More often than not one associates technology entrepreneurs and ventures with young men. So it is most impressive and inspiring when one come across a young Indonesian lady who has broken into a largely male-dominated arena and succeeded in her own way. Recently, Top 10 of Asia speaks with Aulia Halimatussadiah, widely known as Ollie, on how she started out, the challenges as well as her achievements.
Ollie is a prolific author and founder of two online businesses in Indonesia. Her love has always been reading and writing and she used to read up to 7 books a week. She now reads a minimum of 2 books a day! It is really quite a feat for someone who has such a busy schedule.
Her love for reading led her to buying many books online. Every time she needed to purchase a book, however, she found the process in efficient and tedious especially as she had to key in her bio data. She sought to provide a more efficient solution to online buying of books and decided to resign from her job as a web designer so she could dedicate herself to the task. Thus, her first online venture – Kutukutubuku.com was born and is now one of Indonesia’s top online bookstores. That decision to resign from her job changed her life. In fact, looking back now, she says, “I should have listened to my heart sooner.”
Her inspiration for writing came after attending a friend’s book launch. After the event, she applied for a scholarship for a creative writing workshop and was accepted. Three months later, she wrote her first book. The publisher liked and published it and it turned out to be a bestseller.
It was a setback and disagreement with a publisher along the way that set Ollie on the path of her next venture. Again, it was the urge to provide a solution to a specific problem. She explains, “One day, my 16th book got rejected by the publishers. We had different ideals about the book. They felt the market was too small.”
Not one to sit back and take the rejection, she tried to self-publish but found the cost prohibitive. And so she decided to start an affordable online self-publishing print on demand platform called Nulisbuku.com. Ollie explains,“We are a young country with 60 % of the population under 30 years of age. There are many ideas that need to be published and most people can’t do this because of the high cost. 1,400 publishers can’t handle 100 million ideas at once so that’s how NulisBuku.com was born. We now have 150,000 writers and more than 5,000 books have been self-published.”
Through this platform, she has empowered thousands of writers and the community is close to 100,000 strong.To date, Ollie herself has written 27 books since and plans to publish 3 more within the year.
In her writings, there is a long list of authors – and among them, oversea authors are Paulo Coelho, Joe Vitale, Orhan Pamuk, and Elizabeth Gilbert; Indonesian authors such as Fira Basuki, Ika Nastassa, Alberthiene Endah, Dee Lestari –all inspire Ollie in her writings.
“Each book delivers a message of its own and I am a messenger. My job is to accept and message, and make sure the message is sent to as many people as possible.”
Managing an organization such as hers invariably poses its own challenges. Ollie says, “We’ve been bootstrapping from day one, so one of the challenges is to keep running as fast as we can with a very lean team. Educating the public on the concept of self-publishing is another. Technical issues such as server management and website maintenance are also challenging.”
The sage Confucius wrote: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This most certainly applies to Ollie. She says, “I don’t need to balance my professional and personal life because I’m doing what I love and every day feels like a holiday.”
Her fervent belief that more women should utilize technology as a catalyst to success motivated her and some friends to create Girls in Tech Indonesia. In addition, she also organizes Startup Lokal which is the biggest digital start up community in Indonesia.
Right now, Ollie’s been reading up on Elon Musk and watching his videos as he’s her current inspiration due to his innovative mindset. And it is because she sees herself making bigger innovations with a wider impact on her country.
Ollie’s greatest achievement is her contribution to nation building through her start-ups and organisations – inspiring thousands of young people to express their mind through writing, helping more than 5,000 people self-publish their books, and moving young people in Indonesia through her writings.