OVO is the rising online payment application that lets you do transaction easier in your daily life. Johnny Widodo accepted the challenge to become the director of OVO despite having no background in the digital arena. But he had one thing that always propelled him forward, which was his desire to learn. Find out how he is coping with the challenges of implementing fintech (financial technology) in Indonesia as well as his generous advice for millennials.
How did you get into fintech?
My background is in the shrimp business. Do you know about Fiesta seafood? Well, I used to work there. As for how I got into fintech, someone offered me the job and because I like new challenges as well as the fact that I had never worked in digital or fintech before, my interest was piqued. You might be surprised to know that when I first joined, I didn’t know what POS or EDC stands for. My mentality was just someone who always wants to learn.
What are the challenges you faced with OVO in Indonesia?
The main problems are the infrastructure and regulatory system. The next challenge is the customer. Changing behaviour is difficult—in general, people are creatures of habit. Have you ever experienced that when you drive, you always use the same route and the same parking spot [laughs]?
So how are you finding ways to change people’s habits?
If you want to change a habit, you got to use a hook. You just have to try and give them a hook where they just can’t say no.
Like the Rp.1 parking promotion in all Lippo malls back then?
Yes, you have to make them try, so after they try and find out how convenient it is, I can experiment with the promotion, such as decreasing the cashback amount, or tweaking the promotion to see how the customers are reacting to it.
Why do you believe in fintech?
For me, I hate going to the supermarket, especially at weekends, because the line is always so long. Imagine that you are only buying fewer than 10 items and you have to queue for more than 30 minutes—for me, I just want to pick it up, walk out, and be done with my shopping as fast as I can. If you ask me who I want to be, I hope to be the Alipay of Indonesia. The key is to get people from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible. If we give them a proper hook and they start realising how helpful is this system in getting them from point A to point B faster, slowly OVO or fintech in general will become a part of their life.
How do you make sure that OVO keeps in line with the regulations in Indonesia?
We have our own compliance team, so they can guide us when it comes to regulations. If I am a regulator, should I govern all this? Yes, because we are basically holding people’s money. It the money disappears because of a sudden glitch, what will happen? That will be chaotic. We have 9.5 million customers, so can you imagine how it would be if they suddenly had their money mixed up.
The thing is, regulators are still not familiar in the fintech industry, so those who don’t usually deal with fintech have to suddenly think about it. If we expect them to govern everything, that will be impossible.
Is there anything you want the government to do that will help OVO?
In general, make things much faster and more efficient. And also, when the government implements a rule that everyone has to follow, people have no choice except to change their behaviour. Or you have to give people something so good they cannot resist. Why are online payments so successful in India and China? Simple, it’s because of the government. Now let’s say the government says it is eliminating three zeros behind our current money. People will most likely go cashless as they may feel that they can’t trust the cash they’re holding anymore.
What do you think about the infrastructure in Indonesia?
If the infrastructure is not good, fintech will not go well, too. It doesn’t matter how much you believe in fintech if you go to Papua and you can’t find any signal. The funny thing is, when I drive and make a phone call at the same time, I know exactly where in Jakarta that my signal will drop [laughs].
What are your principles as a leader?
I think that the mentality to learn is really important. I don’t mind pushing and developing someone if he or she is willing to learn. Another thing is to stand up for your mistakes—don’t try to cover them up. When you make mistakes, you have to find out the root cause, so that you don’t make the same mistake again. The simplest way to say it is when you fall down, make sure you understand why you fell down and make sure you don’t repeat it.
How do you motivate your employees?
In my team, there are many millennials and sometimes some of them say they wanted to resign. So, if any young staff want to go, the first question I want them to answer is why do they want to go? After they know the why, I want to make sure that they fix their why next time. It’s no use if they move and then find out they don’t like the next place, too. Second, if they want to leave, remember what they’re going to miss here. Are they willing to let it go? I tell them that this life is not about running a sprint—they are running a marathon. I always tell them to just keep their pace and continuously build their passion across many things.
How do you deal with employee burnout?
In work, sometimes it can be like a black hole. Whatever you put into your work, it will disappear. So that means when you have 1,000 things to do, you just have to learn to prioritise and learn how to say no. Because if you always say yes to everything and try to make everyone happy, it doesn’t matter if you put in 24 hours a day, as all your hard work will disappear. My advice is to integrate your life with your work, instead of trying to balance it.
What is your advice for millennials who are searching for their ideal job?
Most people know what they don’t like about a job, but when asked about what it is they actually like, they don’t know. So, I tell them when they work, it’s a function of three things. First is the work function itself and the people around you, next is the function from your boss, and the third function is the money.
So, if you ask me which one is more important, it should be a balance of these three. Also, in your next job, how will you see your boss? Instead of seeing him or her as a boss, can you see them as a mentor? A boss is different from a mentor. You should ask yourself whether you can learn from your boss and respect him and whether you can see yourself being someone like him in the future. If the answer is yes, then follow him. Notice the gap between you and him and then learn to close the gap.