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Podcast Episode 2 – How Seven Stones Indonesia Adapted to a Global Pandemic

Posted by Achintya Nilsen on 4th September 2020
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INTRODUCTION: MUSIC + SNIPPET OF EPISODE

What was most eye-opening for me about that whole thing was the Balinese looked within.
They blamed themselves for such a tragic event, that they were losing touch with their purpose, and their sense of balance and harmony and keeping things in check and that sort of stuff.
So they got back into doing their ceremonies a bit more.
That was around the Dewa Sraya I think we were both involved with right?
So there was very much a sense of coming together, which I think this particular situation that we’re in right now is also manifesting in the sense of communities coming together.

It’s interesting.

I think the world’s got a lot to learn from places like Bali.

INTRODUCTION: MUSIC

Achintya Nilsen Welcome back to the Seven Stones Indonesia podcast
Similar to the first my name is Achintya Nilsen and I’ll be hosting for today.
And in this episode we actually have Mr. Terry and Mr. Andy again with us.

Andy Hi Tya.
It’s good to see you again.
What have you been doing since we last saw each other?

Terje Hi

Achintya Nilsen All right so let’s get straight into it.

In this episode I figured since we are still going through a huge global pandemic, COVID-19, we might talk a little bit about that and how that has been like for your business and how you’ve dealt with that.

But before all this I think it would be interesting to get a perspective of what this global pandemic has looked like in Bali. Because I think not many people– it’s very different to how everyone else around the world has experienced this pandemic.

Anyone want to elaborate?

Andy We got to be real careful about what we say here.

Terje Yeah I think we need to be politically correct.

Andy We do.

Terje In every way we talk about COVID-19 because that’s important.

I guess both me and Andy we’ve seen Bali and Indonesia through quite a few crises.
Financial crisis, natural disasters and so on.

Andy Bombs and stuff.

Terje Bombs, acts of terror yeah.

But nothing like this where, where actually the whole world gets impacted.

We were both here when H1N1 and some of these other pandemics, but they never impacted to a scale like what we see now.

Achintya Nilsen But I’m talking about in the sense that like, a lot of people have been asking what’s it like here. And a lot of people, I think, are expecting people falling into the ground in the middle of the street and things such as that but it hasn’t been right?

Andy In a sense it’s been kind of surreal, because it’s not what you would expect it to be.
If you were to watch like mainstream news about what’s going on around the world and then walk out here and see what’s going on just outside the door here it’s different.
It’s completely different.

Lockdown to a degree in the sense that there were various businesses that were closed but it wasn’t a complete Nyepi kind of lockdown.

Achintya Nilsen Yeah I heard somewhere that Bali did kind of an accidental Sweden in which case we tried to lock down but didn’t really lockdown.

Terje I think Indonesia is fortunate enough to, not being, they can’t afford to lock down. Because there is a lot of people, kind of I guess a little bit like India and other countries too, that a lot of their people live from their hand and to the mouth right. There’s no savings and they can’t take care of themselves, so that was never an option.

You know, the social distancing the partial, not lockdowns, but people staying at home and only coming out for essential food and so on, went on for awhile, but not really went on. People still went out, there was still places open, you could go to a few restaurants, you could have a beer. For some time you could go to the beaches, eventually that closed down and now luckily they’re all opening up again. But I think Andy’s right it was very different. And when you see news, and, I don’t know we don’t really want to go into is it real is it not in other parts of the world, but it’s almost like non-existing. The only difference is that there’s obviously a lot less tourists. But other than that life is quite normal. You also go outside of the tourist area like Kuta Canggu Bukit and these areas, life in Bali goes on like normal. People are farming their rice fields and taking care of their chickens and you know.

Achintya Nilsen So what has it looked like impact-wise on the people?
I know there’s a lot of program’s going about now where everyone’s trying to feed a lot of people.

Andy I think one of the things that I see here is a real strong sense of community and people coming together on a scale that this particular crisis has kind of brought to the surface a lot more.

I think, for me, one of the most attractive things about living in a place like Bali, in fact in Indonesia because I was living in Jakarta before I came here, was that there’s a real strong sense of community and a strong sense of family here. Which I think where I’m from in the UK for example that sense of support is something that you don’t really get that much anymore. It’s like you know old folks are put into homes and you’re kind of left on your own and nobody’s there to help you out when you’re in trouble and that sort of stuff.

And I’ve always got on with the idea of, in Indonesia of how that sense of family and support is really strong. And I’m seeing a number of initiatives here right now to do with this particular crisis where, people are really getting together and helping people out. Which I think is a real positive and a real plus.

There is a silver lining in every cloud you know what I mean?

And I think in some respects, as tragic as death may be and economic situations may be, it’s actually really good to see people helping each other the way they’re helping each other. Considering that the island is predominantly tourism based. So without the tourists like Terry was saying it just ain’t tourists here. Without those tourists hotels are closing or at least rolling down in terms of the staffing that they had.

People just don’t have any money.

Achnitya Nilsen Have you directly seen any instances where right in front of you you see that how it has affected the people, the island or businesses. Especially you guys being a business as well?

Terje I think what Andy was touching on the sort of Indonesian concept of ‘Gotong Royong’, community work is there in the Balinese.

And I think a lot of the expat community that stayed back to sort of see COVID-19 through here is people that has been here for quite some time and got attracted to that in the first place. So it’s almost a natural process that we come together and work things out.
A lot of businesses is massively impacted and the longer this goes on the worse it’ll get. But it’s amazing like Andy said, to see how people come together you know and support each other.

Even though I think the cooperation and all of this it needs to be taken to a new level too, because Bali now is actually in some way over supplied with food because there is no tourism there’s no one arriving to sort of take up on vegetables and meat and so on, that gets produced here. So I think there is a lot more work to be done to coordinate that.

But business wise, having an economy being maybe as much as 80% depending on tourism, it’s difficult. And now we’re three four months into it the longer this goes the worse it’s going to get. And I think we’re starting to see that impact of businesses too. Some realized right away and they kind of closed off because they had no cash and no way of taking care of themselves. But now you’re going to see I think more and more people that has been– had some savings, and kind of hoping that it was going to be three four months and it looks like, even though it is opening up now, will last quite some time. And we talk about a recovery time of maybe two or three years, maybe even more.

Achintya Nilsen So how has it affected your business in the sense of like how have you kept open communication with your partners, employees, you don’t call them employees but partners.
And how have you pushed through Seven Stones Indonesia as a business in this difficult time?

Terje I guess we were I wouldn’t say in denial, but sort of like you know, it’s going to be another H1N1. And obviously social media and funny politicians around the world made it a bit of a different story.

But to begin with yeah, it was challenging and it was very difficult to see how are we gonna go through this. How are we going to come through this as a company, how was Bali going to come through this as an island.

But at some stage you sort of got to realize too, that you know we really don’t have any option, we just got to go to work and do the best out of it. And once we did that then in some funny way we started attracting people with the same mindset. And I think we encouraged people to do some groundwork. Legal structure, taxes, whatever it is to prepare for when it comes back up.

So we also had a good conversation with our partners or our employees saying, you know, we don’t know where this is heading and we don’t really want to dismiss anyone or not extend contracts, actually we had all the contracts up for renewal just when COVID appeared. But we decided to continue, to extend those for another year and sat together and talked together and said we’re going to see this through. And I think in that too that our Partners realized, you know, that okay we got to fight. There’s no options, where are we going to go, no one is going to hire us. And that created a good energy that came out and about and people are picking up on and I think it’s helped us in some way to lift ourselves and our game to a totally different level.

Andy We didn’t actually close as such. We sort of reduced our opening and operating hours if you like. We went to efforts to not in endanger anybody who was coming into the office so we were following all these protocols with distance and masks and sanitizers and all that sort of stuff.

And it was really kind of heartwarming and encouraging that, you know, after we had this talk about the states of the union if you like, this is where we’re at, nobody turned around and said well, you know, I’m going to look for something else or I’m not going to come in or I’m going to stay away nobody did that. Nobody did that. They all rallied together and stood up to the plate and did what they needed to do and actually went above and beyond what they needed to do.

And I think you’re right Terry the result of that I think has led to where we are today. Where people have seen that and they’re coming to us for the advice and the help that we can give them.

Terje I think in some way for me too it was a first experience of seeing our brand and the values at work. Where, you know, people stood together and supported each other and walked this through together. Not just “oh, that’s it I’m out of here and see you later” kind of thing it was really, really good experience at the end of it. And we’re not at the end of it but we’re way into it. And yeah we’re better off.

And I think a lot of other companies, they panicked, they closed the doors, they did nothing, let staff off and so on. And through that probably lost some momentum and it’s going to be hard to come back now. It’s still not normal times in any shape or form, so it’s going to be, the longer they are off the harder it’s going to be to get back into it.

Achintya Nilsen You mentioned it briefly in the beginning but this kind of stagnant moment in Bali is no is in no way new to the island right?

We’ve had instances before with the elections or during the Agung eruptions where because it’s a tourism-based area it gets very shaky when things like this happen.

How did you kind of deal with past situations and how is that similar or different?

Terje I guess we’ve seen a lot.

I think as one example the, Agung, when that had it’s eruptions, I got contacted from a lot of press in Norway and the perception they had and wanted to have was that people were actually jumping into the water and swimming away from this huge volcano that was blowing everything up. And I kind of calmly said well, it’s not like that. I can see it, you know, if I go out and it’s a clear day, there’s a bit of smoke. Obviously an issue for people living nearby but down here there’s nothing. The airport closed for what, two days over a year or how long it went on.

And some of these reporters say “oh that’s not sensational enough, we can’t use it.”
And in some ways that’s what’s happening now too. There’s a lot of sensation and stuff going on, that, we obviously need to be careful and protect ourselves, but I think the same hype is into it.

Achintya Nilsen Yeah I think that’s also what I wanted to get some input on, is, I think there’s this almost trend to make Bali this almost unagreeable place to live in, when these things happen.

Why do you guys think that is, that there is always this sensational news?

Andy Oh Gosh.

Terje I think that has a lot with,

Andy Depends who’s listening,

Terje Yeah, depends who’s listening.

Andy We gotta be really careful now.

Terje But I think the, now we’re talking about, I don’t know what’s going on with the world and I kind of think it was a bit of an accident and the whole, perfect storm if that makes sense. And what happens with COVID it’s obviously real, it’s obviously dangerous. But I think the world, by far, has overreacted to what it did.

But these reactions and what you see in the press, has a lot to do with competitive tourism from neighbouring countries. It doesn’t matter if it’s Australia, or Malaysia, or Thailand and so on. They might not be motivated from a government perspective, but the different news channels and so on will dig into any sensation they can find to paint the picture a bit darker than what it really is. During all these occasions.

Andy Well we got over a big bomb blast in 2002. And that was sensational, and that was really bad for the island and bad for the whole country’s tourism industry. And that closed us down, not in the same way that we’re closed down now, but it closed us down in terms of tourism for a number of months.

But it bounced back.

What was really interesting about that though, was the local feeling, or my perception of the local feeling here, was that the Balinese didn’t go blaming anybody for that tragic event, like they could have done.

The Balinese and the Javanese have this kind of friction. If there’s any litter that finds itself on the beach here, then the local people here might turn around and say “well you know that’s come from Java.” “And all of the robberies and the bad folk that are here you know they’re from Java or they’re from Lombok, because Balinese don’t do that kind of thing.” Well, you know, you can take that with a pinch of salt as much as you want to take it. But there was no backlash to that bomb there was no kind of anti-Javanese sentiment, there was no anti-Muslim sentiment at all. In fact the opposite happened.

There was this period of time directly afterward where there was this palpable wave of emotion that, you go through the island, and you would, for no reason at all, I was working at a hotel at the time, for no reason at all you just start crying. And you weren’t alone there were other people in the office that would just have tears in their eyes and nobody said anything you just had this energy thing going around.

And what was most eye-opening for me about that whole thing was the Balinese looked within. They blamed themselves for such a tragic event, that they were losing touch with their purpose, and their sense of balance and harmony and keeping things in check and that sort of stuff. So they got back into doing their ceremonies a bit more.
That was around the Dewa Sraya I think we were both involved with right?
So there was very much a sense of coming together, which I think this particular situation that we’re in right now is also manifesting in the sense of communities coming together. It’s interesting.

I think the world’s got a lot to learn from places like Bali.

Terje Yeah I think the Balinese, like Andy was saying, they talked a lot about you know intrinsically. So it’s like, Sekala Niskala, the seen and unseen. So you have external factors and then you have internal factors, or sometimes spiritual energy karmic factors.

And that gives everyone an opportunity to look upon what can we do forward and how can we get out of this.

I think this time though, it’s gone a little bit too far and it’s not just in Bali it’s all over the world. The world seems to have lost, and somewhat Bali too, the capability to make decisions. There’s this fear and this protectionism that at the end of it, I think, potentially could kill a lot more people than actually the virus does. And that to me is a much bigger threat, you know, the impact of this.

And it doesn’t mean that we necessarily jump straight back into opening up for tourism and mass tourism, the usual thing. But we have to take step forwards towards, you know, people call it the new normal, I don’t particularly like that, but where are we going to go with this. We got to make decisions and take clear steps with this.

As a government you know Bali needs to, and there is good decisions, but the community, the business community and all these people need to come together.

Achintya Nilsen Do you think this community needs to kind of go forward a bit differently than some parts of the world just because the virus itself is not the biggest impact, it’s actually the unemployment and all the poverty and all this that’s going on.

Terje I think that to me is a big thing because we can look at the figures of people dying from COVID-19 and we can have opinions on that being old people, and nobody’s saying that those lives are worth less than others, but as a reaction of what happened and the lockdowns, I think United Nations now talk about people dying from starvation going from 30,000 people a day to 300,000 people a day.

Then it’s like who are we really saving? It’s more than 70 million people gets pushed below the poverty line, as an impact of this and a dying from it.

And in some way Indonesia will have areas impacted like that and you can see pockets like that here in Bali. Up in the mountains in Kintamani, out in Sraya you know really really poor pockets of communities that is going to struggle. And that’s something that needs to be dealt with right here right now to stop.

Andy There’s a fine balance though isn’t there between the economic impact and the health impact. So there’s obvious negatives to ignoring everything and opening up back to what it used to be, obviously there is. And there’s also negative impacts about keeping it closed.

Terje Yeah I think we all agree that tourism and Bali needs other legs to stand on if that makes sense. And I think some of those decisions has already been made, that Bali wants to open up other business streams and other potential ways of creating labor and so on.

And that’s all good and fine but that’s going to take six seven ten years before it has an impact, it’s not a quick fix. So in the meantime there has to be a solution towards, how do we welcome tourism back. And we can talk about New Normal and the procedures of how we clean our hands and rapid tests and whatever people need to know, but also what kind of tourism that we move forward [with].

Looking away from, you know, differently into this. I think opportunities will come out of it too. I think that people that experienced lockdowns in Italy, in New York, in Norway and other places they will, they’re already saying I don’t want to experience this another time back in where I was, I want to be in Bali I want to be in Lombok, I want to be in beautiful places and have a life while it goes on.

The second thing that comes out of this too is that, a lot of people now, or companies have discovered that working from home is really a big thing. And then people are being told that oh I can continue work from home, why woundn’t I call Bali home and move to Bali.

So I think that the market will come back, it’ll be a bit different. It’ll be more long-term tourism, more residential tourism, digital nomads, independent entrepreneurs, whatever you want to call it. I think there’s going to be a wave of those coming and you can already see investors and developers preparing for that.

So that I think will be good but in the meantime, there’s a big big problem that we need to deal with everyday.

Andy And a part of that too, if you ask me, is the idea and the debate that goes on and it’s stuff that we write about a lot, and it’s to do with quality versus quantity.

I think there’s this obvious knee-jerk reaction to, okay let’s try and fill rooms up and places up with as many people as possible. Let’s just charge as little as we can and just get bodies in there and just kind of get things going. As opposed to kind of really looking at the idea of focusing on quality rather than the quantity. I think it will be dangerous to open up to cheap, what they used, to call cheap Charlie tourists. Where everything’s a bargain and you just got a lot of people coming through. It has big environmental impacts too. You got a lot of trash to deal with when you get a lot of tourists. There’s more impact on resources like water and electricity than is normal. And I think it’s almost like a double-edged sword. I think you’ve got the issue of yes, you need something to stimulate the economy, sure. But if you go the wrong way with it you’re likely to have a much longer term negative impact on things.

As opposed to quality tourism which is a much more experienced, experiential kind of tourism, where people are coming for long periods of time, they are coming because of the experience of the local culture, the different types of eco-conscious initiatives that are going on with food, and handicrafts and buildings and all that sort of stuff.

Terje I think that the market too will be part of that change and actually demand that.

I think the losers, if any, in particular to Bali and the tourism industry is all the big hotels. Because it’s difficult for them to provide the New Normal in a proper setting.
They can have distancing around the tables, they can have the distancing in between all aspects, but I think people will demand much more privacy, smaller villas, boutique concepts and so on, coming back; being Domestic or International markets.

And like Andy said I think they will want an experience. They want to experience more to what Bali used to be, you know, the attraction of the culture, nature, being in a nice community.

Achintya Nilsen So in that do you see it also as kind of, we were talking about silver lining and potential other business streams, is it sort of I guess an opportunity for Bali to kind of go forward and come at it with a different strategy?

Andy Yes it is.

Terje I think yeah, Bali has that opportunity and I know there’s a lot of dialogues going on in between business players in the government.
At the end of it I think it boils down to making decisions and moving forward.
And that’s going to be the challenge to actually take steps to create a brand, to create a network of what Bali’s is going to be all about. The regulations around it, the policies and so on and so on. That’s not going to be easy.

I must say though that I am optimistic that the market is going to drive that demand and I think the younger generation sees this more than, possibly the decision-makers and the actors in the business community today.

I was fortunate to be like a distant jury in a university that is into graduation doing concepts around tourism and designs and so on a couple of days ago; and there was 10 groups that presented their vision and choice of likening in terms of what kind of tourism and what kind of developments they wanted to see into the future. And they were all eco-friendly, wooden structures, Indonesian culture, all the right things that what we think and hope will happen for Bali. Not just Bali but all of Indonesia. I actually think that we’ll gain momentum.

Andy I think the future’s bright here. Across the country, I think it’s bright.

Terje So long-term I think Indonesia will come out of this better than, and Bali, most other countries. The Indonesian economy too. I just read an article today that the whole world is expecting a quick recovery for the Indonesian economy because it kind of leans back to it’s agriculture and old way of life. It has a very strong domestic economy so it’s not depending totally, even though in Bali it does depend a lot of foreigners and foreign investment, but in general Indonesia is probably one of the few countries together with maybe India and China that is not going to see a recession, it’s going to be a lot less growth but it’s still going to be some growth. While the rest of the world is into some very very deep challenges in their economical structures.

Achintya Nilsen Do you reckon we’re bound to expect a lot of different sort of tourism, different sort of people coming in, just because you mentioned the whole you know people are realizing I don’t want to be stuck or lockdowned in all these places. But Bali or maybe like Thailand and all these kind of places are opportunities for people to create more stable homes.

Do you expect a lot of people coming in?

Terje I do actually. And I do have messages and phone calls and I hear this from others that that demand is coming big time.

And I think Indonesia is also in a change in many ways it, prior to COVID-19 too, it engaged with a lot of, or quite a few other countries, you know, completing trade agreements with Australia, what we call EFTA. Or in Europe there’s a few other countries that didn’t join European Union. It’s been pushing through with something known as the Omnibus law, which is easing up on, not just for foreign investment, but also domestic investment. It has a lot to do with entrepreneurship and development.
And now they say July August that’s going to be passed.

So I think Indonesia has been gearing up for a change already. And COVID-19 might make it in some way easier to comply with that, and embrace that change.

And there’s a lot of surveys done by you know booking engines, magazines, and so on, travel companies, and so on; that shows that Bali is high on the list in demand for people that want to go on a holiday and possibly move to.

Achintya Nilsen Are you in any way, I’ve had a couple discussions about this like worried, or what do you think it’s going to look like for the culture and traditions when a huge influx of people are going to be coming in, and locals who have been struggling for the past few months are going to need immediate jobs. And just looking at it from the sense of, sometimes, culture tends to be pushed back for the sake of you know catering to these people.

What do you think that’s going to look like?

Andy Personally I hope it doesn’t. I hope the cultural aspect that attracts so many people to come here in the first place maintains its strength and it doesn’t give in to just kind of the hand to mouth kind of feeding frenzy thing that’s likely to go on.

I hope it doesn’t go that way.
I see opportunities here in diversifying away from tourism as such.

Achintya Nilsen I think it’s part of the attraction as well, right?
Bali and its culture and its people and its community.
Is what brings people here.

Andy Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Terje I think people realize more than ever that that’s why we came to Bali in the first place and people started coming here, because of the uniqueness of the culture and the attraction. And I think that’s why the market are going to come again. Because they want to embrace that and be a part of that they want to live it.

I know there is a lot of talk in the expat communities about, you know, the situation is going to be desperate, crime and so on. And I think, this situation there’s nothing like it, but having seen it in natural disasters, acts of terror and so on, I don’t think the Balinese reacts like that. And I don’t think they will in this time. You will have frictions and you will have incidents you always do. But in general, I think this is one of the safest places you can choose to go to in the world because there isn’t a hostile sort of nature in the people at all. Not just Bali, but all of Indonesia or most of Indonesia is known to be a very warm welcoming and embracing people. And I don’t think that’s going to change overnight.

We seem to think that Indonesia is so depending, and Bali is so depending on foreigners, but it’s not true. It’s not true. They can sustain themselves.

Andy It’s not actually, you know. Historically there have been more domestic tourists arriving in Bali than foreign tourists. Every year. Almost double, actually.

Terje That was an interesting aspect to see from these students I talked about too.
They were all, I asked questions on marketing and where is your clients going to come from, and they all understand that the main markets is the Indonesian market. And where they’re going to find those; Jakarta, West Java, you know big populations, and upcoming middle class, they’re going to demand different products, and they’re going to demand experiences. And where do they start? They start in their own country.

Achintya Nilsen So how do you think moving forward into the future, this is going to affect your business or what actions are Seven Stones taking to be with this New Normal or this future?

Terje Well I think, I don’t like the word New Normal, because it’s new not normal it’s abnormal. And I think that more than anything we need to return to the old normal. We need to return to eating healthy, being conscious, being in balance with ourselves, fellow humans and so on. And that’s what Bali is all about.

For sometime we obviously have to adjust to COVID-19 and the danger of that and the routines of you know wearing masks and sanitizers and social distancing and so on, will be part of it. But from Seven Stones, I think we always talked about a change, we’ve talked about a change for many many years. The need for change. I guess in some way it speeds it up it makes it more, we kind of woke up, “oh this is what we’ve been talking about for many years,” and now we just have to go and do it.

You have to provide a value for your clients. You have to provide, I mean real values, it’s not just a service, but values in terms of experiences of life and so on. And I think for businesses that we work a lot with, they’re waking up and realizing that they need to do that too. They need to have the proper structures, they need to have the proper branding, they need to have the right set of service offered to the clients. And I think we could help a lot of our clients with that and then the market comes in and we come a long way.

Andy There’s also actually greater opportunities now I think for different sorts of investments than there were a year ago. Particularly in things to do with education and health and alternative energy and that sort of stuff.

I don’t see any reason why Bali couldn’t use this opportunity to create its own sort of IT, Silicon Valley communities. And it couldn’t sort of develop big, overseas franchise universities. Why it couldn’t develop its health industry to take advantage of the medical tourism initiative that was introduced about 18 months ago. It could be a great opportunity, a great time to kind of get into those different things apart from just building a hotel, building a villa, relying on the tourists to come in and just kind of diversify those income streams a little bit. And I think generally better for the community if that sort of thing happens.

Terje I think that but it’s an important aspect that the kind of tourism we might manage to bring back is going to have a much more direct impact to the local communities.

And latest today, I had a meeting with a company that has 600 employees and they’ve always worked from home. They’ve never had offices. And they’ve done a survey on okay where do we want to go and work-from-home? Is there fancy places that we could go and have a better life and still do what we do?
Bali came out as the number one choice.

I think this is a thing that we’ve heard rumors about to some of the tech companies and social media companies have done similar exercises saying, okay if we moved our head office and you sometimes need to come to the office and therefore needed to live in the area somewhere again they look at Bali as an opportunity and possibly other places of Indonesia as well.

Achintya Nilsen Sounds like you both or Seven Stones has a very positive outlook on where this is headed.

Andy We do.
We are optimistic and positive about a lot of things.

Achintya Nilsen But do you have any, maybe personally or business-wise, any difficulties that you’ve faced? Or any lessons learned, throughout this few months that we are feeling this impact?

Terje Well that was deep.

Andy Yeah really.

Achintya Nilsen Personally or business-wise.

Terje And or

Andy Could you open that bottle of wine now?

Terje I think for me, yeah, realizing that we can no longer just talk about the change we actually have to go and do it if not we’re f*****. Sorry that was a bad word but you know if not we’re in a mess. So we need to, we need to just take actions.

And to me more than anything is those kinds of conversations we have in between us with our partners and employees. Being a lawyer isn’t enough, being a real estate agent isn’t enough, you have to go and drive this, you have to push this forward every day, you have to be the change.

So to me that was a slap in the face if that makes sense. And I think, you know, we were concerned about the business and we’re still concerned because it’s difficult to predict. But over the last, maybe, couple of months it’s really been an uplift more than anything, in terms of understanding of ourselves, our brand, our partners, our clients.
And actually business-wise too we’re probably doing better than in a long time.

Achnitya Nilsen How do, you know, speaking of positive opinions and thoughts and optimism.
How do you kind of continue or maintain that positive aspect of of your thoughts and your business, throughout not just this global pandemic but I’m assuming all the,

Terje Future pandemics.

Achintya Nilsen Well, previous and yeah, future pandemics.

Andy Mindset, is the only thing I can think of right now.
It all depends on how you think about stuff.

Terje And I think that, that’s one, sorry.

Achintya Nilsen How would you inspire others to also look at a more positive,

Terje Well that’s hard work.

We’re trying. And I think more and more people are listening. And I think we touched on it before too, that we’re trying to constantly learn and trying to, not rewrite, but reset how we look upon challenges and problems. It’s all about how you set your mind to it like Andy says it’s mindset.

So, I think humanity has proven itself over and over. We’ve seen a lot worse than this; it’s just a matter of how we pull together and see it through. And you can choose to see all kinds of issues and challenges and you’re not blind to that, but in that there is a lot of opportunities coming up, and you just got to grab those and pull yourself up.

Andy In the same way there’s also, in those same events and scenarios and stuff, there’s also a different path that you could take and it would be completely negative.
The same event has two different options, two different choices.
You could choose to go this way which is generally a positive way or you could go that way which is maybe generally a negative way. You’re not necessarily going to change the events. The only thing you can change really is how you think about them and how you perceive them. And that then determines what choices you make.
So for me it’s totally all about mindset.

Terje I think we’ve always been, like Andy says in his writing, and our blogs, and our whole presence in Indonesia is based on optimism.

And we get regularly accused of working for Jokowi and the Indonesian government because we’re just overly optimistic but,

Andy And if you’re listening we’re open, we’re open for consultancies, you know, Mr.President.

Terje We’re open for offers.

And it’s kind of like going against a mainstream mindset. That, “oh no it’s never going to get anywhere.” I guess at this stage we’re kind of up against all of the world. Everyone’s thinking, the whole world’s a mess and maybe it is, but it’ll find its way. And we want to be ahead of that and see the opportunities before everyone else. Not necessarily because we want to be first or anything, but there’s always a way out there’s always an opportunity.

Achintya Nilsen How do you think the future is going to look like Bali-wise, Indonesia-wise market-wise, or even people-wise on this island and beyond?

Terje It’s very difficult to predict.

One side, maybe you’re not going to see very much changes at all you just see kind of like a pause, you know, it stopped for a while it’ll come back.
But I do think that it does trigger a change and I think that you’ll see what is often referred to as a Tipping Point. What we’ve seen coming already in terms of more eco-related and inspired concepts, hotels, the right kind of supply chain. People talk a lot about that these days on, you don’t want to bring in food, you don’t want to bring in anything, you want to have that in your near environment. So I think that’ll come and every day now we’re out there, we hear other people and other plans that have similar concepts. How can you work directly with the community and bring foreigners, expats coming in to be part of those communities and have good lives and good experiences.

So I think there will be a change. How dramatic and how quick is still very difficult to predict, but it seems to gain momentum almost every day, you know, more and more people realize and more and more people want to see that change and then it’ll happen.

Achintya Nilsen Do you get into a lot of conversations or butt heads a lot with any of the community with your thoughts or the company’s?

Terje I used to do that a lot when I was young, or younger. And get into arguments but there’s really no point. It’s one of these things that I try to, and still I get into arguments every now and then, but it’s more about an opinion and pushing that out there engaging with people who pick up on that opinion.

Perception is reality different sets in mindsets, but I do see more and more we attract people who think like us and that’s been a big thing for us from day one. That we want to do business with like-minded people, we want to work with like-minded people, we want to have an impact together with like-minded people. And that happens faster and faster and there’s more and more happening that helps us take not just steps in the right direction, but leaping into the right direction.

Andy And it’s a little bit like the Norwegian Business Council thing.

Terje It’s a good example, yeah.

Andy Where Terry started this Norwegian business council group last week.
And we had quite a lot of people come to it, which is quite surprising.

Achintya Nilsen Within social distancing protocols.

Andy Yeah, we followed all the protocols and all that was done.

But really what was interesting was that, not everybody of the people that attended, but quite a few of the people that attended they stayed back afterwards and we are having these great discussions about what we saw as a common way to move forward, to kind of benefit not just the communities that were involved with, but the businesses that could be grown out of them. Very much a win-win-win positive take on it all. And it wasn’t us driving that, that just seemed to be what was there. It was all around and it was actually quite a positive and encouraging thing to see.

Terje I think, to me, it’s a lot like how me and Andy and a few others kind of gained trust in each other, was actually a big ceremony called Dewa Sraya in 2006, where, in different ways and forms we got dragged into this.
And I remember this one conversation we were sitting, was it in Bali Deli or somewhere,

Andy Yeah.

Terje Having a meeting and I was kind of having these thoughts “oh I can’t say these things I believe in spirituality and energy,” and all that funny stuff. And eventually said it and everyone else was like yeah,

Andy Yeah, we all said yeah go on go on.

Terje And that sort of obviously broke the ice, and there was similar thoughts.

And I think like this Nordic Business Club or Council is a similar thing too, that I thought of it for a while, and I thought I’d find 1 other Norwegian, and 2 Swedes, and maybe 3 Danish on the island that we could have some kind of community and engage with each other. But that just we ended up with what, something like 50 people?

And yeah, I mean we complied with all the protocols and it was a good exercise for Trans Hotel and their first new normal and so on. But that just again, reflected that, there’s a lot of people out there who embrace this and are positive and want to come together and drive this.

Andy So much so. I mean, I made the mistake earlier on, it’s not the Norwegian Business Council, it’s the Nordic Business Council.
And the reason I mention that is because out of the five Nordic Nations, there were representatives from every single one of those Nations there.
There was even somebody from Iceland.

Terje Yeah, Iceland, Finland you know, they’re all there.
And surprisingly many that came out and since we’ve had that other people have heard of it and we’ll now try to consolidate that into a formal sort of Council, with a board and what do we want to do and accomplish with this.
And there’s been another 15, 20 people joined just since then. That will continue.

We do similar activities on other aspects. The NGO side of things, and the social aspects trying to get some consciousness of working together, pulling together.
Create integrity to the programs that we do and so on.

Achintya Nilsen So in the sense that there’s a lot of positivity moving forward here, and going back on some of the subjects we talked on just before. Going forward, I think, is also going to be a more eco-conscious and sustainable lifestyle and everything to businesses tourism and all that. Do you think Seven Stones is almost ahead of the game in that sense?
Because of the planet aspect that you mentioned in the first podcast.

Andy I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’re ahead of the game with it. I think we have become more conscious of it than maybe other businesses in similar sectors and segments that were involved with. We’ve become more conscious than maybe other people have done.

Terje And I think it’s, we’ve always had these thoughts and it’s been processed over the last couple of years. And what we’ve been talking about to other companies that we work with, other real estate companies, or any other businesses, it’s kind of like, you know, the same old. Now it’s upon us. And in that sense we’re ahead of the game. We knew that this day would come we knew the changes would come, simply because there is no other option.

And I think when you talk about the market and how that’s going to drive the change, I think a lot of people see that they’re living from paycheck to paycheck. And when that paycheck stops their lives are in a mess. And they don’t want to have those experiences. So they want to invest or embrace a lifestyle where they can have some kind of security. And in that I think, the Eco Resorts where you have your own garden supplying as much as possible of the food, if you’re not a vegetarian you have a few chickens and a couple of pigs running around, and you can supply a small community with that. So if this thing happens again, and the chances are quite high that it will, you have something to fall back to. You have a community, you have a support. And that I think is going to drive most of the tourism.

Andy And I think combined with the obvious push and drive to words digital economies. I think that combination of a digital future and this almost traditional ‘let’s live off the land’ kind of idea, I think there’s got to be a very interesting middle ground between those two places. Which I think is where we’re heading towards and where our consciousness is going towards.

Achintya Nilsen Going back to what you were mentioning about being the change and taking action on, you can’t just be a real estate agent anymore you have to do the things to push it forward. And projecting ourselves into the future and what things may or may not look like, what sort of steps or strategies has Seven Stones taken to accommodate that?

Terje Good question.

Andy Yeah, it is a good question.

Terje I think we’ve prepared for this for a long long time. And it’s kind of like it almost got a bit, yeah we’re ready but it’s never going to come and the change won’t happen. And suddenly it happened. So I think we’ve had these thoughts and these strategies in us to stand out in a different way; provide the right values, provide the right, not just to our clients and customers and so on, but also the right values of what kind of investments is going to be good for the future, what kind of developments are going to be needed and wanted by the market and so on.

So I think we’ve prepared for this probably way back before we actually started Seven Stones. We already had these talks in other companies that we worked together. So it’s kind of like a bit of magic I guess; that suddenly it appears upon us and it’s the things that we talked about.

You know the online work-from-home all this interaction happens. Try to call me prior to COVID-19 and [see if] I actually answer the phone. Try to get me you know on a zoom meeting, it’s like Mission Impossible. I just don’t like it. And through this I actually had to. And and now I’m kind of enjoying it. I actually talk to clients and I can have conversations on different things.

I guess I just have to start talking to my kids too now. I haven’t done that for a long time.

Achintya Nilsen Just mumble that in there.

Actually jumping off of that, that was actually where I was going to go next.
Maybe stepping away from a business perspective.

Terje Talking about my kids?

Achintya Nilsen No, on a more personal level how do you think it has affected you family-wise? Home-wise?
I know this is what a lot of people have, there’s very, what is it, the two pathways of opinions that you were mentioning before. There’s a positive aspect to it and a negative aspect to how this has affected the home situation.

Terje I get all mushy and emotional now.

I guess we all sort of realized time, more than anything, is something we need to embrace and live in, not sort of chasing something in the future or the past.

For family, I think I made a decision a long time ago to push my kids into Green School because I think that was a good move. And I thought that was changes that was going to come, you know that, eco, social, sustainability and so on, was going to be wanted values. And it already was then, but that was going to be even further needed. And I think for my kids now the world is here. It’s open for them to go and do what they were set to do and have been educated to do.

Achintya Nilsen Any input from you Andy?

Andy I think it’s an interesting question.
I think it’s not an easy– it’s not easy for people to spend lots of time locked up together.
I think that’s actually probably one of the most difficult aspects of it.
But again everything for a reason right?
I mean it’s kind of like what do you do if you’re all locked in a room together.
Are you going to be at each other up and shout and scream, or you going to look at different ways you can paint the walls?

Achintya Nilsen So kind of taking that, and then looking at it in the connections between you and your partners, employees. I think that this time all locked in together has also been great for opening up conversations, and better learning how to communicate with each other, and understand each other.

Do you see that happening within the company as well?

Andy Yeah, very much.

The legal team that we’ve got is outstanding actually. They’ve grown a lot in the year that we’ve had them there. From the days that we interviewed them and they weren’t particularly outgoing but there was definitely potential and attitude and things that we liked about them.
Compare those guys that walked into that interview to now, and they’re obviously the same people obviously, but they are much more confident in their own abilities, they are much more communicative with us and with each other and with clients. They handle everything. We just kind of sit back and watch; it’s great.

Terje And I think one of the growth aspects there is that, sometimes you see an Indonesian mentality is like, don’t do anything if the boss doesn’t tell you to do anything, and you know you don’t take responsibility for something that you aren’t asked to do.

I think we’ve gone way way beyond that. Where there is a solution to even mindset on what can I do right here right now to move all of us forward. What can I do to complete a certain topic and a task that has got stuck somewhere, And they’re picking up on the loose ends all over the place and pulling it together.

Andy They very much picked up on the concepts behind this rebranding. Really. It was almost like it wasn’t anything new for them. It was like okay, we’ll just go ahead and do it.

It reminded me very much of the time when I was teaching for different hotels, teaching a course called creating truly memorable experiences. And it was a course to do with customer journeys and customer experiences. It was based around the idea of love, care, empathy, spirituality and creativity. And that’s what I was trying to teach hotel staff. But whenever I started my classes out with a new group of people, I would start them out by saying, you know, good morning my name is Andy and I am not your teacher today. And they would all look around the room and say “well what do you mean you’re not the teacher, aren’t you supposed to be teaching us something.” And my response to that was, I’m not going to teach you anything. I’m just here to help you remember stuff that you already know, but you may have forgot. So I’m just here to help you remember.

And it was very much that feeling with these legal teams. These guys knew, we gave them the opportunity to show that and we gave them the opportunity to grow into a particular field and skill set and expertise that, maybe they wouldn’t have found in a different place.

Terje I think that’s an exercise we’ve experienced with, we’re no longer a real estate company, but we have a real estate division. And one of the challenges we always had with real estate was the mindset and the mentality, where the company felt that it did a lot and the agents did a lot. And it was kind of difficult to find the right sort of frequency and committed people that was going to go the extra mile for themselves and for the company. To a stage where we are now left with just one or two agents that have been very loyal the whole way and will continue to be loyal into the future.

But I think with that too it takes us into the bone of what we want to be in terms of real estate. And we can grow a new culture, or our culture, with new people coming in.
And that’s been a problem for us. We’ve always wanted to be nice to people, so we hired kind of everyone, and we’ve given everyone opportunities. That’s probably been one of our biggest mistakes if any, but that’s also been a learning experience.

Andy Yeah, very much a learning experience.

Terje You tried to, people that might want to be in Bali, and they can’t sustain themselves, they don’t have a job, but we give them a job, we give them a training. And at the end we feel we got a little bit abused.

We don’t mind people growing and moving into the next level of their lives. And we’ve seen that before in other companies that we’ve been in. That people have moved on with their own offices and so on. And that’s all good and great, but I think for us it’s a fresh start on that aspect of it too, where we can set the mentality.

And we’ve had a few job interviews, actually today we had an interview today with people who came for that very reason. They think we are nice people that can give them a base of doing good and doing well.

Achintya Nilsen That still stands as your main backbone I guess. Do good, do well.

Andy Do good, do well.

Terje Always in that order.

Andy Yeah .

Achintya Nilsen Something interesting that we briefly touched on, on the first episode that I think can be brought up here again, is,

Terje Andy’s second name.

Achintya Nilsen Your last names, yeah.

Perhaps we shall answer that mystery.

Andy Oh right, we didn’t tell you our names.

Yeah my surname is Barski. It’s polish. So both my parents were Polish, but I was born in the UK. In a town called Nottingham. Robin Hood in the forest and that sort of stuff.

Terje Nilsen That’s actually not the full truth Andy.

Andy Barski It’s not all of the truth, is it Terry.

Achintya Nilsen We’ll leave that for the third,

Terje Nilsen That could be the third episode.

Andy Barski Third episode yeah.

Achintya Nilsen Okay, so great then you guys have a lot of positive mindset then, and a very positive, eco-conscious, sustainable future, and being the change instead of talking about the change. And you’re open to conversations I would assume?

Andy Barski Definitely.

We love conversations. I mean, again, from my teaching background and stuff.
The idea of conversations is very connected with listening. And it’s not necessarily telling somebody what your opinion is. It’s very much listening to what they’ve got to say, genuinely listening to what they’ve got to say. So it means you’ve got to be in that now. You’ve got to be in that moment. Rather than have an answer already prepared that you’re going to say regardless of what you’re talking to about.

So conversations we love. We love people coming from left field and presenting ideas and opinions about stuff that we haven’t even considered; it’s great.

Achintya Nilsen And you can directly send those conversations thoughts and opinions to the website?

Andy Barski You can.

Achintya Nilsen Www.SevenStonesIndonesia.Com

Andy Barski You can use you generic email address which is Hello@SevenStonesIndonesia.com

Terje Nilsen Or you can send an email to Barskilovskovski@sevenstonesindonesia.com

Andy Barski Yeah, if you can spell it.

Achintya Nilsen So you can reach us directly at the website, the email. We have an Instagram, a LinkedIn profile.

And thank you so much everyone for tuning in. Let us know if you have any not so controversial opinions or any other conversation topics regarding this, or real estate, or legal.

Terje Nilsen Or Bali and Indonesia in general.

OUTRO: MUSIC

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