Since coming back home to Indonesia, ive been working in a fintech startup called Amartha. Amartha is a peer-to-peer lending platform targeting unbankable populations in rural Indonesia. Inspired by Grameen Bank, loan was disbursed through group-lending mechanism and all of Amartha’s mitra (lender) is exclusively women.
My time here has been great so far, the company value resonate with me , i have a good team and im learning so much day by day. However the business model, the industry and startup environment is completely new to me hence i need jam lot of knowledge just to stay afloat.
Another thing that forced me to learn many things at once is my double role in Amartha. I am currently responsible for Amartha Go, initiatives to optimize our loan-collection process using combination of agency model and android apps. At first, I was responsible for business direction of this initiatives. However, the product manager resigned, hence i took those responsibilities. Hence not only i am managing a strategy team, i also need to manage team of developers as well.
In this post, i will share several resources which have been helpful so far in speeding up my adaptation process. Hopefully it will be useful for you as well.
On Group-lending, Social Business and Grameen-Bank Model
If a family member must starve in Bangladesh, often it is the mother. Any children she is breast-feeding starve with her. Moreover, women tend to focus on improving their children’s lives. In contrast, men tend to spend borrowed funds on themselves – Mohammad Yunus
My main reference for micro-lending, group-lending and social business is from the works of Grameen Bank founders himself, Muhamad Yunus. i read Creating The World Without Poverty years ago and before i join Amartha, i digested his first book Banker of the Poor.
The first book is more of a auto-biography of Yunus chronicles leading to Grameen bank conception. From this book, i learned :
- The context of Bangladesh at that time
- Evolution of Yunus ideas (giving micro-loan through group-lending) leading to the conception of Grameen
- Why Grameen is catering exclusively for women?
- Grameen’s development and operation challenges and how Yunus navigate through them
- Scaling up Grameen from academic experiment in University of Chittagong to a small startup and finally became a nationwide bank
His second book deals with the concept of Social Business. Compared to first book, this one is more conceptual and high level. Some of the interesting learning points in this book :
- Drawbacks of aid as means to reduce poverty
- The idea and concept of Social Business as an alternative to profit-making business
I recommend both of these books if youre interested in topics such as micro-credit, poverty alleviation and social innovation.
If you want to know quick summary of both books, check out the link below
On Fintech Landscape in Indonesia
From approximately 60 mio micro enterprises in Indonesia, only 12% got access to lending due to inability to provide financial statements, credit history and collateral. – KPMG
Since Amartha is also part of emerging fintech wave in Indonesia, i need to learn the landscape of this industry as well. Luckily, DailySocial has been releasing annual report on this sector since 2016. The report is easy to understand and filled with sweet infographics hence its useful to get wide overview of the sector.
Another report which are useful for me in understanding Amartha’s business context is KPMG 2017 report : Finance in Indonesia – Set for a new path. This report is about finance sector in general not only fintech howeverthis report has more depth and more quantitative data compared to the dailysocial one.
Some of the bits of interesting pieces that i got from this report :
- Indonesia has the lowest penetration of loan to private sector in SEA. In other words, we have the best growth potential in this business
- 41% of total combined lending in Indonesia is held by big four banks : BCA, Mandiri, BRI and BNI (no surprise there but still interesting)
- In terms of point of presence, BRI lead in ATM (23% of 100k) while BCA is the king of EDC (38% of 1 mio)
- Almost 60% of total loans in Indonesia is distributed in the Java Island only. This could be both be a signal of diproportionate development but on a positive note, lot of financing business potential on outside Java
- From approximately 60 mio micro enterprises in Indonesia, only 12% got access to lending due to inability to provide financial statements, credit history and collateral. On the other hand, micro enterprise contribute 37% of total Indonesian GDP
- Despite the moslem majority population, sharia lending is still very small. Only less than 6% compared to total lending, Malaysia on the other hand is almost 30%
Theres one other report from Ernst and Young which i recommend if you want to know about the fintech landscape on a global scale, check out the link below
On Product Management
There’s no better way to explain product management than entrepreneurship. Product Managers are salaried entrepreneurs that need to do anything and everything to make their product successful – Hacker Noon
This is the area in my job that completely new to me is being a product manager (PM). I was accidentally fall into this shoes because one of our PM resigned. Hence i need to learn this role fast while the deadlines were still rolling. I really sucked at first naturally. However i found that being a product manager makes me develop various new skills both technical and managerial. It is really exciting yet exhausting at the same time, which perfectly describe working in Amartha in general.
The best introduction i can find about being a product manager is this talk by Jay Clouse. It really describe the day in life, responsibilities, profile of a PM, skillsets needed up until common tools for this job. Jay’s tone of voice could be a little bit boring, but the content quality makes this talk very useful. So do check this video if youre also new to product management.
Another material which is useful for me to start understanding this role are Josh Elman’s medium post on the definition of product manager’s job. Josh is a partner at Greylock Partners and his extremely popular post is basically template for many startups to define PM job desc.
Summary of Josh’s post can be seen in the presentation below :
For more practical day-to-day PM stuff, i regularly watched and subscribed to AJ&Smart content on Youtube. AJ&Smart is a berlin-based product design firm. They made content centered on product design, design sprint and other product related stuff. They made their content in a hip “youtuber” style and in a bit-sized 5 to 15 minutes length which is very time friendly. I can watch it over lunch or on the way to somewhere.
Heres one of my pick for their insightful videos on how to conduct design sprint / brainstorming session with minimum amount speaking.
Recently i just found out about Getting Real, a completely free product management from 37 Signals. If you havent know, 37signals is company behind Ruby On Rails, productivity software such as Basecamp and productivity books such as Rework and Remote. This book contains condensed advice on product management from the experience of 37signals itself. Im still on progress reading it but so far i felt the book is very practical and useful to find ideas on product management best practice.
Best part of it is the book is completely free, so i can just forward it to all of my team member.
Other materials of product management which i recommend is from Y Combinator How To Start a Startup
- Y Combinator and Homejoy’s Adora Cheung on Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing
- Y Combinator Kevin Hale on How to Build Products Users Love, Part I
On Software Development
Want to learn to code? There is no better time to start than right now – Code Burst
I was a software developer by education. I started my career as one but i pivoted to various technical and business position over the years. I still have passion for this area hence i read software development articles from time to time. However, it has been nearly a decade ago since the last time i fired up an IDE (The last coding-related blogpost ive wrote was in 2010).
As a product manager, i am responsible on the software development side as well. Amartha Go currently has a web dashboard and two android applications for the field officer and the agents. The development team consist of 4 developers and 1 QA. Thus, In order for me to do my job effectively and driving productive discussion with them, i need to speak their language.
On of my favourite resource to update my coding-sense in a friendly way is Flavio Copes’s Write Software blog. This website, as written in the title, provide non-coder-friendly summary (TL;DR) of various technology frameworks and tools. Flavio has ways to explain complex concept in a short and simple sentences which make his article very easy to digest.
Check out how Flavio explain what Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is all about.
In his personal blog, Flavio also write regularly on software development. I recommend checking that as well.
Another materials which i found really helpful is this 2018 developer roadmap by CodeBurst. So many developer frameworks, tools and lingo right now and this diagram at least help me categorize which one should i know more about and which one should i ignore.
Currently right now i dont have to write code (yet), hence what i do to update my skills in this is read articles regularly and discuss it with Amartha Godevelopers. Some of the software dev blog which i recommend :
- Code Cartoons : visual guide to various development frameworks. Its really good but sadly rarely updated
- Hacker Noon : Developer-related medium publication
- Hacker News : Y Combinator software related blog aggregator
On Startup, Innovation and Being Disruptive
An entrepreneur seeks to test a series of unproven hypotheses (guesses) about a startup’s business model: who the customers are, what the product features should be, and how this scales into a hugely successful company – Steve Blank
I work in big companies in my whole career before Amartha. Since i work in a startup i need to learn various knowledge surrounding startup management, strategy and how to be disruptive. Luckily, popular books covering these topic has been in my reading list for quite some time hence ive already read and own several books on this. What i do usually is re-read some of these book or if i have issues on specific topics, read the related chapter on that.
Here are some of my go-to books on this topic :
- Startup Owner Manual by Steve Blank : manual on how to start company in modern era. Covers basic understanding on what is startup, the purpose of a startup, strategy and tactics of running a startup.
- Hello, Startup: A Programmer’s Guide to Building Products, Technologies, and Teams by Yevgeniy Brikman : This book discuss the topics of building products, technologies, and teams in a startup from a perspective of software developer. Suitable to read if youre currently an engineer aspiring to build your own startup or aspiring to be a manager.
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries : In my opinion this book is a natural sequel to Steve Blanks book. Eric Ries describe the new approach on how to build companies or product (lean startup method). This method introduce the concept of build-measure-learn, MVP, validated learnings, pivot and many other things. Must read!. Summary can be read here.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen : This book discuss why great companies can and prone to be disrupted even though they do everythings right by conventional management standard. It also introduce the concept of disruptive and sustaining innovation. It is written very academically which probably makes it not-so-easy to digest.
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel : serial entrepreneur / venture-capitalist Peter Thiel advise you to abandon competition and start building monopoly by setting up four things : great brands, network effect, economies of scale and proprietary technology. Summary can be read here
- Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun : Ariya Hidayat of PhantomJs recommend this for me. He said this is the only book you need to read in order to be great in project management in a tech startup. Who am i to say no ?. Go read this if you want tips and trick on how to get shit done collaboratively.
Apart from books, there also couple of podcast on this topic which are really insightful as well. Listen to this in itunes or chosen podcast app in Android (i use Podcast Player). I listed also my recommended episode in below list
- How to become CEO
- “I Wasn’t Stupid Enough to Say This Could Be Done Overnight”
- It’s Your Problem Now
- Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger
- Airbnb: Joe Gebbia
- Dell Computers: Michael Dell
- Peter Thiel – Escape The Competition
- Brian Chesky – Handcrafted
- Tristan Walker – The Beauty of Bad Idea
- Fighting Giants with Noah Everett of Twitpic
- Partner With Your Disruptees with Aaron Levie of Box
And lastly, i can never highly recommend what i think is the best tech and startup strategy blog right now : Stratechery by Ben Thompson. Ben dissect what companies do and why, putting the actions in a broader context and sometimes try to predict what they really want to achieve. Its really insightful and useful especially if youre a strategy guy in a tech startup world.
Thats all for today. Its been quite a long post but hopefully, it will be useful for you.
Do you have any other recommended reading, watching or listening materials that i should know ? do drop the link in the comment.
Have a nice day from all of us here in Amartha!
P.S : Were currently hiring several tech and business position. Do check our career page! DM me if you want to know more about the positions