Yang Muda, Yang Bergerak – The Evolving Youth of Indonesia

Indonesia has one of the youngest populations in Asia, with over 40% being below the age of 25. The new generation of Gen Y and Z will be the most disruptive in modern history – social media has demolished all barriers to communicating about brands and products, and few corporations can rely on their loyalty, yet they will be spending more money. To assess how the new generation will shape consumerism in Indonesia, BDRC Asia conducted deep-dive research to get into the minds of the evolving “youth” of the country. The BDRC study, conducted among 22–25 year olds, included both males and females, as well as singles (jomblo), who were in their first employment. Indonesia, with its rapid development and consumerism, has given birth to a new breed of young Indonesians who are more confident and dynamic than their predecessors. They are more optimistic and expressive about life and are largely characterized by a greater need for freedom, infinite social connections, more individualism, and above all a unique youth culture space that can carve out a unique identity within the mainstream Indonesian society. The “unique culture space” means that they no longer use “tidak” (no) in their conversations; instead they use “nggak”, “kagak” or “ga”, which mean the same as “no”, but is youth language which has developed over standard Bahasa Indonesian. A shared dialect allows young people to claim their own cultural space and carve out a unique identity within mainstream Indonesian society. The youth of today believes in the mantra of “work hard, play hard”. Their lives have become increasingly outgoing (gaul), and thus they exhibit a greater sense of freedom than their yesteryear counterparts – they are more open to experiments, either with their career or their dress codes, and they are no longer afraid to express their own individuality. The need for self-expression for the majority of the Indonesian youth is different from that of their Western counterparts. Following trends or expressing their individuality is not about standing out from the crowd but gaining social acceptance among the youth sub-culture – it is still about being a part of the community and is largely driven by a need to “belong”. Compared to the youth of yesterday, today’s youth spend much less time with their families. They feel more collective outside their home space, and best friends are now the extended family. They spend more time with friends, and thus the definition of friendship (sohib) has gone through massive change. As one youth says, “My relationship with my parents is good, but I don’t meet them much; it’s easier to meet friends – they are much more understanding of my life. We support and take care of each other.” Friends seem to have stepped into the roles of advisor and motivator, even for financial support and decision-making. Two of the key catalysts for change have been technology and social media. Indonesia ranks among the top countries in social media consumption. BDRC’s interactions revealed that with an increased need for expression, there is also a strong primal need to be a part of a social unit for limitless social expression. The Indonesian youth love to participate and share their every moment with friends through pictures and visual expressions, along with verbal chat. They are avid users of Facebook, WhatsApp, Path, Line, Twitter, and YouTube. And through the usage of smartphones, Tabs have only increased by the day, and they swear by Samsung, the iPhone, and BBM as enablers of their social and individual expression. Thus technology is more than just a functional platform for the Indonesian youth; it has a deep social and emotional connection value. The issue of spiritualism/religious values versus materialism is a key aspect of observation among today’s youth. This youth of Indonesia has been brought up on religious preaching – “Sholeha/ Sholeh” – and they are indeed carrying it forward in their lives. However, there is an increased need for materialism creeping into the youth sub-culture. The need to follow trends (in terms of being seen in the right hangout/place, dressing for success versus dressing to party, carrying the right bag, doing the right media consumption for talk value, etc.) is very deep within the Indonesian youth. With increased buying power and online access through smartphones/tablets, the incidence of online transactions is on the rise. In fact, buying travel tickets, show tickets, small electronic gadgets, and food is common among the youth of today. Females are also buying clothes and accessories online. However, the youth is less investment-savvy and exhibits less involvement and knowledge about the insurance category. But females are more knowledgeable and involved with savings and deposits. For instance, some females have taken out time deposits and even investments in gold. Their male counterparts seem too casual when it comes to savings and investment matters. BCA, Mandiri, and CIMB Niaga seem to be the preferred banks among the youth, which is not much different from  the older generation, but they are a lot more dependent on online/digital ways of banking compared to the older generations. While brand loyalty will be lower with the new generation, “Jobs To Be Done” (i.e. service providers who can help “fix” consumer needs quickly and efficiently) will be more important in consumers’ more complex and demanding lifestyles. The importance of branding research could diminish, but there is even greater need for product development research to ensure that product features and benefits will satisfy the new generation. To sum up, the youth of Indonesia seems to be basking in the glory of increased consumerism and all round development of the country. They are optimistic, expressive, and full of confidence, but still deeply rooted to the sense of social belonging – they see technology as a means to connect and share bonds with friends more than anything else. As a famous saying goes, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” ― John Lennon