Milan. The first Indonesian-made electric scooter has become the latest local product to benefit from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's branding power.
The scooter known as Gesits – a contraction of Garansindo Electric Scooter (GES) and Surabaya Institute of Technology (ITS) – dominated national headlines and briefly trended on social media after the president, who was clearly impressed, took it for a spin around the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.
"This is a good product... If this scooter enters production, I will be the first to buy; a hundred of them, seriously," Jokowi said, as quoted in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.
The president has long been known for endorsing local businesses. Several locally made shoe and jacket brands have enjoyed upticks in sales after the popular president donned or praised their products in public.
Presiden @jokowi menjajal motor listrik Gesits di halaman Istana Kepresidenan, Jakarta, Rabu (7/11) pagi.“Tadi saya coba, karena enggak ada suara knalpotnya, enggak ada greng-grengnya. Jadi halus sekali dan ini sangat ramah lingkungan,” kata Presiden @Jokowi pic.twitter.com/kyVYdO6Djh
— Sekretariat Kabinet (@setkabgoid) November 7, 2018
The effect of Jokowi's praise even benefitted state-owned construction company Wijaya Karya (Wika), which saw its share price rise 7 percent on Wednesday to its highest level in more than three weeks. The company, through its subsidiary Wika Industri & Konstruksi, established a joint venture with the scooter manufacturer, Gesits Technologies Indo (GTI), for the construction of a manufacturing plant in Cileungsi, West Java.
GTI, which is a subsidiary of local automotive group Garansindo, now hopes the buzz may translate into sales when it starts marketing the scooters next year.
"I received so many inquiries from prospective dealers on my phone that I had to recharge it by midday," GTI chief executive Harun Sjech said on the sidelines of the International Motorcycle and Accessory Exhibition in Milan, Italy, on Wednesday.
Harun expressed confidence that the company could sell 40,000 scooters, or about 80 percent of the installed manufacturing capacity, next year. It already has 10,000 standing orders from the Bali provincial government, while Telkom Indonesia, the country's largest telecommunications company, has placed an order for 5,000 units.
Wika president director Tumiyana also expressed confidence, saying the company already has plans to double the plant's annual production capacity in stages to 100,000 eventually.
However, this would still be a drop in the ocean compared with annual motorcycle sales of 5.8 million units in Indonesia, but the Indonesian Motorcycle Association (AISI) has set a target of 2.1 million electric bikes by 2025.
Harun said the Gesits scooter was well placed to establish itself as a leader in electric personal transportation in Indonesia and spearhead the market expansion.
"We are grateful for the government and the president's support. We are getting closer to our dream of being Indonesia's own motorcycle brand," Harun said.
Local EcosystemResearch, Technology and Higher Education Minister Mohamad Nasir presented 10 of the scooters to Jokowi on Wednesday, touting it as a product fully developed by Indonesian universities.
"From research and development to distribution, it's all Indonesian... We should be proud. This is proof that Indonesia is capable," Natsir said in a statement.
The Surabaya Institute of Technology began developing the scooter in 2015, in collaboration with the Garansindo Group. The Bandung Institute of Technology and Sebelas Maret University in Solo joined in later.
Several state-owned enterprises have also been involved in the project, including weapons manufacturer Pindad, which supplies the electric motor. State energy company Pertamina supplies the lithium-ion batteries, while it will also roll out a network of recharging and battery swapping stations across the country.
Telkomsel, Indonesia largest mobile operator, has created a smartphone application that can be used to monitor the scooters' battery levels.
GTI's Harun said the company has designed the Gesits scooter to operate in an integrated digital ecosystem. Owners would also be able to use the app to locate their nearest battery recharging or swapping station.
"Battery swapping is an efficient and cheap method to increase the Gesits scooter's effective range, as users would not need to wait to recharge the batteries," Harun said.
The scooter is powered by a 5,000-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which gives it a range of 70 kilometers on a single charge. Its top speed is limited to 80 kilometers per hour due to safety considerations.
GTI said based on current electricity prices, it would only cost Rp 4,350 (30 US cents) to travel 70 kilometers, which is about a third of the cost to travel the same distance with a scooter with a 125 cubic centimeter engine.