In a conversation with Abdurrahman Karim, ADELLE ODELIA TANURI shares her journey with YCAB Ventures and how they have helped Indonesian women entrepreneurs, as well as their children, reach their economic and educational goals.
Women play a pivotal role in the economy of the country. According to UN Women, productivity can be boosted through women’s economic empowerment, which in turnboosts a country’s economy. In reality, however, many women still face difficulties and inequalities, from unemployment to salary gaps, and Adelle Odelia Tanuri knows that a change is necessary to provide better conditions for them.
For the past 10 years, Adelle and YCAB Ventures have helped women entrepreneurs reach their economic goals while ensuring that their children get access to education. As the Head of Impact Investments, Adelle carries a main vision—to lift mothers and young generations out of generational poverty in a sustainable way. Challenges and obstacles are present but can be overcome. We talked with Adelle more about her journey.
Hello Adelle! How are you doing so far and how was your holiday?
I am doing well, thank you. It was a great time to rest and regain the energy for the new year, so it’s good to be back.
We would love to learn about your journey with YCAB Ventures. Can you share with us the story behind the inception of YCAB Ventures (YV)?
YCAB Ventures was born out of YCAB Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1999 by my mother, Veronica Colondam. Ten years ago, we were setting up free learning centres across Indonesia called “Rumah Belajar.” We realised that even though we didn’t charge for the education, there were still a lot of students dropping out. We investigated further and found that there is always a cost to coming to school—the opportunity cost. Outside of school, they can help their parents to earn income and that’s when we realised the importance of empowering mothers. YCAB Ventures was born because of our first initiative: microfinancing. We give small loans to the mothers so they can grow and develop their businesses to provide for their families but the condition for the mothers to receive the capital is to put their kids in school. We have two main programs: microfinance and impact investments. In the last two or three years, we have taken [the latter] more seriously and developed them further.
What is your vision for YCAB Ventures?
The vision of YCAB Ventures as a group is tolift mothers and youth out of generationalpoverty in a sustainable way. The word “sustainable” is very important to us. That’s why we have this model of a non-profit being supported by ventures, like our venture, because we want financial sustainability within a group or what we call social enterprise.
What were the challenges you faced during the first years of YCAB Ventures?
For microfinancing, the challenge was related to the question of how we can constantly help our women entrepreneurs and mothers develop and scale their businesses even more. When we first started, a lot of our mothers were not financially or digitally literate. This posed a challenge but also an opportunity to integrate not only the provision of capital, but also to provide capacity building trainings and programs. For impact investing, we have invested in more than 14 start-ups led by women and that in itself has a lot of challenges such as deal sourcing, fundraising, and the general macro-economy of the investment landscape.
What are other programs that YCAB Ventures has implemented?
In 2021, we collaborated with UNDP, UN Women, Citibank and Creatella to create SheDisrupts Indonesia, a pre-acceleration and competition for women entrepreneurs. They received training to increase their financial and business literacy, as well as mentorship on how to fundraise for their startups. We have also worked with HSBC in a program called the “Women Resilience Program” because, during the pandemic, SME founders who were often women entrepreneurs were affected the most. We built their resilience by giving them financial literacy and business literacy training, and upscaling their skills so they could sell their products to the market. In addition to that, we have performed digital interventions through a WhatsApp chatbot called “Ibu Harta” by which women entrepreneurs can get financial digital marketing training and mentorship, all through the platform. An evolution of the program is now called “Ibu Harta Anak Pintar”, where we not only train women entrepreneurs but also provide university scholarships for their children. For us, it’s always important to implement the education element in financial empowerment.
With the slogan “Invest to Impact”, can you elaborate more about the impact YCAB Ventures has had on society so far?
Underlying our two programs is always a belief in the power of women’ entrepreneurship. We work across spectrums. For the microfinancing program, we work with women on the ultra-micro scale. While on the impact investments, we work with more tech-savvy businesses that are bigger in scale and investable. We need to make a distinction on how YCAB Ventures works within the realm of impact for both spectrums. For the ultra-micro scale, we have reached more than 250,000 individuals in the last 10 years and also, we’ve seen a lot of data and a published journal article that shows how our microfinancing programs have proven to triple their income, even with a very small intervention. Regarding the investment side, I love investments because I feel like there’s always a double impact that you can make. As an investor, you make an impact on the founders, and you make an indirect impact on how the companies impact society. We also love seeing the products and services we invest in, which have been used by thousands and millions of users.
What are the most significant milestones YCAB Ventures has had so far?
It’s the launch of the program “Ibu Harta Anak Pintar” because it was born during the pandemic during a time when the need was greater than ever. During that time, many organizations stopped providing training but we were still able to train people through WhatsApp by creating the chatbot and that’s a huge milestone for us. Another milestone was the launch of our gender lens fund because it became the launchpad of future funds so from the pilot fund, we plan to launch the second fund: Women Impact Fund.
We learnt that one of the goals of YCAB Ventures is to empower women. How would you describe women’s role in the economic growth of Indonesia?
It’s critical and integral. Without women’s contribution, we won’t expect the growth of the economy that we’re predicting. There’s a study that shows how increasing women’s economic participation, we can increase our GDP by 9%. Women play a huge role as the backbone of our economy. More than half of SMEs are owned by women and these businesses employ more than 90% of our population. However, these women do not get as much revenue or growth as their counterparts. The lack of financial inclusion is also an issue. Less than 20% of women entrepreneurs have access to formal financing. There’s still a long way to go for Indonesia in terms of women’s economic participation equality but if we want to move forward and reach the goal, we must include women and start pushing this agenda even more strongly.
Concerning the previous question, what are the challenges women or you have experienced in such a male-dominated field?
I will separate the challenges—which many women also face a lot—into internal and external. The internal challenge that a lot of women face is a lack of self-confidence. They are capable and well-educated, yet their confidence doesn’t exude. Externally, we can’t deny the fact that although Indonesia, or at least Jakarta, is quite progressive, there are still implicit female stereotypes that exist. For instance, fundraising is a hard issue for me because a lot of people still associate investing in women with philanthropy and not necessarily a sound investment strategy. Our role is to show people that there are a lot of biases that we have internalized and accepted as normal. Due to the lack of confidence and the gender bias that arises from a young age, many girls do not have a dream to own a business or become an investor. We as girls need to step up and fight against this.
From your point of view, what aspects should be improved to provide better conditions?
Education plays a huge role—education from a young age about what women can do and for everyone to be more aware of the gender biases that exist withing our society. Secondly, we need more role models for young women that shows the variety of career pathways that we can take. So I think having role models, exposing them to what women can do and building a platform for them is important for the next generation to grow their confidence.
Moving onto a more personal note, can you share with us some of the most memorable achievements you have had so far?
This is a good reflection point. I’m proud of what I’m doing in Rahasia Gadis, co-founding it with my partner and building a platform and safe space for young girls and women where we openly talk about mental health, beauty, love and relationships, and entrepreneurship. The next accomplishment I am proud of is related to how far we’ve gone with the fund because it’s the first gender-lensed fund in Indonesia. Ten years ago, barely anyone was talking about gender-lens investing but yet I envision the next ten or twenty years, even commercial investors will be. Integrating gender factors into their investment decisions. I’m also proud of “Ibu Harta”, which is well accepted by our partners and during COVID, we had a campaign called “Light Up Indonesia” by which we helped thousands of families to pay their electricity bills. As I look back, the accomplishment that is dearest to my heart is when I make an impact on people.
Can you share the aspects that help you grow along your journey?
For me, role models are the centre of my growth. My parents are the catalyst of my growth. I can ask my mum for advice, support and encouragement regarding the non-profit space. From my dad, I can get support and guidance in the business and finance space. I also have to give credit to my support system for my growth. I’m surrounded by amazing women who on the daily inspires me. However, aside from learning from the people you’re closest to, I believe growth also comes from self-awareness. You must have the ability and discipline to reflect on your experiences, your weaknesses, your strengths and where you want to go in the future.
Busy schedules and daily activities present inevitable stress. How do you destress from your schedule?
First things first, it’s important to not reach the point of being extremely stressed out so before it happens, you must know your values and boundaries. My work is a part of my life but I also value my family, my relationship, and my time alone, so I set boundaries. You also have to be okay with saying “no” to people and not saying “yes” to every invitation. It’s also important to build a really strong team to help delegate work. When I do get stressed out, however, I just need alone time. I destress through spending time with my loved ones but also through self-care by taking time for myself, reading a book, watching my favourite TV shows, and also doing skincare. That’s why I also founded a beauty brand called “Rahasia Beauty” under Rahasia Gadis.
Can you share with us your futureprojects with YCAB Ventures?
We are planning to launch Fund II called the Women Impact Fund where we invest in early-stage companies that are women-led or women-serving. We believe that it is important to support women entrepreneurs even in the early stages of their businesses in order to see the companies thrive and scale. We are also planning to create forums and space for women founders to gather, learn, and connect from one another.
Last but not least, what is your greatest hope for yourself and YCAB Ventures?
My hope for YCAB Ventures is for it to be an inspiring role model and example so we see the rise of the next generations of investors and organisations to follow the model of prioritizing people and the people, not only profit. As for myself, in my family, we choose a word as our hope for ourselves each year. This year, the word I chose is “leadership”. I hope to become a good leader for myself and the teams which I lead. I wish I can always be an inspiring, compassionate and visionary leader in all that I do and I can create a positive change for Indonesia.