Anton Wirjono, born X generation, but runs a business that is appealing to the Y generations, the Indonesia’s famous Goods Dept. Not just selling products from abroad, Goods Dept also act as a magnet for local designers who need a place to promote their products. Goods Dept curates and decides what is “cool”, and what is “in”. With their shelves constantly packed with unique fashion designs, stationeries, miscellaneous, and the latest headphones, customer browse at their own pleasure while listening to the latest tunes.
With four big store, located in Jakarta’s major malls, Goods Dept claim to have it all, and always one step ahead in deciding Jakarta’s trend.
But what is “cool”, and how do you sell it ? How do you get people to accept your definition of “what is cool” ?
BL: Business Lounge
AW: Anton Wirjono
BL: How do you define “cool” and how does it move ?
AW: Cool is hard to define. It’s kind of like what’s going on right now. What is cool now is probably not cool two months from now. In this digital age, transaction cycles move faster than before. People have more access to information like never before. So anyone here in Jakarta has the same access information with anyone in Europe or States, and this never happened before. Media like video makes you experience things, even if you’re not physically there. What people called trends goes faster than everything.
BL: You’re keeping your eye on trends.
AW: Yeah, I mean this is what we do. We try to be early, we try to do early with the passion that I have to actually introduce new things and new people and new products, new brand and new trends. That’s what I’ve been do with music and that’s what I really interested to see what is new and what is next.
BL: Do you see yourself as a person who define “what is cool” for Jakarta people?
A: I try to help. I try to bring things to the surface you know. It’s easier now than before because of social media and media being faster than anything else. I try nothing, it’s very rewarding and I think it’s the right thing to do.
BL: How do you manage to get the word, “what is cool”, around?
AW: Word of mouth is important thing for me. Nothing is as important as word of mouth to build your brand, because it is more trusted, especially now. People you trust, you know people that influence you, when they said things about someone, some things, some brands. You trusted them more than you just reading or finding out about it. Nothing is the best way actually to discover something than someone introduced it.
BL: So it’s the best way to transmit “cool”? Can I say that?
AW: It’s the best way to say that. We introduce things early (which become “cool” things) so, we are basically targeting people who were looking for things early. That is our core. There were also another group of people, people that actually like new things but are not too comfortable with being first. They want the safety of “already a lot of people liking something” and maybe that’s what our target market. And it has no limit age.
The Future of Coolness
BL: Teenagers and Young Adults of Generation Y, observably the main target of Goods Dept, will grow up, maybe become more like the predecessor generation one day. But are they still going to follow your trend?
AW: That’s a good question. Something that we kind of…struggle with. I mean we just think of Goods Dept as a brand and we also try to grow up with it. I mean we ourselves, also like to grow up with our customers. I mean we want to appeal to broad range of people of age group but like a pretty narrow in terms of their behaviour. So I think that…yes, i think we will grow up even more. I mean the selection of products as you see, would be more mature in a way. But also a lot of products will still be very young in some way, but I think again…even the younger customer will appreciate some of the…more mature designs and products, because of its uniqueness, and what it stands for, and whos making it. You know all of those things. And also, the older would also appreciate the younger things. It has been done with purpose, collaboration you know all the stories behind. I mean the key thing is probably a stories behind a product. See it like this “We are selling you this pop soda is because there is good story behind it.” Like that. It could be cheap, it could be kinda expensive, i could be that is something very new, it could be something very iconic. It could be made in somewhere in the world but very would be made locally but all has a story, all has something interesting behind it.
We start to appeal to people that have suitable characters. We’re offering interesting designs/products, produced by interesting people, and it appeals to people accross different age ranges. And what we try to do is we try to provide to people that have this…characters.
BL: Do you believe “selling stories” is an effective way to promote a product? And if it does, what kind of other product, beside yours, that would benefit as well ?
AW: I think it’s applicable to anything, to any kind of product, any kind of activity.There were stories and reasons behind everything. Whether it’s new, or an old things that we re-do again in a different way. All has its own story and purpose, and it touches the emotions of our customers. I mean this is the thing that we do : curation. you know, curation touched the emotion of people. Our every item was carefully picked, Every item was made by someone we know had a purpose in doing or making it. And, it was later bought by people, that think we (Goods Dept) are connected to it ! There is an emotion in it.
I think, in the future, things will become more critical. Especially retail.
We are also online, but now with more of selected product. Being in this digital age is easy, you can buy anything, anywhere, anytime online. Something like amazon, selling everything you need. I think the business model of old department store, stocking anything they can’t really sell, well…I think it’s dying. You know the department store that are not doing well but you know there are some department store that actually changing the way they sell things and curating what they’re selling, telling stories of the brand itself. That way would be better. I think it’s the way of the future, You have to act as a media, the stores has to act as media, to inform people.
BL: Do you believe the word ‘curated’ like emotional touch like cool will be the future of our generation when new generation come in ?
AW: I think it will. curation creates “coolness”. You know it’s been selected, the product is not like, common. So it creates its own “coolness” and I think “coolness” is gonna be timeless.
BL: “Coolness” is timeless?
AW: People wants emotion and satisfaction they purchase something. That is like connection and emotion. I mean it could be like this : You could be selling an underwear, that everyone of course, need. But it’s not gonna be “the best underwear ever”. But let’s say, that underwear is a collaboration project between a big underwear brand and a cool designer. People would always want interesting things to buy. Even if it’s just…you know.
People who are selling in our store, previously five years ago, there is absolutely no platform like this. It’s hard for them to sell things, back then. But now, they have us. Now they know, there are other people who are doing the same things as them. And now, it’s growing. Social media is helpfull as well. So I think the future is bright. Despite economic currently, creativity and really good creative brand would survive.
The X is Y
BL: You are hailed from the X generation, what makes you also think like the Y generation?
AW: I don’t know…I find that I’m a little bit different, a lot different than people in my age. But I think, is the fact that I enjoy…I’m enjoying new things. I like to keep my mind open. So probably I was like a kid in terms of absorbing. I’m like a sponge. Kids were like that, the younger people are, the easier they absorb new things. And I find that I still enjoy doing that. Every day is still learning process. New things, new discoveries, new information. I think that’s what makes me different, and I think that what keeps me kind on the edge.
BL: Is there anything to do with being educated abroad?
AW: No, because I know a lot of people that are educated also abroad and still kind of always in their safe zone and just doing what they know, and not open to new things. And it takes guts to get out of your comfort zone.
You know, I find there is a lot people like me and they could be younger a lot younger than me. But I also find that there’s a lot of people, older than me, that I found myself looking up to them. And they think the same way as I do. So I think this is the people that, you know…I mean this craziness, this chaos that we enjoyed, we try to solve and make it like a new, make it a new thing, make it something more stable and understandable for a lot of people.
BL : What does it mean to run a business ?
AW: To run a business well, you do have to be passionate, for sure. At least, that’s what we all heard, right? But for me I’m not quick believer on just that. Because when you run a business, you will do things, you will stay up late, you will do everything you can to make sure your business runs well, because you care for it. But at the same time, you have to know the basic of business as many as you can, and not just creativity.
And then sometimes, it’s right sometimes, as an entrepreneur you have to get co-founder and when you get bigger, you can hire the best people you can find, you can hire people smarter than you to do things with you, yes? Because in the end, business is business. Also, you have to know financial in business. And marketing. It become problem for a lot of people when they get bigger.
Because you know, when you first start out it’s like having one ‘warung’ you know and you’re the one cooking, you’re the one promoting with ‘warung’, you’re the one serving to your guest. But when you have two stores, you start to manage someone that can do what you’re doing before and then three stores and then four stores and then after a while you stop being a cook. you know you just kind of managing people.
BL: So the passion is gone or the passion is still there but it’s reduce in some time?
A: I think you have to be aware of what exactly the passion is. I mean for me, with this business, the passion was being able to promote the best things that people produce, to people who would appreciate it.
BL: So, is there anything at all that you want to express to the young entrepreneurs of Indonesia?
A: Yeah I mean that’s probably a lot. Could take a couple hours but probably, but here it is; I think entrepreneurship is important for the economics of this country I think we can create a lot of jobs and opportunity as an impact I think we are solving problem that need to be solved, and I think I mean the other thing too is that a being entrepreneur is… not easy.
I mean it’s all very glamour right now that’s a lot of stores are doing well and other business are doing well…but the reality is a lot of new business actually fail, until you take this route (being an entrepreneur), you had to make sure that everything is in place, and you have a good team, and you think about finding your plan, you think about all that, you think about the market, you think about the potential of what you do.
Because you know, I mean there is a lot of risk but you know if you can do this, well that’s also a lot of reward. And it’s not just a financial reward! Of course, it depends on you if you do things for money or not, there is a lot of reward in terms of impact and differences you can make in your life and people’s life. But for us, I think our purpose is important. It brings a lot of joy to make differences to a lot of people lives. and hopefully, also to the country. But we do have to be careful. we try to learn as much as we can, use every resources you can find. There is a lot of people copy another people right now which is that also way to do things, but I think it’s warning to us also, we have do it our way you know, do something different. Something interesting.
What do we learn ? “Coolness”, as described by Mr Anton Wirjono requires a lot of management knowledge. To stay ahead of your game, you have to appeal to the right people, quote, “people with character”. Learn new things everyday, and be open. Keep your eyes and ears on new things. Adapt. Touch the emotion of your customer.
Related Business Theories : Lovemark Branding (The Five Senses), Customer Demographic, Word of Mouth (WoM), Brand Salience (Awareness), Blue and Red Ocean Theory. And basic Finance.
Michael Judah Sumbayak adalah pengajar di Vibiz LearningCenter (VbLC) untuk entrepreneurship dan branding. Seorang penggemar jas dan kopi hitam. Follow instagram nya di @michaeljudahsumbek