Go Big Abroad, or Go Home

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

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Indonesian companies that do manage to penetrate foreign markets not only amp up their businesses but offer something unique that none of their competitors — home and abroad — can provide. I spoke with stars at three rising firms who managed crossover successes, each in their own way.

Max Suriaganda

As the founder of Studio 1212, a multi-faceted creative design enterprise in Indonesia, Max Suriaganda has become one of Indonesia’s most recognized names in the field of branding. He’s also one of its most trusted, as his studio’s client roster attests. Among them: backpack company JanSport, British clothier Lee Cooper, and even global behemoths such as the National Basketball Association and Nike. 

Having earned an associate in applied science degree in fashion design from Parsons in New York, Max today spends part of his non-1212 related time teaching at Pelita Harapan University. 

With the rest of his Studio 1212 team, Max has overseen rebranding campaigns for his clients, an exercise that demands deep attention to detail.

Max says his firm’s ability to secure relationships with big-names boils down to how his Studio 1212’s sense of style and an approach that fits its clients’ goals for their brands.

“They recognize our character and capacity, and it fits their specific character,” Max explained. 

Max says he built these relationships with patience and diligence. Studio 1212’s connection with Nike, for instance, was first established in 2007 when the apparel company began seeking out partners to rebrand itself for the Indonesian market. 

“International companies often want to localize their campaigns, and sometimes want to target a very niche market,” Max explained. So they have grown to really trust us.” 

Perhaps one of Studio 1212’s most popular international projects was #BajakJakarta for Nike, which was a multi-platform campaign that included print, internet and broadcast media. 

In one striking video, Jakartans stuck in endless traffic are seen putting on running shoes and ditching their cars in favor of foot — essentially an indigenous riff on Nike’s 2004 “Enjoy the Weather” campaign. Creative solutions like these demonstrate Max and his firm’s unorthodox ability to adapt to challenges and keep moving ahead. 

Hendy Setiono

Starting with a single cart, one employee and just Rp 4 million ($313) in capital, Hendy Setiono’s Baba Rafi franchise has now grown to include 850 outlets across Indonesia. As the founder of what he bills  as “The World’s Biggest Kebab Chain,” (a claim editors at the Jakarta Globe could not independently verify on behalf of its sister publication, The Peak), Hendy’s story is an inspirational one. 

Since 2012, Baba Rafi has opened in locations in Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka, Brunei and the Philippines. 

According to Hendy, a Baba Rafi franchisee will soon open in the Netherlands, and he plans to enter new, as-yet unnamed Asian markets in the near future, bringing the total number of Baba Rafi franchisees worldwide to about 1,200. Hendy says this growth is more than Hendy had ever imagined for an idea that came to him on a trip to Qatar.

“It’s a playing field on a different level,” explains Hendy. “In expanding our market, Baba Rafi’s strategic promotion” focus is meant to emphasize that “quality is everything.”

Hendy says he applies a quality management system, which includes ensuring high-quality raw ingredients, customer care and team quality control, ensure the best service and production processes.

“The international market offers still-fresh opportunities with an incredibly large scope. I see it as a chance that is still very wide open,” Hendy said. 

“Strong market interest and menu variations that can still be expanded will ease Baba Rafi’s process of thrusting through the international market,” he said, adding that “this will prove that nothing is impossible.”

Ardistia Dwiasri 

Ardistia Dwiasri went about going international in a rather direct way: Instead of starting off locally and then moving operations abroad, Ardistia New York first set up shop on Park Avenue, registering its US trademark in 2006. Having launched her company in the United States first, Ardistia Design Works only entered the Indonesian market in the last few years beginning in 2011. 

After earning bachelor and master of science degrees in manufacturing management from Boston’s Northeastern University, as well as an AAS in fashion design from Parsons, Ardistia developed a strong understanding of not just New York’s fashion scene, but the industrial processes that support it worldwide. 

Today, her company employees people all over the world, mostly on a freelance basis. 

However, it didn’t start off smoothly. Career-making establishments such as New York Fashion Week didn’t take to Ardistia’s first few collections. But persistence paid off. Ardistia herself would call on tastemakers and decision makers to personally ask what they though was lacking in her designs. 

Whatever she did to adapt eventually worked, and her company’s 2007 Winter collection was the first time Ardistia New York took part in NY Fashion Week. That same year, she also was nominated for GenArt’s “Ready to Wear” category in May and later that October won an award sponsored by Biore at the GenArt’s show in Los Angeles.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Ardistia Design Works started focusing on Indonesia, the homeland of the firm’s founder and president.

With the prestige her first accomplishments had brought, the fashion brand was an instant hit in Indonesia and now has outlets in high-end locations such as the Lafayette fashion gallery in Pacific Place, as well as others in Grand Indonesia, Lotte, and Capital.