One Indonesian woman's road to a successful business In Japan

Erdina Oudang poses for a photograph at her restaurant Angkasa in Ebisu, Tokyo.

TOKYO —

A few years ago, Erdina Oudang was just a financial professional who loved traveling to Japan. She would frequently tour Tokyo on seasonal breaks from her work at a bank in Singapore, exploring the country’s cuisine and culture. Today, she is the owner of two flourishing businesses based in Tokyo — a consulting company and a popular Indonesian restaurant. And she juggles all the work with positivity, lots of laughter — and most of all, dedication.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to do something that bridges my home country with the world — but I wasn’t sure what and when exactly to start,” she says. “I knew, however, that I first needed to obtain an MBA and learn all aspects of business, not just finances,” in which field she was by then — with a degree in economics and nearly seven years of experience as a banker — an expert in.

A Path-Changing Encounter

After living in Switzerland as a boarding school student, spending ten years as an adult in Paris and seven in Singapore, Erdina knew it was time to settle down in Asia and return to her roots. “I wanted to be close to home,” she says. “I was familiar with the education in Europe and so I began searching for MBAs in Asia — somewhere I could receive a quality-level education, but also somewhere that allowed me to easily travel back home.” It was only when by chance she met with representatives from Globis, a business school based in Tokyo, at an MBA forum in Singapore that the road ahead started getting clearer.

“The Globis MBA program fitted my lifestyle well — it was only for a year, during which I was to learn all aspects of business in a very safe and professional environment,” she recalls. Persuaded it was the right choice, soon after, Erdina found herself quitting her bank job and packing her luggage for a new adventure — in the very heart of Tokyo.

In September 2012, Erdina joined Globis’ full-time MBA program, where she found herself surrounded by like-minded professionals, studying the A to Zs of business in a modern and up-to-date environment. “One of the things I liked most about Globis is that it’s very current — they focus on present-time issues and business models, and we also did case studies unique to Japan.”

For someone who wasn’t familiar with the business environment in Japan, this teaching technique proved to be vital. “It taught me a lot about the Japanese mindset and I was able to understand the business culture here,” Erdina says. “But most of all, the one year I had to focus on my MBA also gave me time to focus on my future plans; to crystalize what I had in mind.”

Building The Business

By the time Erdina wore her graduation gown and bid goodbye to her student life, she had already made up her mind that she wanted to build her business in Japan. “I stood by my mission to bridge Indonesia to somewhere, and I thought Japan would be that kind of place. Once I had the theme in my head, the next was all about when, where and how.”

A year after her graduation, she launched her first business, Unlock Inc, a consulting firm with branches in Tokyo and Jakarta with a focus in Indonesia, which she named in hope of “unlocking” opportunities — just because sometimes the chances are all out there, but we may not know where to find them. Founded on the fundamental idea of connecting Japan and Indonesia through deep understanding of the market, Erdina, with the help of outsourced and in-house consultants, serves as a bridge of intercultural communication and business practice between her home country and Japan.

“That’s the soft side (of the business), Erdina smiles. “But I was also looking for a new opportunity; a place that could serve as a tangible platform (to promote awareness of Indonesia). She laughs. “I can’t just put an Indonesian flag in my office.” It was at that time when she started planning further.

The Restaurant Idea

“We sat down with my Japanese business partner and started brainstorming,” she recalls. They asked the big questions: What was Japan still missing? What didn’t the country know about Indonesia yet? What is the universal thing that everyone enjoys? It wasn’t long before they got the answer: authentic, good and still-undiscovered food. “We found out that there weren’t many Indonesian restaurants in Japan,” she says. It was a niche market waiting for a professional to step in.     

In March 2016, Erdina and her Japanese business partner opened Angkasa in Tokyo’s Ebisu, a cozy ethnic food restaurant serving authentic Indonesian food. A year into the opening, the restaurant has full seats both at lunch and dinner time and is even visited by Japanese celebrities.

Erdina laughs. “We were featured on one of those Japanese variety programs where famous people compete in how much spice they can stand.” But the signatures on the restaurant walls speak more: Teru from Glay, Horiemon, Judo athletes and others. It is becoming a well-recognized venue for individuals and businesses alike. And it’s busy.

“We wanted to build a place that doesn’t have a too Indonesian vibe as an interior, but serves real Indonesian food,” Erdina says. With a minimal decor and nothing of the typical a-la-Bali style, the restaurant could even be mistaken for an Italian. But you’ll know the difference when you taste the food. With a chef with over 10 years of experience at several well-known hotels around the world, and invited all the way from Indonesia to join the restaurant team, the food at Angkasa is the real thing — if you’ve ever tasted Indonesian food before.

“Angkasa means ‘sky’ in Indonesian Sanskrit language — it means bridging Indonesia and Japan. But who knows, maybe it can bridge to other countries too — isn’t the sky the limit?”

The Key To Success

It isn’t all sunny, Erdina reminds. “But I like to think of difficulties as challenges.” And when you’re faced with a challenge, you just move on — do what you’re best at and unite with people who can back you up. The secret of success in building a business in Japan is simple: “Finding the right business partner is a job completed by half, provided that you trust your partner. But you also need to go out of your comfort zone,” she reminds us. Meeting the right people, putting yourself in the right environment and having a clear theme of what you want to do are the main pillars of a successful business. And if you need support, invest in studying.

“Taking the Globis program was an enormous help for setting up my business in Japan. It gave me extra confidence to work here and I’m able to put my studies into actual practice. There are many times when I say — wait, we did this in class, I read that it in a case study, or I had this conversation with another Globis student.”

And when things don’t go well — let steam off by traveling. Taking time off to travel and clear up your mind is always a positive boost, Erdina says. And she would know: apart from having lived in five countries, she has traveled to 52 more — and has even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro before making Japan her business home.

“I like challenges. I like building international bridges and connecting people through business,” she smiles as she offers me more Indonesian coffee at Angkasa. I take it, already making plans to go back.

You can hear the story of Erdina and other ambitious entrepreneurs first-hand at an upcoming event, “Empowering Leadership: A Panel Discussion with Women Entrepreneurs,” at Globis University on Wednesday, March 22. Check details here.

Angkasa
Address: B1, Matsumoto Bldg, Ebisu Minami 1-11-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: (Lunch) Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., (Dinner) Monday – Saturday 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. Closed Sundays.
For reservations call 03-5724-3542 or email info@angkasa.jp
Map

Savvy Tokyo

  • 14

    M3M3M3

    Wow, what a fantastic story. Truly unbelievable. I'm sure nobody at Erdina's $97,000 per year Swiss boarding school could have guessed that she would go from being successful to being even more successful. But she made it thanks to the odds. She is a true inspiration to millions and millionaires alike.

  • 8

    ozziedesigner

    M3 = great remark ha ha ha

  • -4

    Brian Wheway

    WOW! such a bright intelligent young woman, and successful, I wish her all of the best in the future, may be she can show how some men can change there attitude to the stuffy work place.

  • 0

    GyGene

    Ethyl and I have got to try that restaurant. I love good food. Good food, that is.

  • -1

    thepersoniamnow

    Lol M3 that's is one way to look at it. But then again, we all do have the opportunity to make something of ourselves. Just not everyone is able.

  • 0

    lgslgs

    Though GLobis MBA cannot be said as real " MBA Program" Neither its programs or certificate is equal to graduate .

    Good for learners in the style of MBA .

  • 4

    commanteer

    But then again, we all do have the opportunity to make something of ourselves.

    True. But this article does smack of elitism. For a person of her obviously privileged background, one would expect at least this level of success.

    To illustrate the point...

    And when things don’t go well — let steam off by traveling.

    What a lovely life, to be able to drop what you are doing and jet off to places around the world. For most people, when things don't go well, they have to double down. Or triple down. They sure as heck don't leave their business and family to "let off steam" in some foreign locale.

    Nothing against this woman, I'm sure she's a fine person. But she's an odd choice to inspire the struggling entrepreneur.

  • 1

    thepersoniamnow

    You will find me agreeing with M3 on that one commanteer. She is obviously upper class and had a lot of help. But I'll still stand by my statement, since I know it to be true.

  • -1

    Tokyo-Engr

    Good for her! Why all the negativity and bashing of this lady? I do not get this. It begs the question as to what has everyone done with their life to put them on a pedestal to look down on her? Have those making these comments met this lady? Do you have personal knowledge of her background?

    I see no mention of the cost of her boarding school in the article. Was this pulled out of thin air?

    Regarding her travels; I traveled immensely when I was younger and also took chunks of time off to go climbing in Nepal and other places as well. All paid for by my work. How do you know she did not do the same?

    @thepersoniamnow - I agree with you

    Unless people have direct knowledge of her life situation I think it is very unfair to make these kinds of comments.

  • 3

    M3M3M3

    Well, I certainly didn't mean to unfairly pick on Erdina. I'm sure she's a lovely person and the food at her restaurant is probably delicious. However, as someone who has also enjoyed a fairly charmed life (but not Swiss boarding school level), I feel very strongly that people in this situation have a responsibility to put absolutely everything on the table when discussing their achievements.

    There are many ordinary people out there who dream of opening up their own restaurant in Tokyo, or saving up to pay for an expensive MBA, or living in Paris but most will never achieve this because they lack the money to make it happen. If they read about a wealthy princess doing these things, they aren't particularly bothered because they understand the privillege involved. But when they are presented with a supposedly ordinary person (seemingly, just like them) who has acheived everything they dream of simply by working hard, it can create some anguish when people inevitably begin to wonder whether there is something wrong with them and whether they have failed their families and children by not achieving anything close to the same result. Pointing out how wealthy and privilleged Erdina must be to have attended one of the top 10 most expensive boarding schools in the world will be of some comfort to the person who dreams of opening their own restaurant but has never been able to save enough money to make it a reality. There is nothing wrong with a good 'riches to riches' story, but I think it's ethically questionable when an extremely privilleged person presents their life to sound more like a 'rags to riches' story. Alain de Botton writes alot about this in his book 'Status Anxiety' and it's a fascinating read for anyone who's interested.

    @Tokyo-Engr

    I see no mention of the cost of her boarding school in the article. Was this pulled out of thin air?

    Google and ye shall find.

  • -1

    Tokyo-Engr

    @M3M3M3 - I have never met, nor do I know Erdina and it is nice to know you did not mean to pick on her, however I still do not see why you had to make your comments, in spite of your explanation.

    Regarding boarding schools: I believe all of these schools offer financial assistance and/or scholarships. Several years ago I knew a few international students from southeast Asia studying and boarding at international schools in Japan. They both had some type of financial assistance.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that she is putting everything on the table (quite open about going to boarding school), unless you think she should put more out there. If so, what else should she say?

    Also, I did not see this as a "rags to riches" story or any attempt to portray it as such. It seems to be more geared toward women entrepreneurs.

    In the end she may be an ordinary person for all we know not a "princess" as you stated. Or...she may come from a wealthy family. Who knows? Does it really matter? She is providing for herself and others by running a business.

    You stated:

    "Pointing out how wealthy and privilleged Erdina must be to have attended one of the top 10 most expensive boarding schools in the world will be of some comfort to the person who dreams of opening their own restaurant but has never been able to save enough money to make it a reality"

    I have to disagree.

    Recently I was working in Ota-ku in Tokyo. I went to an Indian restaurant for lunch. Very nice, good food and the restaurant was very successful. The gentleman came to Japan with nearly nothing and now has 2 restaurants. He did this with hard work and dedication. I have met several other people who have done the same.

    Ms. Erdina - if you read this article and comments I say good for you! Regardless of your background you should be proud of the fact you can run a business in a foreign country and succeed at it. Wish you success. I may come try some of the food!

  • 0

    Manuel D. Valencia III

    Great for her! She set her own course in life and pushed through the obstacles. Congratulations!

  • 2

    M3M3M3

    @Tokyo-Engr

    Fair enough, But I think it's also fair to be very sceptical when we hear about people from wealthy families managing supposedly successful businesses. Most small business go bust if they have a few difficult months, but these businesses can go on and on making losses for years thanks to bailouts from the bank of Mommy and Daddy. Perhaps that's not the case here, but the mention of a Swiss boarding school makes it such a likely possibility that it cries out for an explanation. In my line of work I've met countless rich kids who just play 'business' with their family's wealth because it's better than working a real 9-5 job. In fact, I have so much experience with this that I could probably set-up my own consulting company and print off some CEO business cards for myself...hmm.

    I went to an Indian restaurant for lunch. Very nice, good food and the restaurant was very successful. The gentleman came to Japan with nearly nothing and now has 2 restaurants. He did this with hard work and dedication.

    I'd certainly like to read an article about him.

  • 0

    Aurélien Romaric Loste

    On the 17 500+ Indonesian islands, even in Bali, not speaking about Java or Sumatra, neither Sulawesi nor Flores or Labuan Bajos, 90% of places to eat offer prices adapted to the population life standards.

    This restaurant is for the Northern hemisphere tourists and people, so it must be different from Indonesian restaurants, but with the good relationships between Jepang and Indoneshia, it must be interesting to taste it, makasih, as well as https://www.zomato.com/jakarta/ootoya-kemang/menu

Login to leave a comment

OR
Undergraduate: Information session (April 9)

Undergraduate: Information session (April 9)

Temple University, Japan CampusContinuing Education / MBA

Trip to Bountiful in the Heart of Tohoku

Trip to Bountiful in the Heart of Tohoku

JI Core 50 Professional MonitorsBusiness Services

Blowfish Cuisine in Japan

Blowfish Cuisine in Japan

Ms GreenTravel / Hotels

Special Offers

グローバルに
活躍したいあなたへ
外資系転職

バイリンガル人材の
ための求人サイト

見てみる

More in Executive Impact

View all

View all

Japan Investment
Properties

Listings Updated Daily

Search