Stevan Mandagi is the founder and owner of Tour Jogja, a customized travel tours website that offers travelers to explore the ancient Indonesian city of Jogjakarta and other attractive places in the country.
He gave this exclusive interview to Human Asia.
Tell us more about the travel industry in general in Indonesia and particularly in Jogjakarta
People often ask me, why Jogjakarta ? If you visit Indonesia, you shouldn’t miss the Borobudur temple – one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, and a national symbol of Indonesia. The temple is definitely one of the highlights of Indonesia. In order to visit Borobudur, you have to visit Jogjakarta which is the nearest hub and transport base. Being a transport hub and a major city in central Java, Jogjakarta is thus the centre of tourism destination as it connects with other tourist destinations such as Karimujawa, Dieng, Bromo, Solo and Bali.
Because of this, business opportunities in the tourism industry are also high in Jogjakarta. Competition is tight, and we have competitors coming into this space not just from local business players, but also foreigners. So, we have to work harder and focus on the service delivered.
Tell us the beginning of how TourJogja started
Tourjogja.com was launched in 2009 right after I completed my Masters degree. My three friends and I initially started it as a tourism information site. As young founders with limited funds, we had to do everything – from office cleaning, to customer relation, and also coding to develop the website. I was the only programmer in our team and we built the website from zero.
We initially tried to monetize our website with advertising but it didn’t work. Then disaster struck in November 2010 when volcano erupted in Mount Merapi, which is not too far from Jogjakarta. This effected the tourism industry badly in the surrounding regions, and tourists simply did not visit Jogjakarta again for a long period.
At that point we thought about shutting down TourJogja, and were looking for new jobs. I was accepted as an e-commerce manager at one of the 5-star hotels in Jogjakarta and subsequently worked there for two years. While working at the hotel, I was still updating and maintaining the TourJogja website in my spare time. I created new features, and communicated with visitors to the site. I was replying to people’s questions about Jogjakarta and gave them advice. When I had time, I also became their tour guide.
In 2013 I decided to leave my job at the hotel to focus once again on Tourjogja. But this time I was alone because the other founders were not interested anymore as they had found good-paying jobs elsewhere. During this time, I added tour package services on the site in addition to the travel information. Starting in 2015 however, Tourjogja only focuses on offering tour packages.
What tour packages or benefits do you offer to travelers?
Our mission is to become the most comprehensive travel resource for Jogjakarta and tours in Java. We provide rich information of tour packages about things to see and do for travelers to explore Jogjakarta and the surrounding areas. We have set high standards for our tour itineraries. Quality of service is always our first commitment.
We mainly offer custom tour packages. People can choose the packages based on their budget and preferences. We don’t only provide tour programs for Jogjakarta, we also provide various unique adventures. We constantly keep on developing new unique programs partnering with local guides and tour operators.
We are still very small compared to other business such as the big travel agencies. However we are a leader in the local internet travel website segment for tour packages. Our website contents are currently in English and in the near future we will add various other languages.
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What kind of travelers book packages with TourJogja?
Our clients are mainly foreigners, and the majority are from other parts of Asia especially from Singapore and Malaysia. This is because there are direct flights from both countries to Jogjakarta. Europe is also a big market for us especially The Netherlands.
Where do you see the business in a few years from now?
As I mentioned, Jogjakarta is a gateway city for travelers exploring the Java island.
Within the next 4 years a new airport will open in the city, and there will be more direct flights from cities around the world to Jogjakarta. The tourism market naturally increases overtime as people become richer especially from China where we are expecting a huge increase in travelers. The current Indonesian government is actively investing on infrastructure, and as infrastructure is improved, there will be more and more places connected to Jogjakarta.
Stevan, tell us more about yourself.
I was born and raised in Palembang city, Sumatra Island. I had an average childhood, just like any normal Indonesian kid focusing on school. My father and my mother are workers. I was very lucky because my father worked in an airlines company. So our family often got free tickets to travel once a year. Usually we used the free ticket to travel to my father’s hometown in North Sulawesi to visit relatives.
I went to Jogjakarta to enroll at university, and took business management classes. During this time as a college student, I spent a lot of time traveling around Indonesia as I had joined the divers’ community group in my campus. I also worked part time at the computer lab in my faculty campus and that’s when I fell in love with everything about computer technology. After graduation I was offered positions by a few companies in Jakarta and Jogjakarta but instead I decided to pursue a Master’s degree where I majored in Information Technology. Whilst studying for the Masters degree, I started an internet cafe business near the campus with some co-students which we had to sell after one year. TourJogja was then started right after I completed my Masters’ degree.
Why become an entrepreneur? What’s your motivation?
I didn’t plan to become an entrepreneur, I accidently became one. I didn’t grow up in an entrepreneurial kind of environment as my parents were corporate workers. I didn’t have a good mentor around me and had to learn everything myself. When I started my ventures, I didn’t have much money, or any investor network. I never won any startup competitions or attracted angel investors. I’ve simply just followed my passion. I love technology and I love traveling, so I combined the two with TourJogja.
If you could do everything all over again, what would you do differently?
I don’t have any past regrets and I thank God for all that I have right now.
What is your main principle about success and in life?
I’m not successful yet. I’m still running to achieve that goal. But success for me would be doing something that is useful for many people, and which would make them happy.
Final advice for aspiring
Don’t wait for opportunity to come to you, create it. Just follow your passion and make people around you happy because of you. It’s not enough just to become an entrepreneur, we should all become socialpreneurs who can make an impact to our society for the better!
Visit TourJogja at http://www.tourjogja.com/