Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Yohanes Sugihtononugroho (YS): I was born and raised in a city, far from agricultural society, but I have always been attracted to agriculture since I was in high school. I went to see how farmers lived, and as a city boy who lived far from the farming cultures, it was shocking to see for myself the complicated challenges those farmers were facing. I gained insight from my interaction with them and started dedicating my life to helping farmers ever since.
MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.
YS: Back when CROWDE was first established, farmers sought financing from middlemen and loan sharks with 100% interest rate. Sometimes they would even ‘use’ their daughters as a guarantee to get loans. CROWDE was founded as an integrated agriculture solution to help farmers’ lives in Indonesia but just granting greater access to technology, and helping solve financial issues, didn’t answer all of their problems. We also needed to help them access better supplies and make sure their farming is sustainable, and its end-to-end process is ensured. We also realised that their problems are multi-layered, and we have to be accommodating to their needs in order to actually help them.
A women workshop
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?
YS: We are facing tons of challenges, both on the farmers’ side and as a company. As CROWDE, it’s our challenge to convince farmers that we are a legitimate business that can help them. As farmers are unfamiliar with technology and digital platforms, they also lack trust in people who want to help them. Many people have come to rural areas saying that they want to help, but leave without improving anything. Another challenge we face is that farmers in Indonesia have embedded cultures that we need to adjust to, in order to be accepted to work alongside them.
Woman farmer in Indonesia
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
YS: We are now in the position of already having helped 30,000 farmers. There are currently more than 28 million farmers in Indonesia and our ambition is to help 3 million more in the next 3 years.
Co-founder of CROWDE, Yohanes
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
YS: You do not have to choose between profit and purpose. For us, they walk hand in hand. Your purpose should be to solve problems that people are willing to pay for, in order for you to have a sustainable business to help more people in the future. So actually purpose and money are intrinsically linked.
MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from:
YS: I’ve learnt from a lot of mistakes, but the main mistake was choosing the wrong people to be my partners. There were several moments where I felt like “this is my partner”, but in the end we had different visions and a different dream. So, make sure that your partners are mission-aligned, and that you choose them wisely.
MB – How do you spend your time away from work?
YS: For me, work is never work, since we have purpose in what we do. So I see time away as an opportunity to recharge to get the energy so I can perform better. I have four ways: 1 – Meet my friends to talk and relax; 2 – I read and drink coffee, and enjoy visiting coffee shops; 3 – watching series with my partner and spend quality time together; 4. Practice sports, from cycling to badminton, to release stress and to make sure that my head is not always consumed with work every day!
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
YS: I always repeat to myself: enjoy your life. Why? Because even when you’re working, you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy your work, it’s not worth it. You have a really short time to live according to what you want. Make sure every moment is worth it because you cannot reverse time.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
YS: “The Power of Habit“by Charles Duhigg. It actually changed my life to have better habits – the impact on my health and work has been enormous.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
YS: I wish I were better at focusing. I always have several things on my mind. Staying focused on CROWDE for the past seven years has been really challenging for me.
MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?
YS: I definitely want to keep helping more farmers in Indonesia, but from a health perspective, I want to have a a better exercise regime. I also want to find a better way to manage my time, especially so I can separate home from work.
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.