Amsterdam Research Project in action! An update from Myanmar and Indonesia

Soon the applications for the Amsterdam Research Project (ARP) will open again and a new group of students will be selected to conduct market research in a far-away emerging economy. We have already shared some experiences on what the first months of acquisition and desk-research in The Netherlands are like, but what can you expect once you are actually doing research on the other side of the world?

As part of the Amsterdam Research Project you help Dutch corporations set foot in foreign markets by investigating their industry up-close during a 5 week visit to that country. Right now the current ARP group is on location in Indonesia and will soon head off to their second destination, Myanmar. Read on to learn more about all their experiences and the impressions they’ve had so far!

After months of talking to Dutch businesses to discuss their interest in Indonesia and Myanmar, the time was there to actually pack our stuff and go. After a long day of flying we finally arrived in Surabaya, our first destination in Indonesia.

The Lonely Planet describes Surabaya as a city where you should only stay for a night in order to go to other (more beautiful) places. It also says Surabaya has no real tourist attractions, but as the first day passed we noticed there was one immensely popular attraction: us! The locals were bedazzled by the 20 Dutch giants walking through the streets of Surabaya and we felt like famous celebrities posing at least every 100 meters for pictures.

Since we arrived in the weekend we had the first few days to acclimatize, but after that the real work started. We had already done some desk-research on the markets of all our contractors and each group had a list of interesting companies they wanted to reach, but we still didn’t really know what to expect. Once started, we noticed that it actually isn’t too hard to meet with local companies. Everyone is quite impressed by us when we walk in, all suited up, and so it’s easy to arrange meetings with managers and even directors. They are happy to share their view on the market and the way of doing business in Indonesia. Within no-time all groups had full agendas and after a few days the first group already headed off to their second destination: Bandung, otherwise known as the ‘Paris of Java’.

Bandung is famous for its architecture and many residents of Jakarta often go to Bandung for a small vacation. Next to this, the city is known for its specialized knowledge in technology & engineering. With only a few days here, the 4-person group had to work as hard as they could to speak to all of their contacts. Though this was a tough week with up to 5 meetings a day, it gave them a real taste of the expat-life and of course they closed it off in style with dinner and drinks at a luxury skybar.

With all those meetings, full agendas, and of course many evening drinks, the first week passed in the blink of an eye and it was time for some well-deserved relaxation. The groups in Surabaya and Bandung visited rice fields, tea fields, temples, hot springs, and even an active vulcano! Then it was time for all groups to get back on the plane and fly on to their new destinations.

The next week it was up to another group to go solo and visit Jepara to research the famous furniture industry in this region. Jepara is located in Central Java and is full of small wooden furniture manufacturers. It is a ‘small’ village with 1.2 million inhabitants who have a very peaceful mentality, nothing compared to the bigger cities like Surabaya or Jakarta. Together with a buddy from the local association, this group visited a lot of manufacturers & workshops during the day, and enjoyed the deserted beaches of Jepara from their beach-front hotel during the evening.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group had started working in their biggest and most challenging destination so far. The Indonesian capital Jakarta is home to almost 10 million people and probably even more cars and scooters. For all groups this is the place to shine as many big (international) corporations and most governmental institutions are settled here. However, this turned out to be a bit more challenging than expected. Companies in this big city are a bit less impressed by us and our suits, so making appointments here isn’t as easy as it used to be. But on top of that, the biggest challenge is actually getting somewhere to make an appointment in the first place. Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams are living up to their reputation and our often hours-long taxi rides have led to the introduction of our taxi-sessions: A great time for sharing your new pictures with the group & your friends at home, watching a movie, having a good conversation, or catching up on some well-deserved sleep. Sleep that doesn’t come so easily during the night with all the great restaurants, clubs, and (more) skybars Jakarta has to offer.

Luckily we also have the other weekends during which the whole, reunited, group sailed to one of the uninhabited Thousand Islands and can do some sightseeing around Jakarta.

Thanks to our connections from the meetings we got in touch with a millionaire with his own private island. The second weekend of Jakarta, all 19 of us got invited to this island. We sailed to this island with his yacht, rode on water scooters, had unlimited food and drinks, and even sang karaoke in his villa with 35 chambres and swimming pool. Just a regular day in the life of ARP.

Up next for us is Yangon (Myanmar), a new destination in a new country and of course the legendary Kingsday parties at the Dutch Embassy. We can’t wait to get started there!

Are you interested in the Amsterdam Research Project? Would you like to have such an experience yourself? Apply here for the Amsterdam Research Project 2018 to Vietnam and experience a trip to never forget!