In the middle of the so-called Industry 4.0 phenomenon where everyone aims to go digital, those who major in digital subjects should be able to nail a job more easily, but this is not always the case. Technology develops rapidly, but university curricula not so much, creating a mismatch where fresh graduates do not come readily equipped with the skills needed for the latest technology demanded by businesses.
As a consequence, companies that can’t wait for these human resources to develop have to hire talent from overseas. And although formal educational institutions have tried changing their curricula, the problem persists. To help resolve this issue and produce more tech-engineering talent, Alamanda Shantika has founded Binar Academy – a non-formal, full-scholarship tech academy.
“The growing number of startups, founders and ideas, raises another question: who will execute these ideas into reality? I saw that gap for digital talent, which motivated me to establish Binar Academy,” says Ala.
From developing her interest in coding and mathematics since she was a teenager, Ala has been heavily involved in evolving the digital ecosystem in Indonesia. She worked at Go-Jek for two-and-a-half years until September 2016, where she had been vice president of technology products and then vice president of people’s journey and culture. After quitting Go-Jek, she traveled the country to see how digital development was coming along and discussed digital awareness in many places. Eventually, she helped at startup ecosystem builder KIBAR as a mentor for a few months, which at the time was voicing the government’s “1,000 Digital Startups Movement” campaign.
However, along the way Ala became aware of the growing aforementioned gap in digital talent, upon which she quit and launched the academy in March 2017.
Public enthusiasm for Binar Academy has exceeded Ala’s expectations. By early March, Binar had around 200 students enrolled, 650 graduates and over 18,000 nation-wide applicants trying for a scholarship. Binar’s Jogjakarta school is fully subscribed until end of the year. However, those who do not want to wait for their enrollment or still want to study there despite not passing the entrance test, can join Binar’s paid private program – although Ala says the proportion of such students is less than 10%. Programs offered are the same, each taking two to three months – from UI/UX designing and product specialisms to QA and Android / iOS / Backend engineering.
Currently there are three Binar academies in Indonesia: the first in Jogjakarta, another in Batam in cooperation with Singapore-based headhunter Glints, and the latest launched last October in BSD, Tangerang in Banten. Opening further academies is still under discussion, Ala says, and will be located in smaller cities
Since the goal for Binar is to close the gap in engineering skill provision, it prioritizes accepting those who are looking for a job, instead of those who want to found
yet another startup. Therefore Binar acts as a career hub for its students: connecting them with both corporates and startups. Binar will collect a talent fee upon a student being hired. Hiring partners can also rent Binar’s own coworking space in Jogjakarta, where they can consult with mentors from Binar while enjoying the community-based benefits of a co-working space.
Meanwhile, outside of the academy, Binar also assists conventional corporates seeking to undergo a digital transformation, by providing them with inhouse workshops and business solutions. Another stream to its business models is Binar Venture, also established as a subsidiary of the academy, which was launched in 2018.
“It is similar to a VC, but we are investing in people rather than investing in capital. We provide initial teams to early stage startups. With the number of VCs nowadays, the issue is not one of money anymore, but it’s about guiding people to work for early-stage startups,” explains Ala.
Binar Venture’s first portfolio partner is Arah (PT Mahata Group), which recently hit the headlines for providing free WiFi on Citilink – the low-cost carrier of the national airline PT Garuda Indonesia. For now, it only operates on one aircraft and the business is still being monitored.
“In 2022, our goal is to be a world-class company. We don’t plan to merely produce students but we want to keep improving the quality of our academy,” Ala says, adding that “We want to be able to fulfill the needs of the world, not only in Indonesia.” Technical matters aside, Binar wants people and companies to understand that going digital isn’t only about utilizing apps, but rather improving everything with data as its real essence.
Binar Academy is pretty much the reflection of Ala and her aspirations. To her, education is the core aspect in building human resources as the heart of the country’s development, yet she sees that the quality of education in Indonesia is still lacking. Her consciousness of the issue fuels her dream to become the minister of education, to revolutionize education in Indonesia, through what she does best at: technology. Binar Academy, therefore, is one of her many first steps toward achieving this goal. Currently, she is also active in the research team of the Presidential Advisory Council, which will examine the educational development and economic conditions across the country. For the next five years, Ala says she wants to focus her concerns on three pillars: education, health care, and the environment.
“While Binar is the reflection of my concern about education, I also realize that on the other hand we need to be physically t to seek knowledge as well. I want to focus on the environment, as we know that we’ve been destroying the earth and we really need to take action to rebuild it,” she says.