EMPLOYEES are partners, not workers, according to Meswantri, director of PT Solusi Safety Indonesia, at his company. As a businessman, Meswantri says that his employees make a key contribution to his company’s success. On the front line of the battle for market share, employees are at the tip of the spear. They face clients directly and are responsible for ‘taming’ the market.
According to Meswantri, top Indonesian executives often positioned themselves as “big bosses”, hungry for praise and respect. It’s a holdover from Indonesia’s feudal past that leads to disenfranchised and dispirited employees, he says, as only those with a good relationships with the boss get promoted. Meanwhile, high-performing employees who do not flatter the boss do not have such opportunities.
Meswantri said that that was the difference between Indonesian and foreign management styles. Outside Indonesia, employees are evaluated based on their skills and not relationships, creating a professional environment at a company.
He also applies a humanistic style of management, saying that employees need appreciation so that they feel comfortable in their work. “Before running my own company I was an ordinary employee. I felt the pain when the treatment was inhuman. My enthusiasm and spirit for work immediately disappeared, which is very dangerous for the existence of a company,” he said.
Based on his experience, he launched PT Solusi Safety Indonesia, which makes safety shoes under the Penguin brand. Offering high-quality shoes at a low price, Penguin has made a strategic breakthrough by changing the image of safety shoes from something only worn in mining areas to footwear appropriate for malls and offices. “We produce comfortable and trendy safety shoes that can be worn from the work place directly to a wedding party or to meet friends at the café, for example, without having to change.”
Now in its fifth year, Penguin is expanding into Kalimantan, Papua, Sulawesi and parts of Sumatra. Behind Penguin’s success story in the safety-shoe market is Meswantri’s drive to prove that local products are as good as imports. Meswantri’s target for the next five years is to strengthen his brand with an eye to export. He says he wants people to know that superior Indonesian products can compete around the world.
He’s nationalistic about doing business in Indonesia, which he says is a must. Such spirit is needed to create smart entrepreneur who can help the nation – and not just their own companies – to progress. National pride will give entrepreneurs greater ambition, which will lead to the penetration of other markets. “That is how American entrepreneurs have dominated the world market while being proud of everything American, just like the Japanese, whose own products dominate Japan,” he added.
Meswantri said that business was inseparable from the nation’s economy – and if the national economy was dominated by foreign companies, it showed a sign of our economic weakness. “This is the current reality in Indonesia. Industry is mostly dominated by foreign companies because the capability of local entrepreneurs is not as good as their foreign counterparts. As a result they are our ‘kings’ here. For Indonesia to advance it must have thousands of capable entrepreneurs to boost the nation’s economic development,” Meswantri said.
Meswantri, who has experienced ups and downs as a small business owner, said that people should not fear failure when setting up a business. Although born in Jakarta, he spent most of his childhood in Tembaga Pura, Papua. “My father happened to work for Freeport,” he said. “When I finished junior high I got an offer to continue high school in the United States, but because I love Indonesia, I decided to return to Jakarta.”
“The same principle is applicable to my business: pride in being Indonesian and of its products. More importantly, we must increase the number of local entrepreneurs in order to become the ‘masters’ of our own country. As a manufacturer of safety shoes, I have to dominate the domestic market to become the master in my own country rather than letting foreign companies dominate us.” (Satria Rangga Fausta)
The Jakarta Post, April 07, 2012