By Michal Sontodinomo
The Czech Republic has a long and good relationship with Indonesia. Former Czechoslovakia was among the first countries to support the newly established Republic of Indonesia. This year, both countries celebrate 70 years of mutual diplomatic relations. My father came with many other Indonesian students to Czechoslovakia in the 1960s within the study program. That time Czech technology helped to build the Indonesian industry. Czechoslovakia built cement factory Semen Tanasa in 1958, later we helped to build factories for tires, sugar canes and supplied all kinds of machinery to Indonesia. I recently visited state-owned company BARATA and found an old SKODA lathe machine delivered in the early '70s. The device was still working!
The Czech Republic is a traditional manufacturer of world-class military equipment, locomotives and train-sets or medical equipment, surveillance systems for airports, and equipment for power plants. The Indonesian army is equipped with rocket launchers and ammunition from Excalibur Army.
Indonesia is also attracting Czech investors, mostly to develop hotel resorts and the tourism sector in Bali. However, the biggest Czech investment is the recent engagement of Home Credit, a global provider of consumer loans based on the latest financial technologies that employ more than 12 000 local people.
There is still big room for improvement for mutual cooperation in the energy sector, especially in renewables. I would like to bring recent examples of the successful attitude of Czech companies in the Indonesian market. Companies must show long-term commitment and patience like ENERGO-PRO Group, which owns and operates 36 hydropower plants in several countries. The company wants to invest in Indonesia and to build a hydropower plant. It has been two years since the start of the process of submitting the feasibility project of the new hydropower plant. It was challenging to keep up without a clear official time-line. But the company has been following the advice from experienced local officials "be very patient, do not give up, and stay committed and flexible." ENERGO-PRO continues with its submitted own project and keeps looking for a good HPP project to acquire and build a new hydropower plant in Indonesia. Recently, it seems that more HPP developers are interested in finding investment from ENERGO-PRO.
Another example is ComAp, a manufacturer of control systems for power generation, and engine control. Their system controls and monitors all diesel generators in the Plaza Indonesia mall, ensuring that in case of main electricity failure, there will be no power interruption. ComAp has been able to understand local business and cultural differences. There is an old Indonesian saying "Tidak kenal, tidak suka" which could be translated "If I don't know you, I don't like you." How can you know a person via email or during trade fair? A relationship is created gradually by many personal meetings. Jiri Hruska, Business Development Manager of ComAp, remarks, "In Indonesia with so many ethnics you need to invest in learning about your partners who can be from Java island, from Sumatra or North Sulawesi. Each region can require a different attitude for a successful business."
According to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Indonesia is glad that there are no major issues between our two countries, and the only thing that we have to do in the future is to strengthen the economic cooperation between our two countries. Bearing in mind successful and long-lasting economic relations, the business interactions between the two countries have a huge potential.
Michal Sontodinomo is the Director of Czech Trade Promotion Agency (CzechTrade), Jakarta. CzechTrade is a government agency based at Embassy of the Czech Republic in Jakarta