Humble fish & chips propel Henky Rusli to success

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“I don’t want to do something that already exists in the market.” This statement distinguishes Henky Rusli, 33, from other young businessmen. Entering the business world was a choice, but becoming a market leader in the food and beverage industry was a decisive move and a necessity.
For seafood lovers, the name Fish & Co. is already well known here. After making a name for itself through its numerous outlets in Singapore, it opened in Jakarta in 2002. When one talks about Fish & Co. in Indonesia one cannot separate the name from Henky Rusli. It is a business that he started from scratch seven years ago as the local franchiser. His business history is similar to that of other young enterprising businesspeople here, who started from almost nothing and with little experience, but with determination gradually climbed the ladder of success.
What makes him unique among other budding entrepreneurs is his fighting spirit and strong desire to become a market leader and not just to follow a current trend. “Until now when anyone wants to eat pizza they remember Pizza Hut, and for chicken the name Kentucky immediately comes to mind. That is why I chose Fish & Co. for seafood in general and fish and chips in particular. By becoming a market leader of a certain product people can easily remember our brand and success will soon be within reach,” explained Henky.
Henky decided on the food and beverage business after he came back from his stay in Singapore and saw an opportunity for such a business here. At the time he was still in the IT business, but was looking for a new opportunity and a new market. “When you seek you will always find the right opportunity,” this was the motto that kept him going and since then he has never looked back.
He certainly had to face challenges and risks in his new venture. Henky, the father of two, realized this from the start as he had to aggressively promote his product, which was quite unknown to the public. Henky acknowledged that introducing his product was the most important mission. He started by educating the market on the benefits of eating fish. “In the early stages in 2002 business developed very slowly, but therein lay the challenge. If we can educate potential customers, then it is more likely that we will be the one they remember. If we can change our weakness into a strength then we can automatically become the market leader,” he said.
During the franchise application there were quite a number of candidates interested in the business. Luckily, besides a solid portfolio, his strong motivation put him on the franchiser’s consideration list. As a newcomer in the food and beverage business he had to learn the hard way. He had to find out for himself from many sources how to run the business here.
Aside from his uncle with whom he shared most of his problems, he had no other mentor. For the first three or four months he read numerous books and spent hours every day browsing the Internet to look for solutions before developing Fish & Co. Feeling that all this was still not enough, Henky also conducted a field study by visiting a number of restaurants that were similar to Fish & Co. Here he observed how the system worked, how to manage a restaurant, its employees as well as the consumer behavior.
Besides the food quality he also noted the service and the ambience. After succeeding in making Fish & Co. a market leader, Henky then launched Cosi three and a half years ago. While Fish & Co.’s market segment is the middle and upper income sector, Cosi is for the middle and lower income groups. “I wanted to create a bridge between the premium upper-class Chinese restaurant and the lower class sidewalk Chinese restaurant. This is where I created casual dining, not fine dining, but still with a distinctive lifestyle,” said Henky.
Cosi, with its fusion concept as he calls it, has developed rapidly as it now already has four branches. Talking about success Henky said:” I will feel really successful when all my employees and staff feel proud of our brands, have a high degree of loyalty and have a sufficient income.”
In his business he has also learned to face failure. He said that it is not something to be afraid of. “In life don’t have regrets. The most important thing is to do your best, it doesn’t matter if you fail. At least you have tried. There is no success if there is no failure. It’s just a part of life,” he said. (Disni Wahyudi)
The Jakarta Post, July 15, 2009
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