Hello fellow GL peeps! We are back at it again with “Humans of GL” series! On this second episode, we will be sharing the story of a professional highly involved in the field of design and marketing, whose career is influenced significantly by globalisation. We hope you enjoy our interview with Darina, who is based in Indonesia but whose work takes her all over the world, as would most of us in the future (hopefully)!
1. Hi Darina! Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Darina Maulana and I’m from Indonesia. I am now working as the Chief Marketing Officer at my start-up, Qyos by Algramo. My background is in design – I did a Bachelors in Interior Design as well as a Masters in Sustainable Behaviour Design in Indonesia. I consider myself a social designer, someone who creates an impact by working together with others to innovate solutions to social and environmental problems.
2. Could you tell us about your career at Qyos? Why did you decide to join this company?
Qyos was officially founded in 2020, and we are a refillable dispensing system solution for plastic waste. Qyos is a venture aimed at middle to upper socio-economic groups, to capture consumer behaviour and their perceptions towards sustainability. In Indonesia, one of the biggest challenges we face is the plastic waste problem. So, our solution at Qyos is to collaborate with major international Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and dispense their products into refillable containers such that customers can bring their own bottles to refill.
We are a start-up that is also part of Enviu, which is a Dutch NGO that creates solutions to environmental problems by building business ventures in the form of start-ups. Other than that, we partner very closely with Algramo, which is a Chilean start-up with an 8-year track record as they already have the refill dispensing technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). So, my work involves a lot of international connections and global collaborations across the world!
Interviewer: So, why did you decide to join Qyos?
During my university days, I did my thesis on design and sustainable behaviour. I had to pitch my proposal to the Dutch NGO, Enviu, to get grants for this project. After they saw my proposal, they informed me of an opening in Enviu which deals with design, sustainable behaviour as well as Internet of Things (IoT) processes. This was a great opportunity for me because I see Qyos as a way to marry my multiple backgrounds in design, engineering, behaviour and sustainability! An added bonus to Qyos is that there are so many local and international stakeholders, so it’s always interesting to find ways on how to make them be in sync when it comes to the environment so that we can create a greater sustainability impact.
3. That’s great! What do you do on a daily basis at Qyos?
At Qyos, I am focused on the marketing as well as the customer journey. We call it CX, or customer experience. Basically, I propose how best to capture market adaptation in Qyos. My job requires me to innovate a solution to change an existing behaviour among Indonesians and to normalise refill habits. At the same time, I am in-charge of how we communicate this solution to our customers. For instance, we currently have two sale points, so we coordinate with our customers on how to make the traffic higher and they’ll deploy it.
I also handle online communication strategies through social media channels like Instagram and Linkedin to increase traffic on the front end. On the back end, I follow-up with customers to document learnings and patterns of behaviour. With these learnings, I then identify their needs, translate it into a brief and present it to the technical team at Qyos and the Algramo team in Chile.
Other than that, I also do some of the operations such as product stocking and looking for new vendors. I also handle marketing – public outreach as well as opportunities on how to expand Qyos through grants and investor meetings.
4. Fantastic! Could you tell us a bit more about how you got interested in the environmental sustainability industry?
When I was a design undergraduate, I understood that designers are here to solve problems. With that thought in mind, I knew I was keen on how design affects behaviours and how people perceive space.
At the same time, my sister happened to be enrolled in the same university as me and majored in Environmental Engineering. It was my sister that first pointed out to me that design should not only be about the customer and the physical space of the building; there’s already an abundance of designers who do that. However, what the world needs is a designer who also thinks about the surroundings. That was when I realised that design should also be impactful to the environment because the surroundings of a building will be impacted by the designs that I make. I then factored in sustainability throughout my later stages in university and until today, I firmly advocate for it!
I love that Sustainability involves so many stakeholders, and a problem can be viewed systematically with multiple parties. My team and I are able to learn about other areas that we never thought of (for example, financially, socially, technically, etc) and we get to see multiple perspectives. I think that being a generalist is my strength as it suits me because as a people-person, my role in Qyos is collaborating with others to use our environmental resources in a responsible way.
5. Speaking of which, what are your thoughts about environmental sustainability in Indonesia? Where do you see the industry going in the future?
I think that the Indonesians have already had a sustainable way of doing things, just that they don’t realise it or put a label to it. For instance, we have a culture of packaging our tempe and food using banana leaves instead of plastic. This is a biodegradable way of packaging! So, moving forward, the bigger question we can ask ourselves is how can we acknowledge our existing habits or what they already have as a resource and normalise it?
At the same time, people are not aware of the bigger environmental shift that we need to make. Rather, their approach now is simply to focus on decreasing costs and economic decisions is their number one priority. That’s why Qyos is now adapting our strategies to that by first approaching people and saying, “Hey, refill bottles with us and save some money!” But hopefully we can slowly capture our customers and change our strategy to “Hey, let’s join the refill revolution together and reduce plastic waste!” So, I think that instead of thinking extensively about digitalisation efforts in the sustainability industry, we should also focus on what we have already been doing and contextualising it into a sustainability effort.
6. What are some skills or knowledge that someone in your field should have?
I think that for this industry, it is less about the technical skills and more about the ‘Why’. They need to have a clear goal behind why they want to achieve a sustainable environment. Those who want to enter this field should have a keen understanding on why they are doing what they are doing. Everyone is in the driver’s seat of their own cars, but where we’re going is more important than what cars we are driving.
It is important to read up broadly about the environmental issue at large, but understanding the nuances in culture and the contexts on why something is happening (eg, in Jakarta Indonesia as opposed to Bandung, Indonesia) is even more crucial. What are the core problems? Also, we need to think forward: the world is developing through advancements and innovation, so how do we marry the past and the future?
So, I think that context is key; we have to fully understand the real problems and what that specific society really needs. For instance, in building blocks, the small parts are key. In a circular economy, we can’t see the sides but the small parts are yourselves, so you need the skills and knowledge to understand how you can play a part to close the loop of resources. Sometimes, there are things that are already sustainable but there is no infrastructure to grow or no support to make it available. This is why innovation is important and creativity is another crucial skill. At the same time, we need to be wary of the ‘paradox of progress’ because the downside of advancements is that some things like culture or tradition may be lost.
7. What’s the best thing about your job? Best achievements?
I can capture the phenomena that were once hypothetical to me in university. Now I can do it practically with conditions that are really happening in the field, with what can be solved or compromised. I also get to explore more and learn to be realistic!
Some of my achievements include things like when customers tell me what they think about the product and how we can improve. When I hear this, it really means that the customers take the time to hear and think about what can be improved. It really shows how both the customer and myself are achieving the same goal of building the product together. I’ve also managed to collaborate with organizations such as the government and major international FMCG brands like Unilever.
8. What mistakes did you make early in your career? What are some of the challenges that you face in this industry?
Personal challenges: I still make a lot of mistakes. In general, my biggest mistake is my own perception that I can fix everything, so sometimes I tend to be too focused on the goal. To be sustainable (and responsible) is to appreciate the process. Sometimes, I can work countless hours to hit a goal and end up missing friends’ birthdays. So being responsible to my own surroundings and having a good work-life balance is important. I am learning to detach myself from work at times and not be a workaholic as I realise that some things don’t have to be solved that way.
Industry challenges: Some work-related challenges are the market and customers, where communication is a really big challenge. The question lies in whether people actually listen, and if we can capture what they need. A paradox happened where a survey deployed to customers was positive 10/10, but when it’s translated to the real customer conversion rate, it’s only 50% (not as high). So, I tend to ask myself if I’m really communicating correctly.
9. What are your future plans for Qyos and your personal ambitions?
I think I am the most idealistic in the Qyos team. Previously, I was rather stubborn in trying to make the refill system work within mini-markets where it could scale up. Now, our vision has shifted towards making it more specific in urban areas and among the middle to upper class, especially towards mothers, in the next 3 years. Hopefully this would eventually lead Qyos to be more inclusive, which is a more long-term goal.
As for myself, I can never answer when someone asks me what my plan for the future is. I’d just like to contribute my part in whatever the role is. After being in the industry and seeing what is needed, what I’d like to do is to sharpen my skills such as in the business area where it’s not my strongest suit. I’d really like to understand the financial part such as projections. So yeah, sharpening my skills whatever it takes, whether it’s just to study again or taking courses, though Qyos itself is already a big business school I think haha.
10. I know you have already told us a lot, but could you tell us about a particularly interesting/ memorable experience?
Of course there are many, since it’s just the three of us in Qyos and there are many things to do. When people say “start-up”, I know that there is a lot of work, but I couldn’t imagine that it’s literally the smallest things where you got to do it. In the first 3 months, I was the one who loaded the jerry cans into the machine, applied the stickers, and carried 20 kilos of products around. I thought to myself, “Oh this is fun, this is what working in a start-up is like!” and this was really memorable to me as it made me more humble too. While I’ve always thought of the bigger picture like public policy and sustainability, it also reminded me that you got to walk the talk and get your hands dirty – literally, learning and working with chemicals that contaminated my clothes.
Also, another memorable memory is collaborating and working with stakeholders. Learning from them is cool because as a people-person who loves to meet people and trade ideas, I consider it a free education. 😀
11. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any general advice for Global Studies students, be it academic or career-related? And also, for students who may be interested in joining your career field?
I think being interested in Global Studies already shows that you guys are interested in global issues and problems, which is great so please continue to explore things and don’t let that spirit die. But at the same time, take time to understand the problem that you see. In general, not just referring to Global Studies students, it’s always nice to learn about new things and capture new problems, but it takes time to fix it and actually contribute. For myself, it’s important to be goal-oriented but also appreciate the process. Always stay committed and learn the best way to solve problems, not just to shake it off or deem the problem unsolvable.
Interviewed by: Aisyah Lyana and Nicholas Lim
Edited by: Timothy Timuari