At the Digital Women’s Day event in Paris on 7 March L’Atelier met up with Aulia Halimatussadiah, an Indonesian multi-entrepreneur who is passionate about literature and information and communication technology.
An innovator? Yes, and passionate about literature too. Her discovery of the literary world at an event focusing on books was a decisive moment for her. The woman who prefers to be called ‘Ollie’ decided to sign up for a writing workshop at a college in Jakarta and today she is now preparing her 28th book for publication.
Aulia Halimatussadiah comes from a family of engineers and has a vivid memory of the first time she used a computer at the age of thirteen. Very soon she wanted to create her own website. “I never wanted to be a programmer but when I went to find out they told me that I had to learn how to code if I wanted to create my own site, so I went to the IT university.” Just 20% of the students in her class were women, and she saw that upon graduation only 20% of those went on to pursue a career. Ollie herself decided very quickly to leave her salaried job and become a ‘techpreneur’.
A disruptive idea? Well, in fact there were a number of ideas. Ollie was passionate about literature and very soon realised that it was quite hard to get hold of books in her country. “In Indonesia, we had no dedicated online space for books and I wanted to change that.” So in 2006, she launched Kutukutubuku.com, an online bookshop, which was a very new idea at the time. “I thought that developing an online bookshop would mean that more people would be able to obtain reading material in Indonesia. The country is an archipelago made up of over 13,000 islands and there is a shortage of links. But digital could change that.”
Then in 2010, Ollie took the time to pursue her passion. “I travelled, I read, I wrote, and one of my books was rejected by a publisher.” This rejection proved to be the driver behind her second great entrepreneurial idea. “In Indonesia, when a publishing house rejects your book, you’ve lost your chance to get published and the adventure ends there.” But Ollie decided that it certainly would not end there. “It’s crazy! The content of your book may be very important but if it doesn’t correspond to the ideas of your publisher no-one will ever read it. I didn’t think this was acceptable and I decided to launch a project to change the situation.” So Ollie launched Nulisbuku.com, the first online self-publishing platform in Indonesia. “The principle is very simple: it’s on a demand basis. You don’t need a publisher, you don’t pay anything, and when someone orders your book you receive royalties.”
So what’s the real value of this? These companies bring together Ollie’s two passions – ICTs and books – but they also help her fight for what she believes in. She is highly committed to encouraging entrepreneurship in her country, and she is also deeply involved in women’s issues. She believes very strongly in the power of the community, as evidenced by her membership of the committee of #StartupLokal, the biggest community for startups, investors, and incubators in the country. Ollie believes that digital can make a huge contribution to society and connect people together. “With Nulisbuku I think we’ve changed many lives. Many authors have been able to make their voice heard and have received their due recognition.”
And what does the future hold? “Keep growing the businesses and continue to write.” Ollie believes that “writing and reading can change lives” so she wants to continue to work for everyone to have access to books. “In my latest book, ‘Girls&Tech’, I share my experience of being a woman working with the new technologies. I want people to understand that it is possible, that you can do the things you want to if you arm yourself with the means.” She is also planning to devote some time to her latest project: Salsabeela By Ollie, her own brand of apparel. Another childhood dream that she has made come true!