Indonesia

Indonesia

Indonesia  1995 – 2004

… I was also due for a long holiday and when my old mate Capt. David Mellor suggested joining him on the training sail ship “STS Leeuwin II” to sail from Jakarta to Dampier, Western Australia (WA); I could not resist..

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…After twenty-one days we arrived in Dampier on the northwest coast of West Australia. Some sad farewells were said in the local pub, some friendly welcomes were witnessed by me when David Mellor was swarmed by two good-looking ladies he had met previously during one of his trips as master of various vessels along the coast...

…Schenker had been operating in Indonesia from the early 70s in various forms but only in liaison with local agents…

… I had to think back to 1968 when I stopped off in Jakarta on my way back from Germany to Sydney. My unofficial assignment was to investigate the need for and possibility of opening a Schenker office in Jakarta…

…I was just about to leave the dealer when I got a phone call from the computer guy in the office. “Sorry Sir, the office is on fire. But don’t worry, I managed to take the two computer servers out without damage.” There was not much use keeping those servers, it would have been better if he had thrown them back into the fire as that would have given us a clean new start with hardware, software and training….

…My GM Sales was Ralf Mueller from Schenker Freiburg. Highly recommended by his regional boss in Stuttgart, Ralf was employed to get our sales up and running. He and his young wife Antje were on their first exciting overseas employment and took to the expat life with ease and enthusiasm…

…we increased all our prices by at least 40 percent to make sure we would not get the job again…

…The final result of the tender was predictable. We lost the contract. The lucky winner had used our old contract word-for-word, figure-by-figure and got selected…

…Indonesia had to get help from the International Monetary Fund in terms of loans under very strict conditions. It was clear that any recovery of the economy would depend on energy and many larger power plants were planned subject to finance and final approval…

…Business in general was in the doldrums, the economy was at rock bottom. I had big hopes that the Paiton project would at least keep us in funds until the crisis eased and other opportunities would be coming up. That was one of the reasons I personally got involved in the fine details of the preparation and the client insisted that a foreign heavy-lift expert would supervise the movement of all the heavy items…

…The situation in Indonesia got even more difficult. The economy was at rock bottom, the exchange rate was out of control, the political situation was somewhat dangerous….

… It became a gamble for us to visit customers or functions in town during the day because we could get caught up in the action….

…Through a friend who had some good connections we got some transceivers which could monitor the police and military chitchat on their radios. The gadget was not much bigger than a credit card. We even got a list of the communication codes used by the forces so we could identify what and whom they were talking about…

… Based on that current information we could plan our movements and avoid those places which could get hot and dangerous. Not exactly a way of running a business but we had no choice if we wanted to keep functioning in a low-key fashion…

… I always had a metal baseball bat next to my bed, one of the first investments I made in Indonesia. Looking at the commotion downstairs I decided not to join in as there were enough people to deal with whatever and after all, that is what we paid them for…

…After subsequent investigation by the client, the police and local experts concluded that the ropes used for tying the barge to the buoy were cleanly cut resulting in the barge drifting onto the rocks. It was called an act of suspected sabotage as previously a number of threats had been made by local villagers in opposition to the huge construction site being built…

…I proclaimed sincerely that I was qualified on all counts and was inducted into the Chaine des Rotisseurs during a formal ceremony performed by Monsieur Baptiste who happened to be the President of the worldwide organisation based in Paris. All in French but the dangerous-looking sword was unmistakably swung onto both my shoulders and I gathered that I was now anointed; no need to get a translation in English…

…By mid-morning I got a phone call from Ralf Mueller saying the whole street was full of hostile demonstrators. I ordered him to come back to the office immediately…

…At noon we could see columns of smoke going up all over the city. We had a good view from our office on the higher floors as around us were mostly low residential buildings. New smoke started to rise closer and closer so we had no choice but to shut the doors for the day…

…The comments and congratulations of the competitors from overseas were heartfelt because we also opened the doors for them to finally get their business on a legal footing. By that I address the fact that most of us were operating in a grey zone having a 50 percent shareholding but only via so called dummy shareholders…

…Networking became almost a full-time but important job for me. Apart from the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the Wine Society and “Happy Hours” I was also a regular participant of the monthly functions conducted by EKONID, the German-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce. Tame but useful! Not so tame were the monthly gatherings of the Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC)….

…A mixed bunch of Australian and Indonesian guests enjoyed the pleasures provided by three sponsors once a month…

…A day after the briefing in HO we arrived in São Paulo. We had been warned about the dangerous situation in this city of 18 million people. Our posh hotel seemed to have been chosen purely because of the close proximity to the office, some five minutes’ walk around the corner. I did that once and was called a reckless idiot for taking the risk….

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…Another little task was added due to the pending change of century. So called “experts” worldwide painted a grim picture of the moment when the clocks would switch from the year 1999 to 2000….

…We now could tell anybody that we were truly an international company in Indonesia, employed people with no regard to their nationality or religion but only for their ability to work within our team to improve profits to the company, and stability and benefits for the staff. Cultural differences had to be considered but during management meetings it was interesting to see how the Indonesians, Kiwi, Swiss/Turk, Russian and German interacted to find solutions on a common problem; it was great…

…Indonesia has been known to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Maybe that is a bit harsh but I have to give the people credit for being the most ingenious individuals when it comes to finding new ways of making some extra money for their own pocket…

…The deadline had arrived; I could not have cut it more finely. Just a few days before my visa would expire I flew into Perth, got my stamp and was back in the country which I considered to be my second home.