Iriawan Ibarat: Innovation is the key

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MODEST in appearance and diplomatic in speech is how one would describe Iriawan Ibarat. He is the president director of PT Goodyear Indonesia Tbk, a well-known tire manufacturing company. He is Goodyear’s youngest managing director worldwide.
Iriawan Ibarat, who is better known as Alex, says his successful career has been made possible through hard work and consistency. Alex started working in 1994 at Imitation Singapore Pte Ltd as accountant and financial analyst. Four years later he moved to Kodak Singapore Pte Ltd as finance and business process manager. For years he worked abroad, including in Myanmar and Vietnam, until 2003 when he returned to Indonesia after receiving an offer from a head hunter.
In Indonesia, he worked for various companies and held strategic positions. The types of companies were wide ranging, from insurance to pharmaceutical. He joined Goodyear Indonesia in 2006 as chief financial officer. Within two years, Alex, who has Master’s degrees from the US, Australia and Singapore, was promoted to the top position of president director of Goodyear Indonesia.
From all the positions he has held throughout his career, Alex has found that a tire manufacturing company is the most difficult to manage because the competition is tough as prices of raw materials often fluctuate according to price trends across the world. How, then, does Goodyear survive in the competitive market here?
All tire manufacturers here are major players, so it is a big-scale industry reaching trillions of rupiah. It would be difficult to scale down because the fixed costs and other components already cost a lot. “So, innovation is the main key and has an important role in winning over customers,” said Alex. 
Alex said that Goodyear is ranked No. 2 in Indonesia. “We don’t claim to be the market leader, but we are the market challenger,” he said, adding that Goodyear guarantees the quality and innovation of its products as Goodyear is an international tire manufacturer with huge investment in innovation via its research and development department. “We do not regard tires as part of a vehicle, but as a safety guarantee for the user. So we never compromise on quality, while the price depends on a consumer’s choice,” Alex explained.
Innovation is the key word for Goodyear at any challenging time. Since the establishment of Goodyear Research in 1943, many innovations have been created in the form of thousands of patents and rights. Various discoveries by Goodyear scientists and technicians in the fields of rubber and polymer have proved useful not only for the tire and automotive industries, but also for the human heart and artificial joints, glue, children’s playgrounds and food packaging.
Alex said that Goodyear has given birth to a number of innovations to differentiate it from other companies and enable it to compete. One example is Goodyear DuraPlus that has Tredlife Technology, which makes tires durable for a long time, that is, 100,000 km.
There is also Goodyear Assurance that has ArmorGrip Technology, which maximizes safety due to the unique design, “Waffle Blade”, giving a superior grip on dry as well as wet or slippery roads. There is also Goodyear Wrangler AT/SA, which has Silent Armor Technology that consists of two high tension steel belts and a layer made from Kevlar as well as special Durawall rubber on the side walls for rugged rim protection.
Year in and year out, Goodyear has always innovated and recorded important achievements in innovation. In 2005, Goodyear launched RunOnFlat, the first tire that can run at a speed of 80 km per hour with a puncture. In 2007, Goodyear introduced Eagle F1 Assymetric in Germany. Then in 2008, Goodyear succeeded in making an airless tire that was made entirely from metal for NASA’s Mars Rover. Last year, Goodyear Indonesia recorded the production of 50 million tires since 1987. 
For Alex, the first step in any new career or company is to learn the character of the company’s business and then improvement measures can be devised. He said one had to have passion to improve a company’s business. “Give the best from the beginning, set a long-term target from the start, set yourself apart from the others and work hard. All these elements will eventually be fruitful for one’s career,” explained Alex. 
Alex admits that he never dreamed of being appointed president director of a major company like Goodyear. “I only followed the flow of always doing and giving my best,” he said. When he was appointed in August 2008, he was faced with huge challenges as the world was experiencing a financial crisis. So he had to introduce a number of preventive measures and apply various strategies to face the economic storm.
“My main duty at that time was to prevent the good from becoming bad and the bad becoming worse because of the crisis! But I regarded the challenge as an opportunity, because one can learn a lot from hard times. If we can survive during difficult times it is easier to survive in the future,” Alex said.
The year 2008 was the most difficult and challenging time for the entire tire industry, including Goodyear. The Goodyear 2008 report mentioned that the global financial crisis caused a drop in the demand for tires in September 2008. Decreasing commodity prices also created less demand for tires.
Notwithstanding the fluctuating price of oil, increases in raw material prices, a reduction in exports and a slow domestic market, Goodyear was still able to close 2008 with a solid EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization).
Goodyear established a presence in Indonesia in 1935. As a representative of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, PT Goodyear Indonesia Tbk is headquartered on a 172,000-square-meter plot of land in Bogor, West Java. Goodyear Indonesia, the first tire manufacturer in Indonesia, is known for its consistency in producing various types of high quality tires. (Iwan Suci Jatmiko)
The Jakarta Post, March 10, 2010