Everybody from UNESCO to BEKRAF to the President seems to agree: the creative industry is Indonesia’s future. But before it can reach its full potential, we need to solve some issues.

As global commodities become more and more volatile while new startups and tech companies flourish, Indonesia seems to be moving from the conventional industry sector to the human-reliant creative industry. According to Global Business Guide Indonesia, the domestic creative industry contributed Rp990.4 trillion .

Among the many definitions of creative economy out there, the silver lining seems to be that it’s an economic concept that seeks to provide insights and information, driven by the knowledge and ideas of people. The Indonesian Agency for Creative Economy (BEKRAF) divides the creative industry into 16 sub-sectors, ranging from applications and game developers, architecture, advertising, publications, to visual arts. These sub-sectors have been growing as the Indonesian middle-class rises and spending pattern changes. This trend is expected to continue. According to BEKRAF’s deputy for infrastructure Hari Santosa Sungkari in 2017, the creative industry is expected to contribute 12% more to the national GDP by 2019.

Yet, many problems prevail. Limited access to funding, for one, keeps the industry from growing. In 2017, 92.37% of Indonesian creative entrepreneurs did not receive external funding. The lack of a regulatory framework has also been cited as a major issue. Another big issue, which is less discussed, is standardization.

While it seems to be counterintuitive to standardize an industry based on creativity, it is actually a necessity for some. While not a sub-sector under BEKRAF’s categorization, the copywriting industry to which I belong is perhaps closest to visual communication design and advertising. One common thread is the corporate element that grounds these sectors: we do creative work for corporate clients with corporate concerns such as prices and approval processes.

Lack of standardization means unhealthy competition. As there are no real qualifications for translation, editing and copywriting works, professional copywriters have to compete with a wide range of writers and translators from college students who speak English ‘well enough’ to agencies who generate SEO contents like there’s no tomorrow at less than Rp75,000 apiece. To paint you a picture on how dire this lack of standardization is, the current price range for translation services is between Rp25,000 and Rp300,000 for a single page.

In this situation, maintaining quality is almost impossible. It seems that while the nation has shifted to a creative economy, the mentality remains with the conventional production line in factories. Meanwhile, our products are not manufactured goods to be stamped and molded in factories. They are ideas and thinking processes that need room to breathe and sink in. The process of creating good content is a long one, comprising heavy research, brainstorming, and a lot of editing. At these prices, such a process is impossible. As a result, creators struggle to come up with quality – let alone innovative – content.

From the lack of standardization stems another issue, which is credibility. As there are no real qualifications to become content creators, their services are often dismissed as less than scientific. While it is true that a big part of content is style and taste, copywriting is grounded in the science of marketing, psychology, and mass communication. Because the practice is dismissed as stylistic and preferential, content creators often struggle with creating copies that actually serve their purpose. For example, shorter content is generally more recommended based on studies that show how most people’s attention span has gone down to 8 seconds from 12 seconds before the digital age. Meanwhile, some people prefer flowery sentences that take a while to get to the point. Considering that credibility is an issue, content creators are often forced to go for the less effective content for the sake of client service.

These problems result in a stale industry that fails to nurture ideas and innovation – the two main values of creativity. Unless we overcome these issues, the Indonesian creative industry will never be able to fully develop. In recent years, the Indonesian government through BEKRAF has implemented many initiatives to help creative entrepreneurs on the funding front. Maybe we need to start paying attention to the development of the business infrastructure needed for the creative industry to truly flourish.

by Jeanette Tamara Pramono