Alum Gede Putra Witsen has always been passionate about social entrepreneurship. In his home country, Indonesia, he uses it as a driver for value addition in the tourism industry and for overall societal development. Gede has used the skills he learned in the Bachelor in International Relations at IE University to expand his father’s innovative enterprise into a sustainable tourism attraction. Now, he’s determined to bring Balinese art and culture to the world, while helping to grow his own community in the process.
What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
For me, social entrepreneurship goes beyond creating innovations that generate profit. It must serve a bigger goal to create a positive impact for society. Its structure must encourage holistic and sustainable practices by respecting local customs and culture.
What sparked your interest in sustainability and holistic businesses?
My father founded a unique Balinese martial arts style, known as Mepantigan Bali, which combines Balinese music, theater and self-defense. I spent my childhood supporting the family enterprise and learning about local wisdom, philosophies and arts. During my teenage years, I helped my family develop arts and culture experiences in the tourism sector. Our goal was to share Balinese culture in order to create value and preserve our heritage. Today, my father’s martial arts innovation has turned into a unique cultural experience and a source of inspiration for other social businesses in Bali.
I was also inspired by my time studying at Green School Bali, which teaches holistic business and sustainability as key elements of its curriculum.
What role did IE University play in helping you realize your professional goals?
I’m grateful to IE University for giving me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the Bachelor in International Relations through a unique scholarship program. This allowed me to broaden my professional network, refine my view of international business and expand my knowledge base with insights from a very diverse group of peers.
The university also gave me many platforms to experiment with my ideas throughout my time in the program. For instance, my time as president of the IE University Arts Society helped equip me for my future career.
Can you tell us about the projects you are currently involved with?
I have taken over my family’s social business and we’re currently working toward coming back stronger than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic. We are expanding our impact through the promotion of Balinese arts and culture.
Additionally, I’ve started working as an independent consultant, helping other businesses that are inspired to embrace social entrepreneurship and would like to overhaul their structures to be more holistic, more innovative and more respectful of local customs.
How do you apply IE University’s core principles in your day-to-day operations?
IE University is guided by four core values—diversity, innovation, entrepreneurship and the humanities—which have helped determine the way I run my business today.
Diversity. I value the Indonesian philosophy of Bhineka Tunggal Ika, which means unity in diversity. That’s why our expansion won’t just focus on Bali, but other islands in Indonesia as well—the country as a whole is rich in art, culture and ethnic heritage. For example, we have already started collaborating with artists from Indonesia’s Papua province. Our core team is also made up of people from all over the country. Sharing our diverse cultures also means sharing knowledge and ideas.
Innovation. All of our programs are unique, authentic and culturally sound. Our innovations are inspired heavily by ancient local wisdom and customs, combined with modern knowledge to deliver even greater value. Furthermore, we empower our younger team members to become leaders by sponsoring their education using revenue from our social business. As they bring their new perspectives to our endeavors, they help us continue to innovate.
The humanities. In all of our operations, we prioritize financial, environmental and social sustainability, ensuring that these elements work in sync to nurture a holistic approach. As a strong believer in the preservation of our environment, I’ve made sure that our arts centers are built in a sustainable way and are also connected to nature. We don’t land a foreign “spaceship” and destroy the biodiversity and natural ecosystem of the land. I’m happy to say that, while we are a for-profit enterprise, our arts center is one with nature and we foster an appreciation for local arts and culture by creating value through tourism. We place a strong value on local knowledge, culture and heritage to develop our programs and shape our long-term goals.
Entrepreneurship. We believe in spreading the entrepreneurial spirit beyond just this business. We empower our youth team to create their own social enterprises or gain the skills to actively participate in our social business. After all, it’s not only mine but theirs, too. They are more than just employees—they’re artists, entrepreneurs and creators, and we encourage them to share their art with the world.