Weekend Inspiration: Giving Jakarta a Better Reputation

August 26, 2012

10:00 am

When Selina Limman traveled to the US for college, many things were different from her hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia.

She was studying food science and technology in Los Angeles. On her free evenings, she would log onto sites like Yelp and Citysearch to find restaurants, stores, and events. Everyone bubbled about how much there was to do. But back in Jakarta, people claimed, there weren’t many places to go and everyone ended up in the air-conditioned malls.

“I realized that Jakarta is also full of interesting places and events – it’s just that information about them is just not readily available,” says Limman. To find that information, you had to read lots of little blogs or scan the newspapers after work, which was too late.

Supported by her entrepreneurial parents – her mother ran a jewelry chain and her father started tech businesses – she launched Urbanesia, an Indonesian-style Yelp. It features over 250,000 listings, including smaller establishments that might not make it on Yelp: hawker centers (open-air food markets) and small fashion designers. Customers also clamored for sections on Mom and Baby and Wedding Planning.

The Indonesian-language site has a tagline: Kota kita, cerita kita, which means “Our city, our story.” It’s supposed to be a way for Indonesians to share their love of their cities: “from us, to us,” says Limman. She also created a section called Urban’s Notes, with posts on the best events and venues.

They also have to account for the haphazard nature of some Indonesian street addresses. “The addresses are just impossible,” Limman explains. “Sometimes you can’t even find the street name; sometimes the street name is covered in trees or maybe it’s gone.” So Urbanesia also features full-fledged directions to each location.

Urbanesia attracted the attention of Indonesia’s largest newspaper, Kompas, which now owns part of the company. That means Kompas drives traffic to the site, and more Indonesians get reacquainted with their hometowns.

“Sometimes people wonder, ‘Why don’t you stay in the States?’” says Limman. “I feel like this is my home country, and Jakarta is just as great as any city in the States.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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