Djonnie Rahmat: Living the Harley Davidson Lifestyle

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IS there anyone who has never heard of Harley Davidson? Due to its popularity, some people call any big motorcycle a Harley Davidson regardless of its brand. In 2009, the sale of big motorcycles in Indonesia was the highest in Southeast Asia, thanks to the achievement of PT Mabua Harley Davidson, the authorized distributor of Harley Davidson in Indonesia. The man who leads the company is Djonnie Rahmat, who became its president director in 2002.  

Djonnie has traveled a winding road to success in the motorcycle industry. As a matter of fact, Djonnie was a sailor before he embarked on a career on land. “At that time, there was little opportunity [to work] at sea. Finally, I decided to stay on land and work for a consulting company that was related to the shipping industry. We became the arm of an insurance company to conduct investigations. The object remained ships but I was no longer a sailor,” said the Shipping Academy (AIP) graduate.  

Along with some friends, he later cooperated with a British investor to set up a company, Citrabuana (1988), and later Intertek Utama (1993). The companies developed well and Djonnie became president director of both companies. With his experience in the two companies, he had the principles to develop businesses orientated toward consumers and professionalism. He applies the same philosophy with Mabua Harley Davidson.  

“We built Citrabuana with seven people. It’s now been 22 years and we have never suffered losses. It is a consulting company and 99 percent of our clients are foreigners. Our commitment to quality and punctuality is imperative. We have become prominent in the area. Maybe this has much to do with the way I run the businesses that followed,” said Djonnie, who once took a course at the National Defense Institute.  

Harley Davidson motorbikes are originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US, and were nothing new to Djonnie. He had been in love with Harleys ever since he was a kid. He first rode one, which belonged to his parents, when he was in junior high school. Djonnie has been a member of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) since 1998. HOG is a club fully support by the producer.  

The decision to work at Harley Davidson was difficult for Djonnie, especially because at that time he worked at Suara Pembaharuan daily as the general manager but had decided to move to Australia. “[I joined] Harley because Bapak Pram, the director of Mabua Harley Davidson, suddenly died of a heart attack and I was asked to replace him. I still worked at Suara Pembaruan and had not achieved its goal. It is because of this request that I work with Mabua Harley Davidson,” said Djonnie, who, despite his busy schedule, also serves as the chairman of the AIP alumni association and an executive of the Indonesian Karate-Do Federation.   

When Djonnie took over the leadership of Mabua in 2002, its condition was not encouraging. Mabua had only one outlet, on Jl. Fatmawati, South Jakarta, and was Rp 16 billion in debt. But Djonnie considered it a challenge and found it hard to turn down the position.  

When he met the principle for the first time in America in 2003, the first thing he was asked concerned the debt. “When will you pay the debt?” he recalled being asked. But he translated this as a challenge that was put in his action plan.  

Upon his return from the US, he developed a strategy to address all the problems and made internal and external changes. He organized a workshop for all of the employees and motivated them to make changes. Outside the company, he tried to change the negative image of Harley Davidson riders, who were considered wild and reckless. He also believed it was necessary to change the image about its exclusivity.  

“People have one of two sentiments toward Harley: like or dislike. There is no in between. Men must see Harley that way. They hate it or they want it. Many wanted it but did not know how they could own one. They may have wanted one and had the money to buy one, but they did not know where to go. And why did people hate Harleys? This needed to be dealt with,” he said.  

With his media experience, Djonnie made journalists his partners. “Here, the media played a role. I held many events. Positive events, such as annual media gatherings. We had fun and gave our partners in the media the opportunity to ride a Harley so they could personally experience the bikes,” said the father of two.  

The negative image gradually faded due to cooperation among Harley Davidson bikers all over Indonesia who continue to build a positive public image by taking part in social activities held by the government and the private sector, and being visible in tourist destinations. An example of this is the participation of Harley Davidson bikers in the Red and White Parade in August 2009 in Bali.  

Djonnie’s efforts to change the negative view of Harley bikers continued. The efforts including developing relations with the police because in the past the police were reluctant to stop a Harley biker and issue a ticket. “Such a view was disturbing. I went and built a relationship with them,” he said.  

Harley Davidson bikers are a unique community. Communicating with them requires tact. The majority of the bikers are successful people and it is necessary to use a certain approach with them. Acknowledging this, Djonnie said one should avoid using a negative or commanding tone with them. “Therefore, we should use positive and persuasive words,” he said.   

Riding a Harley Davidson is no longer a hobby but a lifestyle. Mabua Harley Davidson has eight outlets and a target to sell 400 motorcycles this year. What obstacles does Djonnie expect to face in 2010?   

“In 2003, I asked people to come out of their slumber. Now the problem is a positive problem in that we want to develop further and faster. Now we have the money and the market is there, but we lack the human resources. We have to contain ourselves and adjust to our capacity so that everything will work well. In April, we had an annual management training program to train and drill our staff,” he said.  

The kind of people that Djonnie needs for his team are young people who are easily satisfied and want instant success, which means he is looking for young creative people. “I really admire people with high creativity because people like that will develop faster,” he explained. (Tedy Matondang)  

The Jakarta Post, May 05, 2010

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