Just a moment to reflect
We do not have the time to reflect on this memorable moment, but it has already been 5 years since we officially exist. This month 5 years ago, November 2015, the deed at the notary and all permits and registrations were completed. But as every entrepreneur knows, it didn’t start with that. Still, it’s a time to think about it, because the first 5 years of an enterprise is like that of a baby growing up to graduate high school or college. As a company, we are not yet fully mature, but we already have an idea of how that will go. We have very big plans for the next 5 years and more, where we will certainly leave a mark for a longer existence. Even though we are now faced with an unpleasant situation, COVID-19 and an uncertain economic and financial situation worldwide, we are very positive. In the first 5 years we laid a foundation that we can certainly build on.
Author: Y.S. Koen, Klaten October 7, 2020
November 2015 was the official launch date of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama. At the beginning of 2015, Ibu Warni, our C.E.O., and I had made the decision that we wanted to privatize our business activities in Indonesia and officially turn it into a company. We also brought on board Bapak Sardi as President of the Supervisory Board and shareholder. This laid the foundation for P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama as an independently operating entity and was the first step towards a long-lasting future in Indonesia.
The beginning - the birth of an idea to the enterprise
It didn’t start there, as early as late 2010 – early 2011, Ibu Warni and I met for the first time and talked about a future partnership as founders and entrepreneurs of a joint corporation, with the decision already made by then that Ibu Warni would become the Chief Executive Officer, that it would become her company and that my role would be in the background and more as an advisor / mentor to the daily management of the company. At that time, I still had a board position in a foreign company and could therefore not devote 100% of my time to the new company. So, you could say that this month we are celebrating our 5-year company operational activities and our 10-year partnership in early December. Something that I am perhaps even happier with and which has certainly enriched emotional involvement and a complete archive of experience.
Yet this step is not the very beginning either. The first footsteps were laid when I went to Hong Kong on April 28, 2008 for a financing round for a Dutch company. What initially would be a one-month business trip has become a trip that has been going on for over 12 and a half years. When I started on that journey, I could never have imagined how that path would be mapped out that we still walk today. In 2009, I established Golden Intellect Corporation Limited in Hong Kong. This is a consultancy practice for commercial and public entities, specializing in financial services, restructuring and refinancing. Instead of providing financing to the Dutch company, a Hong Kong company, American Capital Investment Limited, took over the Dutch company by effecting a share swap. After the deal I became 17% owner of this Private Equity company. Because of this I had to separate certain activities and for that purpose Golden Intellect Corporation Limited was founded. Why I mention this, because P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama takes its name from this Hong Kong company. The Indonesian company’s name is the Indonesian translation of Golden Intellect Corporation Limited.
However, I do not wish to imply that P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama is part of Golden Intellect Corporation Limited, but they work closely together in the field of business consultancy. I am the founder and initiator of both companies, that is the only unifying factor. They are 2 independently operating companies, but where possible we make use of each other’s network, knowledge and expertise. While Golden Intellect Corporation Limited was created out of the need to separate and house certain activities, P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama arose precisely from the love for entrepreneurship and to create a solid foundation in Indonesia. We are here in Indonesia, we will always be an Indonesian company, our anchors are here in the ground.
Already during my first business trip to Indonesia, June 2008, I was very positively surprised about the possibilities to do “business” in this country. We are talking about a time just 10 years after the fall of the previous regime, so a totally new democracy. My presence in Indonesia at that time was not for my own account, so I had to keep my attention on the assignment, but the first seed was certainly planted. We then went through a turbulent time in Hong Kong as a result of the Banking and Financial crisis that hit the world. As a result, it took until the end of 2010 before I could really return to Indonesia. Several visits followed in a short period of time, weekly I flew back and forth between Indonesia and Hong Kong, where the decision was made in 2012 that I would focus more on Indonesia. My heart was pledged to this land.
What struck me from the start and has always remained that way, it seems that entrepreneurship seeps through the veins of the Indonesians. In every neighborhood you can see several small micro businesses sprouting like mushrooms. It was immediately clear to Ibu Warni and me that we would be establishing the company in the country’s business heart, Jakarta, but that the operational activities would be rolled out mainly in the province. We wanted to build a bridge for local entrepreneurs to do business on a national and global level. Direct access to the market instead of through others and let them reap the benefits immediately. In order to get to know the area well, we have invested on a personal capacity in a chain of mini markets in the region and have started to professionalize them. This started 7.5 years ago, another anniversary to celebrate. For the first time, now as partners, Ibu Warni and I, were in business together. This is the foundation on which P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama is built.
The first 5 years
Since the official foundation of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama, our attention is completely absorbed by this company. We have worked hard with our direct team to make it a healthy company. In which we must balance between growth and “stabilization of the house”. This is sometimes difficult for me, because if it is up to me, we continuously opt for growth. But as I wrote before, this venture is not mine in the sense that I have the final say in the direction we are heading towards and day-to-day policy. It is Ibu Warni’s company and I am at most to her assistant and confidant (counselor, confidant).
In the past 5 years, we have reorganized and restructured several companies on behalf of clients and, where possible, returned them to the clients. Several projects are still underway and the owner in question wishes our involvement for the longer term. P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama has a business interest in 4 operating companies, which we also manage. We also have an active consultancy department that advises and guides entrepreneurs in various facets of entrepreneurship. Most of these assignments are for the shorter term, as soon as the assignments were completed, we said goodbye again. But we also continue to be involved in eight companies for several years now. The frequency of work at these 8 companies differs per moment, but at least weekly up to daily supervision.
The strength of our consultancy practice is that where necessary we can take a business interest in the companies we assist. We do not only provide advice but will also implement it so that we demonstrate that what we propose also works in everyday reality. We don’t like to send very expensive bills to companies that are already facing problems. Because let’s be honest, there are very few entrepreneurs who turn to us for advice and guidance when “business” is going well. It also has advantages for us, because we learn with every assignment, if only that our ideas are tested in the market. Every assignment is a frame of reference for us. If we take a business interest in an operating company, it is the intention that this operating company will operate independently as soon as possible, probably with one of us at the helm.
Once again, the consultancy practice appears to be very crisis-resistant and especially at the beginning of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had so much work that we had to stop taking on new clients. It makes no sense if we accept orders, but that they then disappear in a drawer because we do not have time for execution. We have continued to give advice and still have a weekly consultation hour where entrepreneurs can turn to for advice. We benefit from our consultancy practice, so that we do not need to deploy unnecessary resources for the total operational management that are currently more than badly needed at the operating companies. The most important thing now is that the company remains financially healthy and that we can continue to provide the support that our network counts on. After all, that is the main task of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama, continue to build bridges, make connections and achieve direct access to the market for our internal and external relations.
If we look back over the past 5 years, we will also have to answer the question, has it all been rosy? Unfortunately, the reality is not that. It is not without reasons that many starting entrepreneurs have already quit within the first 5 years. After 10 years, at most a fraction of all good intentions still exists. Therefore, it would not be desirable if we declared that everything went exactly as we expected when we became operational 5 years ago. Important projects that we wanted to realize have been completely stopped. We also had to put on the brakes for other activities because it went too fast. Growth is not always beneficial for a company; you can lose yourself in the job and lose control of the growth of your business.
We have overcome “teething problems”. We have taken on a new project that is only getting bigger and bigger, where the question has been raised more than once internally whether we are still realizing what we have started and whether it is our job to find solutions to these problems. It is an innovation issue, where there is no sight of a bright spot at the end of the tunnel. And then there was the COVID-19 troubles. At the end of last year, we had finally achieved a breakthrough with this innovation project in which there was really something coming to live throughout the company. 2020 should become the year of the great movement, from now on everything would be different. Because where you innovate, sacrifices must certainly be made by everyone. That is understandable for those who are working on it daily, but for others it can have a very inhibiting effect on the growth they themselves envision. But by the end of 2019, we had all heads in the same direction and the entire company, including the operating companies, were ready to take on the innovation step.
We started 2020 in good spirits and with renewed energy, it was buzzing and alive within the company. This year we would finally start to reap the benefits of all the time and energy, as well as the financial injections that we had invested throughout the entire research process. Everyone knew that in 2020 we wouldn’t have a working model, but we could start with the tangible work and we had something to show the outside world. How different was this already in the first quarter? All our plans and good intentions could be locked away again. The first signs that something drastic was happening was not even the pandemic itself, Indonesia was only hit by this COVID-19 virus later than the western world. The shock surfaced to us when clients started stopping orders, refused to pay, or requesting a postponement of payment. As if the perfect storm had set in.
We, I mean the entire team around the daily management of the company, still had to take the decision to throw our company into a “lock-down” as well. It has not even turned out to be a difficult decision for us as a manager. We all agreed that we could not wait until there was even 1 case of Corona contamination at the gate. We don’t want to play with lives, so things were closed. Perhaps drastically, at first, we could count on little understanding from our people, but when they were reassured that we would not fire anyone and that salary payments were guaranteed, understanding followed.
The situation you end up in was one of guesswork. Nobody had any experience of such things. One of my regular interlocutors became my neighbor across the street, who in his youth worked in the Japanese labor camps during the Second World War. He has consciously experienced things that were worse and probably lasted longer than the current pandemic. The second world war followed by the struggle for independence in Indonesia, the very bad economic situation, which arose during the depression of 1929 and lasted until the mid-1950s. On top of that several pandemics, his statement remained: “It is what it is, adopt the situation as it is and you will see possibilities again, you will resist and it will be a fight that you will not win. Everything ends, even this pandemic, we just have to wait”.
Unfortunately, we had to take measures that we would rather not have taken. The whole innovation project came to an abrupt halt, not a dime could go to it. We also worked hard with the team to review all procedures within the company and adjust and improve them where necessary. Once again, we were asked where we want to go with the company in the future. Because that the future will look different from the previous normal, I think we all agree on that. So, we will jump straight to the last chapter of this writing.
The future, where do we want to go?
That’s the great thing of thinking about what has been, then you can also speculate on what the future will bring. If we are going to undertake something new within our company, then we see whether the investment that goes with it can also have a second earnings model, if so, the decision is quickly made to continue the investment. That was previously impossible within certain facets of the company, but these are the parts that were hit hardest in this crisis and for which the entire company had to bleed. Therefore, the team was forced to show more creativity and come up with solutions. Where we used to produce for external clients, we are now also going to market a product line for ourselves that we offer directly to consumers. From producer to consumer within 1 environment. The danger may lie in that external client staying away, but they did not prove themself a good customer when things went wrong in this crisis. We are primarily responsible for our employees and the future of the company, so we will produce on our own account and offer the products directly to the consumer.
In addition, we will be working with renewed energy on the innovation project of the collaborative robot for the clothing production sector. The reader will find out how this is made possible on our website and social media channels. In addition, a second innovation project is being launched. This is a project that has been on the shelf for some time, but due to a lack of time we never started it. After all, you must set priorities and that was not the case for this project, because we will not directly generate any income from it that is important for 1 of our operating companies. Why we are going to develop it now has 2 reasons. First, we see the need for the market to launch a similar product, it is a collaboration platform for solo entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises, where they can offer their services directly to the customer within the platform. If the reader wants to know details about this, this can also be viewed on our website under project 2.
The other reason why we are launching the second project now has to do with the fact that we want to keep software development specialists with us while the crisis lasts. These are expensive workers, the board and management have accepted salary restrictions as long the innovation trajectory of the first project lasts, but these specialists will never accept such a thing. With them on board, we will first develop the platform, after which this project will be made independent and will continue to grow within a separate operating company. We expect to have completed the first project in April 2021, after which the specialists can choose whether they will work on the first or second project.
In addition, marketing will play a bigger role within P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama and for that we are going to set up a media department that will only have internal clients, for us directly and for the operating companies. Possibly to be expanded with assignments for the companies in which we have a financial interest with the consultancy department. The reader will soon start to notice the effects of this as we immediately start producing content for all social media channels. P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama will therefore grow from business management to a creative production house, but with a businesslike undertone. The future of our company will be a lifestyle branding that can be personalized to the specific wishes of the consumer.
We will also continue to innovate, because that has already been shown, innovation is also creativity, once you start on it, new ideas will surface again. But for everything, if it has a revenue model, we can continue with it. We have been fortunate so far to be able to finance all activities from our own resources. This has really proved to be a blessing in these troubled times. In order to catch up now, we are going to ask the public to help us with this, but that will be limited to the minimum necessary, but on the other hand, we also offer the public more than a certain fee. In other words, we are going to issue shares to the public, with a clear vision and plan for the future. More about this can be found on our website under participation.
These have been hectic years, but our entire team is very positive about the future. The coming 5 years will be very special years. The past 5 years were certainly special, in which we learned a lot, as a company but also on a personal level. We are very grateful to everyone who has crossed our path in the past 5 years. Everyone has contributed to make this a special time, our immediate team, all employees, customers and clients, suppliers and service providers, whoever else. It is because of you that these years have become special. We will never forget this, whether it was great moments or sometimes less pleasant experiences, we are grateful for everything that has taken place and helped us further. Thank you for everything you have done and meant for us. Without you all, we wouldn’t be the company we have become for the past 5 years now.
We are now unable to thank everyone personally, hence this writing. We promise to make it up to everyone soon. We will keep everyone informed of new developments; this can also be found in the Blog section of our website. But the phone is patient and we will speak to everyone, when possible our door will open again to everyone. If we can help with something, do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you again to everyone who has crossed our path in any way in the past 5 years, our business is where it is because of you and will always be there for you.
Thank you on behalf of:
Warni – CEO of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama
Y.S. Koen – Entrepreneur in residence and author of this article
And the entire team of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama