have distributed IDR 116 billion in COVID-19 relief efforts to targeted beneficiaries. That is all due to the quick responses and decisions made by our Go-Troops, which is how we refer to Gojek employees, and our corporate partners who came on board and supported us as well.

Kr: How is YABB distributing the financial aids?

MO: In Indonesia alone, from March to December 2020, YABB distributed 693,000 food packages to Gojek partners, as well as informal workers outside of our ecosystem. YABB has also given 2.9 million meal coupons to drivers and 230,000 food packages to health workers. Both the food packages and the meal coupons programs involved 1,570 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) partners. This way, we also supported the income sustainability of thousands of culinary MSMEs affected by the pandemic.

We also distributed staple food coupons, meal packages, and fuel coupons to support more than 26,000 Gojek partners in Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In April 2020, we collaborated with Slank, a legendary Indonesian rock band, and hosted a virtual music concert where we raised about IDR 11.6 billion. These proceeds went to supporting the external ecosystem, especially informal workers like street vendors, taxi and minibus drivers, basically those in the same shoes as our Gojek driver partners and SME partners who depend on day to day income.

Monica, representing YABB, received a donation from a corporate partner

Kr: Is YABB here to stay? What is your next move?

MO: We are definitely here to stay. Areas that we will continue focusing on include education and entrepreneurship. Education is definitely a crucial leveller for gaining access to opportunities, and this is why we provided infrastructure and mentorship support to students in 2020. For entrepreneurship, we provided small businesses with marketing support, training and mentorship. The outcomes of this program have been amazing, and we actually saw a 30% increase in these businesses’ sales after the program. The program only spanned two months, but the impact created was very heartwarming.

Looking ahead, YABB will be focusing on talent development and creating solutions to meet the needs of the community. We have all seen the recent dramatic changes in our society, and we want to emphasise the importance of being resilient amidst these dynamic changes. We are going to look at ways to do this through technology and innovation, byequipping people with more skills and opportunities, as well as help in creating different, high-value jobs that can contribute to the larger economy.

A parent receiving gadget aid from YABB for his children’s online learning needs. Photo: YABB

Kr: What’s your personal outlook for this year? Also, what are some qualities needed to face these uncertain moments?

MO: The pandemic has definitely changed the way we live, work, and interact with people. There is a radical shift in how we use technology on a daily basis. Hence, it also changes the job landscape. Within the HR trend itself, there is a big shift in the skill sets that are needed.

We now need to build on transferable skills, which will be necessary at all times. First, an empathetic mindset is now needed more than ever. Secondly, we need to use every opportunity to learn, making active learning our own responsibility. Thirdly, we need to develop grit and resilience within ourselves to enhance our digital skill sets in this era. Hopefully, with all of the above, we can access more opportunities or create new ones, even in these uncertain times.


Sara Mandagie


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