Even with 4,300 employees, Tokopedia is a family. It is not just a corporate slogan, but DNA that guides the company and its practices. Having joined Tokopedia early in its journey, Melissa has been instrumental in growing this family. She regards her current position as COO as a calling and a privilege.
Melissa Juminto, the 44th employee at the Indonesian tech firm, has seen the company grow from its early days as a start-up to becoming a unicorn that contributes 1% to the country’s entire GDP. To date, 6.2 million merchants have become a part of Tokopedia, and it has created millions of jobs for the local population.
The view that the company is family is not just Melissa’s perspective – Tokopedia’s entire culture is built around the idea of family and being one team.
A team built on trust
Nakama is a word borrowed from Japan that denotes comradeship, brotherhood, and sisterhood – a team with one mission, explains Melissa. “It is never an individual but a team effort. If I had to choose a word in Bahasa that reflects this, it would be keluarga, which means family,” she shares.
Nurturing is an important family philosophy at Tokopedia. “We invest a lot in coaching and training, and we encourage everyone to be a teacher so that we can learn from one another. We facilitate Nakama classes where we teach each other different skills,” she says. “I believe one should always be curious and want to learn.”
"The biggest challenge is to figure out how to accelerate the growth of our people, as it takes time to develop maturity and capacity"
This ethos of family and team spills over into Melissa’s management style, which she describes as one that is all about “giving people trust and opportunity”; and these two things must go hand in hand, she says.
As Chief Operating Officer of the company, Melissa says her job is to make sure the company is running smoothly. “My daily task is to ensure we stay on track for the day or even look to achieve more. And if we did not hit our goals the previous day, we would work out how to compensate for that loss.”
She spends much of her time sitting with the team, discussing new ideas, and working on challenges. “It is a natural way to solve things quickly,” she says. While she used to spend more of her time externally, she now spends 70 to 80 percent of her time on internal projects and concerns. “I only step in if there are bottlenecks in external deals. As COO, my job is more focused on managing internal teams,” Melissa says of her role.
"A good leader understands that leadership is not about competing with your team, but everything about serving and helping them "
A family in action
Melissa believes Tokopedia can only grow as fast as the people are growing. “The biggest challenge is to figure out how to accelerate the growth of our people, as it takes time to develop maturity and capacity,” she says.
A large part of developing maturity is to help the company understand the “why” and not just “how.” “Helping the team understand the “why” – our mission – is the biggest challenge. We encourage openness and often hold forums where tough questions are allowed and encouraged. If they understand the ‘why’s, they can make better decisions going forward,” explains Melissa.
“There are two ways a company can build its foundation – one is to be ‘kingdom-minded,’ which adopts a top-down approach and is usually reliant on its key management people to succeed; the second is to be ‘university-minded,’ which is what Tokopedia does. We want the company to be able to run, or even perform much better when all the founders and key management people are no longer there.”
Melissa recognizes that allowing those under you to exceed yourself requires self-confidence and purpose, but she embraces this philosophy wholeheartedly. “My proudest moments are when I get to be witness when my team achieve their best potential and for some, even exceeding my own abilities. A good leader understands that leadership is not about competing with your team, but everything about serving and helping them.”
After all, this too is how parents raise children: to be independent and eventually, to become better versions of themselves.