Sukyatno Nugroho: Pioneer of Local Franchise in Indonesia

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He would not be Sukyatno Nugroho if he did not create news. This year the owner of Es Teler 77 launched his autobiography, relating the story of his ice beverage that is now 25 years old and about the first franchise business in Indonesia.

What is interesting about the book, titled 18 Jurus Sakti Dewa Mabuk Membangun Bisnis (18 Martial Arts Movements of the Drunken God in Building a Business), is that it is written in the style of a martial arts story. It is claimed that this is the first time this style has been used in writing such a book, and has been recorded as such by the Indonesian Museum of Records.  

During the launch of the book recently at Cilantro, a cafe located in the highest skyscraper in Jakarta, Wisma BNI ’46, Sukyatno was accompanied by Kompas daily boss Jakob Oetama, management expert AB Susanto and former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid.   

“To reach one’s goal one must place great value in hard work and education. Sometimes to achieve one’s goal it takes lots of courage, determination and spontaneity. However, producing results should be done in a correct and ethical way,” said Jakob Oetama.   

Meanwhile, Gus Dur, who has been called the Drunken God in Indonesian politics, commented “Indeed, I have not read the book, but in my opinion, Indonesia needs more people like Sukyatno.”   

Sukyatno’s story is interesting to read, especially for businesspeople. The man, who was born on Aug. 3, 1948 in Pekalongan, was not a bright student. He ranked 40th out of 50 students in his class. However, one has to admire his entrepreneurship. He started his business from the very bottom and initially went bankrupt, but started all over again with his es teler (mixed ice) business that was based on a recipe from his mother-in-law. In 1982, his es teler won high accolades from Gadis magazine and became a champion.   

This family business, which started out as a street stall, developed very much in a “drunken” way. “Well, I was like a drunk person, meaning I had lots of headaches thinking about ways to trick the public order officers, who often drove me and my stall away,” said Sukyatno with a laugh.   

The situation created great challenges for him. “If one stall was driven away, I felt I had to open five more, and if five were torn apart, then 50 more had to be opened,” he said determinedly.   

Eventually the business grew and was no longer small game, because in 1992, Es Teler 77 moved into malls. “I did not want to fight head-to-head with similar street stalls. I believed my business had a different positioning and a different market target,” he staid.   

Due to determination and perseverance and of course with his unique marketing strategy, today Es Teler 77 has more than 200 outlets with some located abroad, for example one in Malaysia, two in Singapore and three in Australia. In the middle of 1997, he started two more food businesses, namely Bakmi Tek-Tek (Tek-Tek Noodles) and Ikan Bakar Pasti Enak (Grilled Fish Sure to be Delicious).   

He was once called an MBA (businessperson who does business in an irregular way) and what Sukyatno does surely is far from regular or usual. He operates quite differently from other businesspeople. He often innovates and makes breakthroughs. His public relations methods are unusual and he designs innovative communications every time he opens a new outlet, for example by launching a strange program and trying to break the highest record in the category.   

Sukyatno creates controversy in everything he does, such as in the unique marketing gimmicks for Es Teler 77. He once held a unique competition called “Painting Competition by the Blind” and many other such competitions.   

Trophies for his competitions usually have outlandish names too, like “First Winner Trophy from Minister A”, “Second Winner Trophy from Minister B” and “Third Winner Trophy from Minister C”. Sometimes, participants of a competition are all named winners like during the gado-gado ulek Betawi (Betawi salad with peanut sauce) competitions for lower segment people in 1985 and 1986. His logic was, “If they open up their own business they deserve to be in first place, all of them, because who would buy food from someone who comes second or third?”   

If marketing expert Prof. Philip Kotler has a marketing strategy called the 4P Marketing Mix (Product, Price, Placing and Promotion), then Sukyatno has 77 tactics in his marketing or 77 Ps with the most important P standing for his Personal Approach, as he once said.

“There are indeed various forms of personal approach, from just saying hello, a hand shake to get to know someone in a more intimate way. We can solve many difficult or impossible problems through the personal approach,” said Sukyatno, who was awarded the Indonesian medal of honor for development and the Best ASEAN Executive Award in 1995.   

But no matter how outlandish or controversial Sukyatno is, his beverage is widely popular in the country. In facing tough competition he often takes steps that are considered odd or that go against the tide.   

Sukyatno’s courage in introducing a local franchise for his business received praise from Hermawan Kartajaya, chief service officer of MarkPlus & Co. “We ought to take our hats off to Sukyatno, who had the boldness to pioneer the franchising of an original Indonesian brand and develop it further in several countries,” he said.   

Sukyatno’s path to success has certainly been inspirational. Not only is he the pioneer of an original Indonesian brand, Es Teler 77, with outlets now in 22 provinces of the country and several foreign countries, he is also the recipient of the Enterprise Award 50 from Andersen Consulting and SWA magazine used him as an example of perseverance and work ethics, saying that it showed that success does not come to anyone without hard work and determination. (Burhan Abe)  

The Jakarta Post, September 05, 2007   

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