Fans of the corporate reality show “The Apprentice” in Indonesia will have much to look forward to as two aspiring Indonesian entrepreneurs are set to take on regional rivals in the franchise’s latest installment.
“The Apprentice Asia,” a spinoff of the series best known for its tagline “You’re fired!” which was coined by iconic billionaire Donald Trump, will feature Indonesian contenders Hendy Setiono and Dian Krishna.
They will set out to see who will become “The Apprentice” to the show’s host Tony Fernandes, owner of the AirAsia budget airline and English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers.
Both Hendy and Dian are no strangers to the business world. The culinary entrepreneur behind the Ayam Bakar Mas Mono and Baba Rafi Turkish Kebabs restaurants, Hendy developed his businesses from the ground up.
“I started my business in 2003 when I was still a 19-year-old student at the Surabaya Institute of Technology. I dropped out of college to build up my startup company. The only assets I had were Rp 4 million (US$410) in capital and a pushcart to make and sell fried as well as grilled chicken. That was how Ayam Bakar Mas Mono was created,” Hendy said.
His franchises employ over 1,500 people throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines today.
For Hendy, his role as an employee in “The Apprentice Asia” might be a far cry from his real life vocation as an employer. Nevertheless, he is cherishing this opportunity as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I wanted to learn from the best, so I joined [The Apprentice Asia] to learn from Tony [Fernandes],” he said.
“I learned a lot from him, whether it be celebrating with his team to motivate them or making decisions in critical situations.
“Among the things I have learned from him are the leaders’ need to listen to his subordinates and decision-making during critical situations. Many Indonesians, particularly those in leadership positions, still need to learn these skills, as we are still accustomed towards a top-down model of management,” Hendy explained.
He added that he looked up to Fernandes’ business savvy, such as his feat of turning AirAsia from a defunct airline into the region’s most profitable budget carrier.
On her part, Dian pointed out that “The Apprentice Asia” made her appreciate the intricacies of the business world.
“[The Apprentice Asia] really teaches us if we are entrepreneurial or corporate material. If we are corporate material, we would know how to work the corporate ladder, politics and managing people,” said Dian, a former news anchor at the Metro TV news station and winner of the 2003 Putri Indonesia beauty contest.
“But if we are an entrepreneur, we not only have to have the corporate attributes that I mentioned before. We must also have a heart, trust our guts and adopt a gung-ho attitude,” she said.
Dian designated herself as a “homeland engineer” because she drew parallels between her experiences in recent years as a housewife with the corporate world of “Apprentice Asia.”
“Traditionally people look down on the role of a housewife. But they do not realize that running a household is a lot like running a business. For one, you have to keep the cash flow going. You have to manage your human resources, whether it be the children, your spouse, or the helper. So I guess I am running a corporation,” Dian said. “Being a housewife makes me good at balancing things. So for entrepreneurs [like Fernandes], people like me are needed as an anchor who can keep the fort together.”
Dian and Hendy pointed out that while “The Apprentice Asia” might be a game show, the challenges they face, such as the grueling daily 10-hour shoots during the 7 weeks needed to make the show, are all too real.
“One of the most challenging parts of the show was when we had to go to the ‘wet market’ or fish market. It was challenging for me, because I am more used to shopping for food in supermarkets,” Dian said. “I was also expected to touch up when we were there as well, which was a bit challenging.”
“I might have sworn a number of times, particularly during that episode, but I do not know if it aired,” she added with a laugh.
Going to places like the fish market was nothing new to Hendy.
“For me, the real challenge was in the boardroom scenes,” he explained. “As the only “The Apprentice Asia” contestant without a university degree, I did feel jaded facing others who held lofty graduate degrees and senior positions in their businesses. But it did not stop me, as I have extensive street smarts and I did become my group’s project leader.”
Dian believes the different characters of “The Apprentice Asia’s” multinational contestants gave the show its diversity. It also provides a good outlet to bring out Indonesians’ best traits.
“The contestants from other countries like Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines tend to believe that Indonesians are pushovers because we are not very abrasive, we seem to give in and we tend to avoid conflict.
“But they will be mistaken to view those traits as signs of weakness. In time they learned, much to their nasty surprise, that we have an inner strength and a will of our own,” Dian said.
The two added that their experience on the show will be useful for the future.
“[Fernandes] often asked me for my opinion about which contestants are the strongest and the weakest. I did not know why he asked me those questions at first, but then I realized that is his way of teaching me decision-making,” Dian said. “He pointed out that I should not be wary in making decisions that are for the good of others.”
“The network that I established with Fernandes is invaluable,” he said. “AirAsia passengers will enjoy Baba Rafi Kebabs in the near future, as he suggested that I sell them on board the airline’s flights. Something like that would only be feasible if I have direct access to him.”
Aside from Indonesia, the 12 contestants in “The Apprentice Asia” hail from other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. The contenders, who were shortlisted from over 30 thousand applicants, will be split in two groups of men and women.
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on May 22 2013