What is there not to love about Bali? The Indonesian island known for its iconic padi fields, endless beaches and volcanic mountains is mostly on everyone’s list once a holiday rolls around.
An avid traveller to Bali, I noticed a new kind of community growing of late; the digital nomad community. These individuals swapped their swanky city workspaces for a beach front ‘office’, emailing work stuff with surfing boards and therapeutic waves just a couple of metres away and those shoebox apartments in major cities for little villas overlooking miles of green spaces.
Enter the life of the Bali digital nomad, where the jamu shots (Indonesian herbal medicinal drink) are strong and wifi, even stronger. I spoke with the Founders of two Co-Working / Living Spaces in Bali to know more about this growing trend.
Let’s get to know you a little bit.
I’m David Abraham from New York. For years I traveled and worked. I loved the lifestyle. I was writing a book and consulting and for a time, also managing a clean water NGO in Uganda. While I loved exploring new cultures and controlling my schedule, I needed a consistent social environment. So I created it, an internationally-minded community that valued professional growth and connecting with others. And as I loved Indonesia, Bali seemed like the perfect space.
Before heading out almost ten years ago, I worked on international relations and investments at the White House and on Wall Street until my firm collapsed. Before that I taught English in Japan, worked at a regional government in Lithuania and traveled around SE Asia for several months.
Tell us about Outpost Bali, David.
Outpost is a home base for a fast-growing community of global citizens seeking to design life on their own terms in idyllic destinations. From vibrant and comfortable co-living spaces to modern co-working spaces with active communities, each Outpost neighbourhood has been created to help you feel connected and productive from the moment you arrive.
Outpost has three locations in Bali: Ubud, Canggu and Ubud Penestanan, our latest all-in-one location. Our original location is in the quiet Nyuh Kuning neighbourhood in Ubud, a quick stroll to the famous Monkey Forest and about a 5-10 minute ride to the downtown. The work space is a contemporary, light-filled work environment. Our ground floor opens up into a large, air-conditioned focus zone perfect for concentration. Upstairs is a breezy collaboration space and a balcony with stunning ravine views and a pool nearby that members can use.
Outpost Canggu’s co-working space (designed in collaboration with award-winning architect Alexis Dornier) is a bright, modern space with a Balinese, beach-house vibe. It’s only a 5-minute ride to the beach to catch waves or a sunset after a long day of work.
Outpost Ubud Penestanan is both our co-working and co-living all-in-one property. We’re located next to Alchemy, Penestanan’s famous raw/vegan restaurant, walking distance to plenty of other restaurants (both local and western), a 10-minute scooter/taxi to Bali’s picturesque rice fields, swings with breathtaking views, coffee plantations, and just 5-minutes to the heart of Ubud.
I always loved Indonesia, since my first visit years ago. I always came back, even to work with the UN briefly. The warmth of the people, the food, I just love being here. Some places just connect with you. I came to Bali to finish my book in 2013 and knew that other people could live like I do — have a professional lifestyle in a tropical paradise. They just needed a supportive community and infrastructure. And for me, no other country and island compared.
Who are your guests and why are they in Bali renting co-working / living space?
Our Outpost members are location independent entrepreneurs, creatives and internationally-minded people who came here to pursue their passions while nurturing their sense of adventure. They stay for days or months to make the kind of lifelong connections you relish from your university days. Here in Bali they’ll find an active community seeking a tropical, remote lifestyle but are also focused enough on completing their work as they would in a traditional office setting.
Let’s talk about branding / marketing / promoting Outpost Bali.
While the pandemic this year has made everyone rethink and pivot their advertising strategies, we’ve been sharing content and providing tips to those who are shifting to remote work. We’ve launched a series called “Nomad Stories” that shares advice from remote workers all over the world during the pandemic and plans for future travels.
We will continue to provide a community and space for those shifting to ‘work-from-home’ to be able to ‘work-from-anywhere’ in paradise. We find the term remote work, ill-suited for our lifestyle. That connotes that the office is the place where everyone should be. We believe that anywhere workers is a more fitting term. And we want to educate these people on the potential lifestyle benefits to an anywhere career.
How has the pandemic affected you?
In January, we ordered our first box of masks. In February, we rolled out procedures now commonplace to keep staff and community safe. We were ready for something once we saw what was happening in China, but didn’t know what. Four months in, we are hugely impacted by the reduction in travel. We are getting by with limited offerings. We are staying together as a team, and supporting those who don’t have work. The short term is tough. But we have never seen a brighter future. Because the rise of remote working and the anywhere worker happened fifteen years faster than we predicted. Our lifestyle has gone mainstream.
Your lifestyle has gone mainstream indeed; I like that a lot! What can we look forward to once the ban is lifted up?
One heck of a party. Whether that is 3, 6, 18 months or more. Everyone wants to be where they are not, so once they get there, they will be ready to let loose in their own way.
Any upcoming campaigns you want to share with Marketing In Asia readers, David?
We just rolled out a campaign called, “Book Now, Stay Whenever.” We understand that not everyone can travel right now, and we want to make it possible for whenever they are able to. The promo offered a 4-week stay at any of our Bali properties starting at $650/month. The benefit was that anyone who purchased this offer can stay at any point up to a year from now. We wanted to be as flexible as possible for people living in countries that may be on different parts of the curve, and to avoid any hassle with sudden travel restrictions that can impede someone’s plans. More campaigns soon.
Let’s get to know you a little bit.
My name is Jessica. Together with my partner Hansen we founded Biliq in 2018. While originally from Medan, Indonesia, I moved to Kuala Lumpur when I was 18. I also lived and worked in Singapore between 2010 and 2017 before finally taking a leap of faith and moved back to Indonesia, this time to Bali.
Graduated from an art school, I worked as a graphic designer for P&G related projects while in Singapore. Unlike me, Hansen is a finance and tech guy. He is the one who handles all the finances and of course the website of Biliq Bali itself. He worked with a few tech companies including Microsoft and LinkedIn while in Singapore. When it comes to running our business, you can say that I’m the left brain and Hansen is the right brain.
Perfect team you got there, Jess! Tell us about Biliq Bali.
As of writing, we have grown from a humble location in Seminyak to three locations in Bali. We like to consider Biliq Seminyak as our flagship space, owing to the fact that it is our first ever location and the space where we gained prominence. The space is equally split between outdoor and indoor areas. The outdoor area consists of the cafe, a co-working area, as well as a petite pool where you can dip your legs and work at the same time (it has a few floating tables attached to the side of the pool). Our indoor area is where more serious work happens; it consists of a quiet space, a self-service pantry, several private offices, and a meeting room. We also have two skype rooms in our space that are pivotal for taking those Zoom calls.
Seminyak is known as the expat capital of Bali. It is blessed with both nature – beautiful beaches – and urban with close proximity to the airport and the city centre (i.e. Denpasar). The demographics in Seminyak are mostly young families or more matured adults, in contrast with Canggu which has a younger crowd. The matured audience of Seminyak thus reflects the type of entertainment it contains; Seminyak has some of the poshest and most high-end bars, beach clubs and restaurants in Bali. Some people cheekily call it the upscale older brother of Kuta (laugh). Biliq is within 10 minutes drive to all the entertainment districts and beaches in Seminyak.
As for Biliq Sunset, it is located in Sunset Road, one of Bali’s arterial roads that connects the airport to the majority of tourist attractions in Bali. Being situated along an important road is one of the main reasons why this second location attracts more established companies rather than freelancers or digital nomads like in Seminyak. Biliq Sunset is also where our virtual offices thrive; many companies want to have Sunset Road in their name card due to its importance and ease of access.
Personally for us, Bali holds a very special place in our hearts. It’s the place where we got married and it’s the place where many of our family and friends got married. Bali just oozes good vibes for us and whenever we visited Bali before we moved here, we instantly felt at ease and relaxed. It also helps that Balinese people are among the most polite, humble and sincere people we ever met. They are soft spoken and they are pretty exposed to foreign culture which make us feel welcome and not out of place.
Bali is also an island that is tremendously blessed with natural beauty. In Bali, you could surf on the beach, drive to the mountain, visit the waterfalls and camp at the lake – all within one day. The close proximity of natural attractions is truly unique to this island and you could never run out of things to do. Not a nature type? Bali has some of the most luxurious resorts, spas and restaurants in the world.
All those goodness plus the relatively low cost of living make Bali a popular destination for remote workers and digital nomads. Nomadlist – a well known portal for digital nomads – has listed Bali as the number one destination for four years in a row! For that reason, a co-working space in Bali serves as a necessity, instead of a fad.
Who are your guests and why are they in Bali renting co-working / living space?
On the coworking space end, I think Biliq is in a unique position where our members are equally split between locals and foreigners. Most co-working spaces in Bali lean heavily toward one side of the demographic. Locals are mostly startup companies or branch offices from other parts of Indonesia. On the foreigner side, we have welcome members from 54 countries and five continents.
Our co-living space is mostly occupied by foreigners as we package the rooms with our co-working space access which makes it attractive for digital nomads or young families whose parents are working remotely.
Let’s talk about branding / marketing / promoting Biliq Bali.
Biliq Bali is the first co-working space in Bali that charges our guests per minute basis. The reason why we chose to charge by minute traced back during one of our visits to Bali a few years ago; we needed to do a quick work on our laptop for just a couple hours but because the Wifi in our hotel was weak, we went looking for a co-working space. We found out that most (if not all) co-working spaces back then charged the members a minimum of one day. We didn’t want to spend like $20 just to use the internet for one hour. Thus the idea of per-minute co-working space came about. We want our members to have the flexibility to come in, use the space for a while, and leave to enjoy Bali when they are done.
Our rate is Rp500 (or $0.03) per minute, which is super affordable. We also have packages that range from five days to one month depending on your need. All our members get full access to our facilities, such as pantry (comes with free flow coffee, tea and snacks), dipping pool, high speed internet and the opportunity to network with like minded individuals. When we first started, we offered co-working access, meeting rooms and a cafe. Today, our offerings have extended to include private offices, virtual offices and co-living space as well.
With Biliq, our guests know that they get that special touch which has made our brand so loved by our members. We have past members who occasionally write to us telling how they miss working from our space and chit chatting with our hosts (we make it a point for our hosts to know every single member by name). I personally think that’s the advantage of working from a co-working space isn’t it? It’s not merely a place to get work done; it’s also a place where connection happens, inspiration flows and businesses grow. If you get to do all those in the paradise island of Bali, what more can you ask?
How has the pandemic affected you?
The pandemic has come as a surprise to everyone in Bali. It also doesn’t help that 80% of the economy in Bali is reliant on tourism. Needless to say, Bali is suffering a heavier blow compared to anywhere else, economically speaking. It has definitely impacted our bottom line – but what we are more concerned about is the wellbeing of our employees and the people of Bali.
Since the pandemic happened, we made it a point to put the safety of our members and employees first. Secondly, we made sure that this crisis gives as little impact as possible to our employees’ income. We decide that: one, no employee of ours will be out of job because of the pandemic and two, we remain operational so that our employees continue to have an income. This pandemic has truly shown the resilience of the Balinese people and we will continue to do what we can to help with the economy.
What can you look forward to once the ban is lifted up?
Innately, we are very optimistic that the situation will quickly improve once flights have resumed to normal. In its core, virtually nothing has changed in Bali: nature remains intact, people remain humble, culture remains vibrant. Given time, it will quickly return to how it was before the pandemic strikes. At Biliq, although we have less members now than before as many are unable to fly in, we will continue to do what we do best.
Any upcoming campaigns you want to share with Marketing In Asia readers, Jess?
We are currently running a 50% discount for our co-working packages until the situation improves. Our co-living space is also 35% cheaper and there are more discounts available for longer stays. We are closely monitoring the situation and pricing can change in both directions at any point – so do check out our website for the latest offer!