TEXT: Iwan Martinus Putuhena; PHOTOS: Gugun A Suminarto
Running a family business is not as easy as it seems. Certainly, it's nice to inherit a successful business or get an early promotion as one of the directors. Nevertheless, family businesses that make it past the second generation usually don't get there by accident. They get there by being strategic. In fact, maintaining a successful family business require more responsibilities and pressure than establishing a new one. Fortunately for Rian Putra Widya Krisnadi, the third generation of Kawan Lama Group, his passion has always been in business. He recognises that in order to succeed he needs to maintain and create values, as well as understanding the emerging trends.
A family-owned company, Kawan Lama Group, started by Wong Jin in 1955 with modest hardware shop in Glodok. Then in the 1960s to 1980s, the second-generation entrepreneur, Kuncoro Wibowo paved the company into a professional business development period and expansion by opening branch offices and subsidiaries. In 1998, the head office relocated to Kawan Lama Building in Puri Kembangan, West Jakarta, and introduced Krisbow as company house-brand. Under his leadership, Kawan Lama becomes Indonesia’s leading distribution company with the widest range of industrial equipment and machinery.
“His personal story and accomplishments had been nothing short of just detailed execution of any business idea, which I believe is shared by other successful business leaders,” says the 32-year-old Rian as he talks about his uncle and role model, Kuncoro Wibowo. “He has been an influential model in my self-development and always around for me to have a discussion,” he adds.
Now in its third-generation, Kawan Lama Group has embraced change and transformation into the future. The business sector expands to retail, industrial, food and beverage, service, property and e-commerce, carrying brands in its portfolio that reach out to a wider customer, such as Ace Hardware, Informa, Toys Kingdom, Chatime, Living World, Ruparupa and much more. Over half a century, Kawan Lama has continued to grow and develop to accommodate more than 27,000 employees.
According to Rian, environment plays a vital role in his development as a person. The family nurtured him to appreciate the work that they do. “There is this value of integrity whilst keeping our heads down, performing meaningful work, and doing things better for ourselves and others,” he notes.
Rian went to high school at The Scots College, Sydney, Australia and continued his education at Westminster University in London, United Kingdom. In 2011, he returned to Indonesia and started working at Kawan Lama Group as Leasing Staff for Living World Alam Sutera, and then as Deputy General Manager in 2012.
In mid-2012, Rian franchised Bebek Tepi Sawah restaurant from Ubud, Bali, which today operating in six branches across Jakarta with plans to expand next year. “It is a great experience to practice a strong sense of leadership and responsibility. Exposing yourself to pressures and overcoming multiple challenges,” Rian states.
Since early 2017, he spends more time in the head office, and currently holds the position of Sales Manager for Service Industry Division at Kawan Lama. Rian leaped into the family business because he wants to continuously challenged himself to achieve greater exposures and responsibilities.
“I do not wish to be complacent in life. Pushing oneself into new challenging territories and doing the work is necessary to increase learning capability and therefore constantly adapting to such a rapidly changing world,” says Rian passionately. “I wanted to make a bigger difference through my contribution in the family business,” he adds.
The business had always been around Rian since he was young, He grew up with both my parents working long hours in the office. His uncles and aunties are all working in the business. He recalls his earliest memories of childhood revolved around spending time at his dad’s office after school, fiddling with certain products, and chatting with the professionals of whom are still working at the company after 30 years.
Back then, business, as he implied, was simply what adult life is meant to be. Today, Rian explains that business is not just about working hard and making money but about creating values. Rian has a passion and interest that his family business will create values and contribute to the betterment of families, communities, and the country.
“We are constantly pursuing business models that will achieve future sustainably and continuously adding value to our stakeholders,” Rian explains. ”Business is a significant vehicle to channel our passion of creating better lives, creating added value propositions to our customers but equally important as well, for our employees,” he adds
Overcoming challenges in a family business mostly come from a different point of view when addressing a particular issue. According to Rian, it is a common challenge considering each person grew up with a different upbringing, education, and experience. However, the one thing that they could all agree upon is the sets of values that the family embrace. These values are the ones that would unite their differences in the end. With regards to corporate decisions, a decision will stand on an objective driven assessment.
“We are a family business and by being a business, decisions will have to be taken based on certain professional standards,” Rian explains. “We have a lot of ideas and thoughts are running continuously. However each will be discussed and approached with professionalism and good corporate governance mindset,” he adds.
Rian describes that one of the challenges of a family business is that the younger generation would need to collectively pick up the speed and receive much transfer of tacit knowledge from the generation above. The older generation experienced through the good and the bad, thus at Kawan Lama, there are plenty of coaching and mentoring programs conducted on an ongoing basis.
To motivate his sales team, Rian would ask them to search from within to achieve the certain goals they have set for themselves. He encourages his team to have a personal approach and ensures that he is there for them at any time. He would take them out to eat and shares stories and experiences, that way they are able to share with each other more as colleagues rather than mere superior and subordinates.
“I have always believed that the strongest motivation should really come from within oneself. External factors would only last temporarily, as I have experienced myself,” Rian states. “I would allow my team members to make certain work decisions themselves, to create a sense of accountability. Delegating some activities to increase ownership and involvement,” he adds.
In facing the millennial market, Rian understands that smartphone optimisation and the digital world are the growing trends within the millennial market. To seize the opportunity, Kawan Lama has sought to ride the trend through the digital transformation within digital marketing content development in social media, website features updates, and mobile apps launch.
Rian explains that from the product perspective, Kawan Lama’s business units have adjusted the product portfolio to the needs and wants of the millennials trending behaviours. For example, Ace Hardware is currently providing more options for travelling products, hobbies, sporting activities, and automotive. Informa has also responded through providing more varieties to suit the growing trend for commercial and co-working spaces. In addition, Kawan Lama also adapts to the growing trend in popular international food and beverage through brands such as Chatime, Cupbop, and most recently Gindaco, the number one Takoyaki brand from Japan.
In the years ahead, Rian is ready to face the growing trends. He describes that the disruption of e-commerce transformed how products and certain services have been delivered from the purveyors to the end customers. More people will be looking for interactive and experience-based offerings from these brands, and customers are getting smarter by day. The key is how efficiently the company can provide with what they want, and to deliver when needed.
“We can’t ignore the disruption that online had posed to offline. We need to embrace the way people prefer to shop these days. We are moving towards an omnichannel approach,” Rian assures. “We just have to be prepared as it provides us with opportunities instead of threats,” he adds.
Kawan Lama has responded to the shift to online through establishing their own e-commerce platform, ruparupa.com where a customer can buy all KLG products in a single platform. And on the industrial front, they have a similar platform, klikmro.com, where the corporate clients will be able to purchase regular maintenance and repair products more conveniently and transparently.
Currently, Rian is in the sales division where he learns plenty by being on the ground directly with valued clients. He plans to stick around sales, for the time being, knowing how important it is to be closer to the customers. Having said that, he admits that there are many other opportunities from within the group of which he is eager to explore. However, before leaping into another opportunity he wishes to have his mark of significant contribution within the sales division.
“In the next 5 years, I would like to have an exposure in perhaps two key corporate functions within the group. This is in order to provide me with a much better understanding and perspective on decision making for the whole corporate benefit,” Rian notes.
In the past year, Rian admits that he hasn’t spared much time for himself. On weekdays his schedule is full of workloads, while weekends are time for family and close friends.
“We would enjoy meals and a good wine from time to time. Of course, whenever there is a long break, I would travel,” Rian reveals. “If by myself I would go to big cities for inspirations and keeping myself occupied, however with family I prefer to relax in the countryside and enjoy each other’s company,” he adds.
Rian enjoys observing both exotic cars and watches. To him, both possess aesthetics to please the eyes and mechanics to please the logical mind. However, for practical reasons, he is more of a watch guy because it’s closer to him physically and reminds him of the certain philosophies and values. “I collect certain brands and certain models which reminds me of different personal or corporate virtues that they stand for and how they have stood the test of time,” Rian concludes.
“There is this value of integrity whilst keeping our heads down, performing meaningful work, and doing things better for ourselves and others”
“We can’t ignore the disruption that online had posed to offline. We need to embrace the way people prefer to shop these days”