Fernando Garcia: Gaining Customers’ Trust

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ONE of the oldest foreign companies in Indonesia is PT Bata Indonesia, which in 1931 was founded as an importer and turned to producing shoes in 1941. Since February 2007, one of the most experienced Bata International leaders, namely Fernando Garcia, has presided over Bata Indonesia.   

Garcia worked for Bata for 26 years, which he started working for in his home country of Colombia as a sales promoter. Since then, Garcia has gained much experience in the shoe industry due to his various postings around the world.

“I loved the shoe business from the beginning when I first started working for Bata Colombia,” said Garcia. Which is why he had no objections when Bata International gave him managerial jobs at Bata offices around the world.   

Before leaving for Indonesia, Garcia was managing director at Bata Kenya, Africa, for more than four years. He had held managerial positions at Bata India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and at the company’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada.   

Garcia admits that Indonesia’s geographical condition caused him some concern when he first arrived. “Because Indonesia has thousands of islands and Bata shops are scattered throughout these islands, I had to think about the logistics of Bata products in order to be more efficient and effective,” he explained.   

So Garcia set a target and implemented a strategy to deal with logistical matters. So far, he said, “All is going well and getting better for Bata Indonesia.”   

Garcia, who was born on Nov. 10, 1954, is very optimistic about the future of Bata Indonesia, given the huge market oppor tunities the country offers. “Bata Indonesia has a bright future,” he said. Moreover, he added, human resources in Indonesia are getting better with the amount of people with bachelor degrees increasing by the year. “These days Bata Indonesia only recruits qualified candidates,” said the father of one.   

Garcia says he does not want to imitate the sales gimmicks of other shoe companies in the country. “We can’t double or triple the price at the beginning just to give a 50 percent discount like other shoe producers. That’s not Bata philosophy!” he stressed.   

Garcia explained that Bata held by the principle of offering the right price. So, he added, Bata Indonesia held sales only twice a year. “With this strategy, consumers know that we don’t cheat them on prices.”   

Bata is a very popular low to mid-level brand. “Now we are using celebrities Luna Maya and Ade Rai to lift up our branding to middle-upper class,” Garcia said, explaining that Bata stores could be found in upscale malls.   

Garcia’s attempt to make Bata Indonesia more efficient extends to Bata factories. “In a few months, Bata Indonesia will merge its factory in Kalibata with its Purwakarta factory,” said Gar cia, who likes to play tennis.   

However, Bata will keep its store in Kalibata because it is popular. The name Kalibata, in fact, was created because the factory of Bata is located near the river (kali) of Ciliwung. One would expect that moving from country to country for Garcia’s career must be hard on his family. “In the beginning, there was protest from my daughter,” Garcia explained, adding that, “She is now a very fast adapting girl. Wherever we move she adjusts very quickly, so I don’t have to worry about her anymore.”   

Garcia finds that he has little to worry about with Jakarta, saying: “Jakarta is very good place for shopping, there are plenty of malls and prices are very competitive. My wife is happy to be here,” he said with a laugh.   

Garcia is also not worried about what lies ahead for him, knowing that he will reach Bata’s managerial retirement age of 60 in seven years, when he plans to return to Colombia and become a part-time lecturer. “I will share my knowledge of management and my long experience in Bata,” he said humbly.   

Garcia first learned about management when he studied industrial psychology at Universidad Cooperativa Manizales, Colombia from 1977 to 1982. He also took managerial courses in various countries he lived in.   

However, his most important schooling came from the wealth of experience he picked up managing Bata branches around the world. That’s priceless! Surely Bata International will not like to see this man, who plays the guitar and keyboard, settle into retire ment so soon. (Arif T. Syam)   

The Jakarta Post, May 21, 2008        

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