by James Henderson

How Urbanhire is disrupting HR in Indonesia

May 14, 2019
IT LeadershipStartups

Nathan Kamstra, CIO of Urbanhire outlines how one Jakarta-based startup is leveraging technology to redefine recruitment

Nathan Kamstra, CIO of Urbanhire
Credit: Urbanhire

The process of recruiting talent is seldom simple, rarely swift and scarcely stress-free, such is the nature of hiring.

Accepted by many as a long-drawn out affair dictated by manual processes and lethargic systems, the human resources (HR) department is built on the foundations of patience due to the often-frustrating trial-and-error approach.

From positing job advertisements, reviewing applications and selecting the right candidates, to conducting interviews, negotiating packages and finalising agreements, employers face many hurdles along the way.

Step forward Urbanhire, a HR-tech startup in Indonesia, offering an alternative way of acquiring expertise.

“If we look at HR technology as a whole, you can see the impact of just about every technology breakthrough making our industry better,” observed Nathan Kamstra, CIO of Urbanhire.

“From making better hiring decisions to giving us better insight into the health, wealth and well-being of our employees, the future of technology is simply making our lives better and more efficient.”

Speaking to CIO ASEAN from company headquarters in Jakarta, Kamstra said Urbanhire – founded in 2016 – was created to make hiring more efficient through recruiting software designed to connect employers and employees across Asia.

Specifically, the hiring platform allows companies to post jobs across more than 50 portals, including Google, LinkedIn and Line – a freeware app which became Japan’s largest social network in 2013.

Tapping into a pool of more than one million active jobseekers, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) follows a “data-driven hiring strategy”, aligning businesses to a four-step digital strategy of “source, assess, recruit and on-board”.

Three years since launching, key customers include global brands such as AIA, Zurich and The Body Shop, in addition to Indonesian organisations like Danamon, Pertamina and Djarum.

“Indonesia is a fantastic opportunity given where it is at from a growth perspective,” Kamstra added. “As a tech entrepreneur, I love the fact that we can use business models that have been successful in more developed countries without a lot of the baggage that comes with historical tech implementations that are no longer sufficient.

“I love to use the telecom industry as an example. Indonesia was able to go from little infrastructure to a very modern one by not having gone through all the investment steps that countries like the US were forced to do as pioneers.

“Instead, they were able to from level one to four without having to rationalise the infrastructure investment that steps two and three would have required if they had started earlier.”


Before joining the startup as partner and CIO in 2018, Kamstra spent more than 17 years at AON, rising to a global leadership position in his most recent role as senior director of software analytics.

In looking ahead, Kamstra’s priorities are centred around two core technology strategies.

“Firstly, I’m focused on fine-tuning our ecosystem to ensure we can maximise data collection and analysis for our business processes,” Kamstra explained. “I’m choosing the best technology based on its ability to communicate and collaborate ensuring we as a company has the right data at the right time.

“Second, is our external product focus. Many in our industry discuss the use of artificial intelligence [AI] as an enabler. We firmly believe that technology such as AI will change the way we do business; however, that must start with a solid understanding of data needs and predictive analytics.

“Much of this year will be about building the foundations that take us to a level where we can achieve our goals and predict the new trends in business in real-time.”

Kamstra is also keeping pace with supply chain disruption, citing blockchain as having a “significant impact”, from reducing the cost to eliminating inefficiencies.

Yet despite the influx of emerging technologies flooding the HR market, Kamstra acknowledged that measuring success remains a delicate balancing act for CIOs.

“I think that depends on your needs for the technology in the first place,” he said. “One measuring stick isn’t appropriate for all solutions so having a solid understanding of the data you plan to use to measure success is critical before making any technology decision.

“The key is figuring out what data is needed, as well as realistic timelines for measurement.”

For Kamstra, a strong CIO will have a “working knowledge” of all the tools at their command, to help effectively manage new investments with legacy commitments.

“First of all, does the investment push the business further to a clearly stated goal and how?” he asked. “What is the impact of not perusing the investment?

“If your company is no longer relevant compared to your competitors then you have a very compelling argument.”

According to Kamstra, something often overlooked or underestimated is the operational cost.

“Having a clear and detailed roadmap of transition is critical to evaluate the total ongoing charge of any IT investment,” he added. “Having a firm understanding of IT finance is also critical. Knowing what depreciation, capitalisation has on your investment may help smooth out the expense.

“Understanding your cash versus profit and loss options and how that affects the business investment is critical.”


With a wide-ranging technology brief, Kamstra said his primary role as CIO is to make information – i.e. data – available both internally and externally, billed as “critical to the success” of the business.

“Data has never been more accessible and cheap,” he said. “Keeping a constant eye on the new tools available to make your organisation as agile as possible is critical.

“All aspect from marketing to security depends on us making critical decisions proactively. My success or failure is depending on making us a proactive versus. reactive organisation. Within that, choosing the right processes and software is the key.

“CIOs have slowly migrated to being the one keeping the lights into a role that is often in the spotlight. So much of business now relies on technology that it’s no longer about simple cost and risk mitigation.”

Currently, Kamstra is tasked with expanding business capabilities as Urbanhire evolves from a fledging technology start-up into a mainstream provider.

“At heart, we are a technology company, and key to our growth is evaluating partner, build and buy opportunities,” he added. “Also, given our current fundraising efforts, a large part of my time is spent supporting the CEO in securing funds.”

Kamstra added that the core attributes of a successful modern-day CIO in Asia today centre around five core areas; decisive leadership; being financially astute; having the ability to secure the ship; showing curiosity and being driven by customers.

All of this is underpinned by “genuinely caring about the people who support you in your mission”.