If you have ever been to Indonesia you would realized that it a country that capture the spirit of entrepreneurship substantially. You will see many people involve in businesses from the petty traders to IT geeks.
I was at Padang a number of times where I saw “mobile” cigarette seller, rent-an umbrella (while raining you will see a lot of them) and street performers. A few times I was at Bandung to see fruit sellers (selling durian by the big basket and very cheap), songket traders and IT geeks.
During one of my visits I was introduced to this person where I have some work to work on with him and the friendship lasted until today. Having done my own business but I wasn’t successful, thus I am always eager to meet someone who has made it to the top. His name is Agus Widodo. I call him Pak Agus.
As soon as my project ended in Indonesia we maintain good relationship and exchange ideas. Pak Agus runs his own enterprise called REFANES other than being an IT Project Manager. I was very impressed with his enterprise because it is very successful and classic. After some time I thought it would be good if I can share his experience and some stories about his business, perhaps some other people might get inspired or perhaps expand their own business.
I did an email interview. I sent him a set of questionnaires and he has to answer at least 5 questions but he did 7! J The main reason I did this interview is because Pak Agus business is a good example of small medium enterprises (SME) that is thriving. Besides, it also an exemplary model of how seemingly traditional and mundane business can grow exponentially and profitably by leveraging on modern technology.
The interview below has been edited for pleasant reading experience and context.
Q1: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your business?
My business is in creative industry and my company is called REFANES. Our main product is innovative and creative Muslim fashion clothing especially for kids. We have been in business for about 4 years. Our main market is Indonesia and we are currently exporting regionally and other parts of the world such as Middle East through our agent distributors.
I am handling the management of the company and my wife is focusing in product design and communication to our customers. This is relatively a family business but we are expanding rapidly. Our karyawan (workers and artists) and distributors are mainly Indonesian. But we are open for foreign distributors if the model is right.
Q2. What are the products that you carry?
Our main products and very popular currently are the following:
a) clothes and tudung (or jilbab) for kids and teenager
c) any bags with same character with the clothes
Q3. Who are your market segments? Local and International?
Our main market is Indonesia (local). It is close to 250 million population strong and majority is Muslim. If we can cover the whole Indonesia it would be good enough for us. On top of that, we also have exported to other countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, US (California) and Saudi Arabia.
Basically, wherever there is Muslim population we would like to be there. You probably should take a look at our designs and you would be surprised how creative, innovative and modern Muslim world now, without compromising the faith. I am glad to be in this business.
Q4. How much is your business turnover/sales per year?
Our current turnover is around $ 500, 000-$700, 000. We are still growing and we are working hard to fulfill the market demand. I think the potential upside is still very huge. We hope to expand and add up more karyawan to meet those needs.
Q5. How do you see the prospect of your business with the current economic condition?
While the economy seems bleak, we are confident the business thrives. In today’s economy especially while it is interlinked, there are parts of the world that is not affected such as Middle East and parts for Asia like Malaysia.
Our strategy is to maintain our creativity and innovativeness because that is our main differentiation factor. Customers buy on differentiation regardless of price and economic state. They may not buy now but we need to create presence so when they recover they will buy from us.
Q6. What are your key success factors?
Our key success factors are our ability to constantly coming up with new creative ideas and new design in sustainable manner. In this aspect, I think my wife and her team has done a great job. It is not easy to get someone dedicated and consistently producing good stuffs.
On the other hand, we also keep improving our internal manufacturing process. We keep investing on new machines so we can hire new karyawan (workers and artists). Our production is still manual whereby we use the foot pedal sewing machines. Yes, the production is limited by that method but we maintain the high quality of our product. We created numerous jobs at the same time and still profitable.
Q7. What media channel do you use to engage your customers?
Just like any other business, we are involved in trade shows, magazine and social events. We are social products, so we need to be where the society is. Our distributors also our walking advertisers, with their good service they attract more customers. With our high quality clothing, we attract more agents and distributors. It works both ways.
We’ve been on blog for quite some time. And recently we jumped in to social media such as Facebook. In Indonesia there are close to 25 millions users on this and we are tapping into it. With social media we are able to post videos on our events and fashion shows for children. They love it. We gathered a lot of Fans/Friends of our products. We also have a website that has online catalogue. We also communicate with the distributors and agents online where ordering can me made from our website. Lately invested in SMS as another engagement model.
We believe in communication and that’s why we invest in all these channels. We want to maintain good rapport with all our stakeholders so we can grow together profitably.
Thanks Pak Agus! See you at Bandung soon! 🙂
If you have other entrepreneurs from small medium enterprises that is suitable for this type of interview, please email to [email protected]