Rachmat Kaimuddin hadn’t even been 100 days in his new role as CEO of the Indonesian e-commerce market Bukalapak when the pandemic broke out.
It was a crossroads for one of the country’s leading startups that needed to act quickly to support millions of family-owned street stalls for which it provides digital services. But it was also a turning point for the newly installed leader.
Fortunately, Kaimuddin already had experience.
“I don’t know if it’s luck or bad luck, but I have to get pretty close to some major crises, economic crises,” the 41-year-old told CNBC Make It.
Kaimuddin, an Indonesian national, had just graduated from high school in a small town in Central Java in 1997 when the Asian financial crisis hit.
Four years later, when he left the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an engineering major, the dot-com bubble burst. Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis broke out as a freshly minted Stanford MBA graduate.
The path of a leader is to provide that circle of security to the people below.
However, that experience, and the resilience it has gained, has helped him navigate the ups and downs of the business – and help others do the same, he said.
“I’ve seen what it was like to see some crises before your eyes,” said Kaimuddin, who has a decade of experience in leadership roles in a number of industries including aerospace, construction and finance.
“But I’ve also seen that these crises usually happen (because of) something that isn’t sensible,” he continued. “At some point the law of economics or mathematics will prevail.”
Guide through the coronavirus
In 2020, Kaimuddin was served his greatest challenge.
He replaced Bukalapak co-founder Achmad Zaky as CEO and began managing a network of thousands of employees, millions of dealers and millions of customers amid the coronavirus.
However, the chairman said his main job is to reassure employees and customers that this crisis will also pass.
Rachmat Kaimuddin, CEO of the Indonesian e-commerce marketplace Bukalapak.
“This is something I think I have to keep telling people, ‘Look, just try to do the right thing and this crisis will end,'” he said.
Now, on Kaimuddin’s indictment, 11-year-old Bukalapak is juggling the still escalating global health crisis with the economic consequences of the pandemic that has hit developing markets like Indonesia hard. The company is also facing increasing demand for e-commerce and a possible listing later this year.
But Kaimuddin said he intended to keep that mentality and urged others to adopt it – inspired by Simon Sinek’s business book “Leaders Eat Last”.
“The premise is that a leader’s path is to provide that safety circle to the people below,” he said. “When this leadership path comes to you, try to form this circle.”
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