Global Business Guide Indonesia

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Joint Ventures | Export
Artha Karya Utama (Aku Food) | Mrs Jureke W. Kusuma
Mrs Jureke W. Kusuma

We want to help customers understand what goes into our products and allow them to recognise that we offer sauces of the highest quality

Mrs Jureke W. Kusuma, President Director

Artha Karya Utama specialises in the production of sauces and has expanded rapidly since its establishment in 2005. What can you tell us about your company’s background and its main priorities going forward?

I founded this company upon being approached by several former employees of ABC, Indonesia’s leading manufacturer of condiments such as chilli sauce. Together, we recognised that there was an opportunity to enter this industry by providing high quality sauces and focusing on a niche using fresh chilli. As such, we decided that we would start a new company but would start small. It was our strategy to focus on targeting a selection of large clients and we began working with American fast food chain, KFC. Having formed a successful relationship, we continue to work with KFC franchises in Indonesia and have expanded our portfolio to include several other companies.

We are presently focused on moving into retail in the near future, and recently began working with top agents in major cities around the country. Building off of the success of our B2B operations, our company is now targeting the traditional market. Beyond working with the best distributing agents in Indonesia, our strategy in entering the traditional market is centred on our unique marketing team, comprised of employees with backgrounds in chemistry and lab experience. These individuals understand how to produce our sauces and are thus in the best position to educate consumers. Unlike many other manufacturing companies in the food and beverage industry in Indonesia, we want to help customers understand what goes into our products and allow them to recognise that we offer sauces of the highest quality, manufactured in accordance with the best standards of production.

Indonesia’s Food & Beverage industry is undergoing substantial growth due to rising consumer purchasing power and a growing population. Given this context, what is your outlook for the sector?

It used to be the case that consumers here were primarily interested in local food. Over the last seven or eight years, however, consumer preferences have shifted towards western cuisine, as part of a more general trend towards western lifestyles. Such is the extent of this change that even the small local street food vendors have begun selling food such as KFC style fried chicken, and they come to us for chilli sauce because we have a known reputation for producing sauces that cater to large international restaurant chains.

Do you have any plans for regional expansion?

We are currently focused on the Indonesian market at this time because of its substantial size. Companies from Malaysia and Singapore are generally less successful in tapping into the Indonesian market because their chilli tastes different and are not in keeping with the preferences of local consumers. Because of this, there is a considerable opportunity for companies like ours to meet the huge demand already present in the country.

With that said, we have sold our sauces to exporting companies who then bring our products to countries such as Brunei and Singapore. We are also in discussions with an Australian exporter.

We plan on targeting more of these types of ventures in the future, particularly within the ASEAN region. The emergence of Asian cuisine around the world has led to a greater global appreciation for spicy food. This bodes well for our company, in that we are finding that more and more markets around the world are open to chilli products.

What can you tell us about Artha Karya Utama’s plans to diversify and introduce new products?

We are going to introduce syrups, teas and coffee in 2014. At present, our business is still negotiating with a company in Germany to purchase the machinery needed to produce these new products. We are targeting all market segments and plan to use the Aku Food brand to reach out to the middle and upper class portion of the population. Our second brand, Gayaku, is targeted for the lower segment and is extremely price competitive and created to suit the existing taste preferences of consumers from Indonesia’s small villages.

What are the main challenges currently faced by Artha Karya Utama as it targets continued growth and expansion?

Due to a shortage in the amount of chilli currently being produced in Indonesia, we have had to import the raw material from Taiwan and China. We use between 350 to 400 tonnes of chilli per day, but often find that local suppliers are only able to provide 50 tonnes a day. This shortage has resulted in local chilli becoming much more expensive, and we have thus needed to look for sources elsewhere.

Is your company interested in working with foreign investors looking for a local partner that understands the intricacies of the Indonesian food and beverage sector?

We are interested in cooperating with firms that have good character, as this is the most important criteria to us in determining whether we should partner up. We have received many offers to work with foreign companies, particularly from Holland and the U.S., but want to first meet with their owners and corporate leaders to be able to determine whether they are the type of partner we want to begin a joint venture with. Should we find an appropriate partner, we are most interested in benefitting from new technology with a particular focus on machinery that would allow us to efficiently produce out latest goods such as coffee and tea.

What would you like our readers to remember about Indonesia as a final message?

Companies coming to Indonesia need to be very patient in approaching the market. There is no such thing as instant success here, and you have to be willing to learn the little details of your industry. With that said, the outlook for the country is bright and changes are being made to address weaknesses that have slowed business growth in the past.

Global Business Guide Indonesia - 2014

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