Fahira Idris: From Garage Hobby to Successful Entrepreneur

 IF it were not for the Internet and various social media Barack Obama would probably not have become the US President and he may not have even gained a nomination for the Democrat Party. One of the reasons, this “Menteng boy” is now in the highest political office in the US at a relatively young age is because he made good use of various social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, hi5 and so on during his election campaign in 2008.

Such an achievement inspired business woman Fahira Idris. This entrepreneur who has a parcel business was even selected as “The World’s Most Inspiring Tweeter” in August 2010.

Fahira, who had 8,780 followers at the time of selection and now almost 27,000 and has posted 28,448 messages, was selected out of 16 nominees from the United States, the UK, India, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Based in a poll called The Most Inspiring Tweeter, Fahira, 43, was duly selected as The Most Inspiring Tweeter for other users because her tweets gave them lots of inspiration. “I always make time to tweet because I find it as an effective communications media for speaking out about peace,” said Fahira, who after having succeeded in having a dialog with Islamic hardliners, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) is now pursuing her personal dream to form the Movement for a Peace Loving Community (Gerakan Masyarakat Cinta Damai — GEMA Damai).

The organization set up by Fahira now already has more than 8,000 members nationwide. What is its objective? “I intend to create a peaceful Indonesia, but I don’t want to position myself as a heroine that settles conflicts. That is not my part. Every time there is a conflict we always try to find ways to help for example by donating blood,” said Fahira.

That is the other side of Fahira – some people call it corporate social responsibility — who is a self-made business woman.  Although she is the daughter of Fahmi Idris, who himself is a successful businessman and the former minister of industry, she is against taking advantage of her father’s name and she never even requests or thinks about asking for special facilities or privileges.

Fahira Idris started her parcel business in 1988 at the age of 20, along with 11 university friends from the School of Economics of the University of Indonesia.

The company, previously called Bella Parcel, was then renamed Nabila Parcel as Fahira was the sole owner. The parcel and flower delivery business grew rapidly not only in Jakarta but it also spread its wings to many other provinces.  As sales figures went up Fahira’s name turned into a quality guarantee for the parcels and flowers sold and delivered by Nabila Parcel Flowers International Ltd.

Ira, as she is often called by those close to her, started her business from a garage in Kalibata area, on Jl. Haji Samali, South Jakarta. The name of the company in those days was Nabila Parcel and Florist. She did not expect that her business would inspire many neighbors to set up a copycat business. “For me they were not competitors, in fact I was proud that I could inspire them and move the local people’s economy,” said Fahira, who is currently chairwoman of the Indonesian Association of Parcel Companies.

Indeed there is competition in every business but in her opinion competition is healthy as each company strives to be the best both in its products and services. Nabila’s customers are wide ranging just like its various products and prices from low cost and middle to the most expensive ones. Nabila’s regular customers are corporate. “The plus point of my company is its 24 hour delivery service. In the early days I used to receive the orders by telephone,” she recalled.

To deepen her business knowledge Ira went to study further in the United States. Her business after being successful here in the domestic market spread its wings to the export market.

“My clients have been sending flowers to the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, China and India. I also collaborate with the FTD (Flower Trans Delivery) network with headquarters in the United States,” she explained.

When she opened her business in 1995 Nabila was practically the only florist in the country with a 24 hour international delivery service.

“There are some clients who make specific requests such as a delivery at exactly 12 midnight for the recipient’s birthday,” said Ira who is now head of the Minangkabau Young Merchants’ Association for entrepreneurs who are native to the West Sumatra province of Minangkabau.

Ups and downs are a normal part of business and Ira has often experienced such periods. A government regulation in 2004 prohibiting government officials from receiving parcels had a negative impact at the time.

Not only Nabila but all parcel and florist companies were affected as they had already completed production and each company experienced hundreds of millions in losses as sales dropped by 40 percent, she recalled.

Fortunately, the regulation was recently revoked although the parcels sent to officials have to be adjusted in accordance with the more lenient rules.

“It is normal to be hit by a storm in any business, but we should be able to find solutions so that the wheels of business keep turning and turn out to be the best in the end,” said Ira.

Fahira not long ago turned to new business activities, as the parcel and flower business is going well. “I along with a few friends am now a supplier of industrial diesel fuel in Indonesia. The fuel comes from a company in Singapore,” she said.

As the fuel business is no longer monopolized by Pertamina, Fahira thought of doing this business which has a lot of potential. “However it is extremely competitive because a difference of one cent is a lot and no one will buy our product,” added Ira who also loves shooting.

In addition to her parcel and flower business which is growing rapidly Fahira is on the management board of the Shooting and Hunting Club of Indonesia (Perbakin). Fahira has also established the Aries Shooting Club, which now has over 1,800 members.

She is also busy in her position as chairwoman of the Minangese Young Merchants (Saudagar Muda Minang), an association with members from West Sumatra with offices in many provinces nationwide. The association motivates the young people from Minangkabau to be entrepreneurs.

“Now we have more than 5,500 members spread not only in Indonesia but also abroad,” said Ira. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, April 30, 2011

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