Vicky Taslim, Director of plastic packaging manufacturer and distributor Panca Budi Idaman, will always remember his father. “My father started the business from nothing. He’s one of those success stories. He started off just buying plastic bags, literally 50 kilograms of bags, putting them on a motorbike and taking them around kilogram by kilogram. He built the company up to where we are today, which is the biggest plastic bag distributor in Indonesia,” he recalls.
After completing a business degree in Australia, Vicky sat down with his father Djonny to determine what role he would play in the thriving family business. “The first discussion we had was whether he would like to keep the business going as a family legacy or sell it off and retire. When he replied that he wanted to keep it in the family, it was a no-brainer for me. I had to be involved. If that is what he wished, then I decided I would like to understand the business.”
Djonny had started the business young and was only 46 when his son graduated and came into the fold. Yet he was happy for Vicky to take responsibility from an early stage. “The agreement I have with my father is that he lets me do my own thing, which is good,” Vicky says. He began focusing on the export market to the US, later including customers across Europe and Africa as well.
Vicky has aspirations to export more to Australia, but notes that his native Indonesia is very different. “Indonesia is still a developing country and we are growing rapidly. So, the management style that I picked up from studying in Australia doesn’t necessarily apply here. You need to adjust yourself a bit and really understand the Indonesian context.”
Judging by the ongoing growth of the company, Vicky has successfully readjusted to the local scene. One technique Panca Budi Idaman used to win a healthy market share was to focus on branding to an extent that had not previously been seen in the sector.
“We were basically the first company in Indonesia to manage the conversion of a commodity product to a consumer product,” Vicky recalls. Plastic bags had previously been a completely homogeneous product sold by the kilogram. The company’s efforts to distinguish its product through branding saw it win a Platinum Award, bestowed on any company that collects five consecutive Best Brand awards in Indonesia. “We are the current leader in branding,” Vicky says. “We have always been the premium option.”
“We were basically the first company in Indonesia to manage to convert a commodity product to a consumer product.”
The company was also an early adopter of television advertising. At the time, it didn’t even realise how far ahead of the curve it was. “A company that is like the Guinness Book of Records for Indonesia came to us and said that we were the first company to put our brand in a television commercial. They said that, based on their research, we were the first.”
In 2017, Vicky moved into the director role and oversaw the company’s initial public offering. He says the company has achieved double-digit annual growth for the past few years and going public will ensure it stays on this growth path, as well as giving it an injection of capital, which could be used to make acquisitions in other industries. It will also increase its capacity, currently exploring sites for a new factory, possibly in Java.
Panca Budi Idaman has expanded its product range to include plastic straws, twine and rope, and is pursuing regional expansion with Malaysia at the top of the list. “We think that might be the easiest path for us,” Vicky reasons. “In terms of both culture and product, Malaysia is very similar to what we are doing at the moment.” Thailand and Vietnam are other markets the company will look at expanding into in the near future.
Use of plastic packaging remains relatively low in Indonesia, particularly compared with other markets in the region such as Singapore and Thailand. Vicky agrees there is scope for domestic growth. “If you have ever visited Indonesian cities like Jakarta or Bali, you don’t see any difference. They are just like any other metropolitan city in the world.
“But there obviously needs to be a lot more development. Coming from a packaging company, I have travelled all around the world, so I noticed Indonesia’s potential to grow at a much faster rate than other countries.”
Maintaining healthy relationships
Any growth will be dependent on the company continuing to maintain healthy relationships with its suppliers. “Supply has always been a problem,” Vicky acknowledges. “This is a product that requires a lot of trust and commitment. But we’re a spirited company with a good reputation.”
In regional Indonesia, business is still often done without any legal agreement being signed. But even when working on handshake deals, Vicky is proud to report that the company has never failed to fulfil a contract. Not even the doldrums of the global financial crisis, when prices slumped by more than 70%, saw it waver.
“Our partners are certain we are not going to cancel a contract, so they have a lot of confidence in us. They really appreciate our commitment.”
“Our partners are certain that we are not going to cancel a contract, so they have a lot of confidence in us.”
As he leads Panca Budi Idaman into a new era as an international presence and a publicly traded concern, Vicky says his staff will always know where they stand with him. “I believe in reward and punishment,” he says. His highly organised approach and personal work ethic remain his strengths as a leader and positive role model. “I try to keep my schedule very tight. People don’t believe this, but if you plan your day well, you can fit seven or eight meetings into a day.”