Indra Laban

President Director of PT ICI Paints Indonesia (AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Indonesia)

Our innovation focuses on what is friendly for our consumers, and what it means for the company and environment. It revolves around being sustainable while creating and maximizing value.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Before we begin with the interview, we have two questions related to the Covid-19 pandemic: first question, tackling the Covid-19 pandemic is fundamental in these unprecedented times and collaboration and communication are crucial between local and foreign corporations around the globe, Does your company take social responsibility and if so; could you please elaborate those that you consider more relevant for the benefit of the society since the last five years until to date?

INDRA LABAN: Yes, I consider very important for the company to take social responsibility, and even more during these difficult times. For instance, the collaboration between AkzoNobel and SOS Children’s Villages started in May 2017 with a successful pilot to improve the employability of young people in Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa, and has been extended for another three years. As a member of the global YouthCan! initiative, our partnership now offers painter academies, soft skills programs, mentoring and traineeships across 15 countries, contributing to the UN sustainable development goals.

Globally, almost 3,000 young people have been trained throughout the partnership, with more than 700 AkzoNobel volunteers taking part. An additional 13,000 children and young people have benefited from the company’s donations to local education and renovation programs.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: And what about in Indonesia?

INDRA LABAN: In accordance with World Youth Skills Day 2020, which commemorated annually on July 15th, AkzoNobel Indonesia, with SOS Children’s Villages, prepared youth by conducting mentoring session virtually, with the theme of “Youth Resilience in Dealing with New Normal after Covid-19”. The first session of virtual mentoring program was held in June 2020 and the second session was held earlier in July for youth across SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia. Moreover, cities such as Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Flores, Lembang, Semarang, Bali, Medan, Meulaboh, and Banda Aceh have benefited from this initiative.

We understand that the new normal is a new phase of life that likes it or not will affecting youth generations as well. The most impacted change is in learning and the difficulty of finding employment in the future. As part of our sustainability strategy pillars People.Planet.Paint., AkzoNobel Indonesia and SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia carry out mentoring to empower teenagers to embrace the New Normal phase in the long run.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Can you tell us more about yourself?

INDRA LABAN: Sure. I am currently the president director of PT ICI Paints Indonesia, which is the local joint venture company of AkzoNobel for its Decorative Paints business in Indonesia. I was born in Bandung and grew up in Surabaya and Jakarta. After completing secondary school there, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue my university degree and ended up spending over 10 years living in the Netherlands. During that time, I studied, worked and got my MBA degree. Eventually, I decided to move back to Asia, as I had always believed in the potential of Asia, wanted to contribute here and because I wanted to live closer to my parents as well.

Upon my return, I spent over 6 years in consulting and 11 years in Cerebos Pacific Ltd. I spent quite a number of years advising companies in management consulting, and had taken up a few different roles, such as marketing, planning, and head of business at both the country and regional level. Having worked across Asia Pacific for about 20 years, I joined AkzoNobel in early 2016. The first country that I was responsible for was Malaysia, before coming to Indonesia. In short, my background is in consumer goods, retail, domestic and international products, sales and marketing, and leadership.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: You mentioned that PT ICI Paints Indonesia is a joint venture partner company of AkzoNobel Decorative paints in Indonesia. Can you explain further?

INDRA LABAN: Established in 1971 in Indonesia, it was with ICI Paints before AkzoNobel bought the company. Hence, PT ICI Paints Indonesia is part of the AkzoNobel global family.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What have been some of the major milestones since you joined AkzoNobel in Indonesia?

INDRA LABAN: It has been a very exciting journey coming back to the market I grew up in, which I am culturally close to and quite used to their products. What is interesting is that I’m seeing a nice blend between the global products selling very well in the local market and the larger consumer market, and this shows vast potential for growth.

In general, I see that our company is evolving with the growth opportunities, and we are capitalizing it quite well.

One of the milestones that my team and I have been most proud of is our closer cooperation with the Development Institute and the National Construction Services Development Board or Lembaga Pengembangan Jasa Konstruksi (LPJK) for the certification of painters under the Dulux painter academy. We have formalised this under the Ministry of Public Works and Housing or Kementrian Pekerjaan Umum dan Perumahan Rakyat (PUPR) which is in line with the government’s plan under President Jokowi to focus on human resource development.

Another milestone is the recognition that Dulux has earned in the premium and mass market segments. Our corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs were named one of the best. I believe that these achievements inspired some consumer purchase momentum. Last year, there was a lot of “wait and see” among the consumers due to the change in government, but our company continued to make what we believe is best for the market of Indonesia, and that has created the sales momentum and recognition that I mentioned earlier.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The property sector in Indonesia is undergoing rapid growth, especially during the big celebrations when consumers would use a lot of paint and coating materials. Can you share the current development of your sector in Indonesia and what is your outlook for the business?

INDRA LABAN: I must say that business is looking very good so far. The government plans to focus on infrastructure while fulfilling the people’s needs for housing and schooling. Paint is pretty essential in the construction of infrastructure, as you require paint and coating to protect and strengthen the structure. The president has also announced that many airports will be built, and airports need the right coating and paint for its aesthetics. Besides that, power plants are also being built, and just like every building, its structure requires the support of special coating material or products.

If the government continues to build infrastructures for the people, it can also help trigger growth in sectors like construction and property. Meanwhile, areas like human resources, schooling, affordable housing, and ease of getting credit will also see very exciting prospects. In short, we are poised to see more growth.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: AkzoNobel won an award from the Governor of West Java on sustainability. What are the guiding principles of your sustainable efforts?

INDRA LABAN: To put it simply, we aim to produce and create more value with less resources. As an example. We have a product that helps keep the building cool, so it saves the energy required for air-conditioning in the building.

Most of our products are also water-based, which makes it sustainable and very safe to use. Not only that, our products require less layers of application, which means painters need less labour time and cost to achieve the same colour saturation and innovative features, such as keeping the structure cool while shielding and protecting it.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How do you integrate sustainability and innovation at AkzoNobel?

INDRA LABAN: Our innovation focuses on what is friendly for our consumers, and what it means for the company and environment. It revolves around being sustainable while creating and maximizing value.

Color is very important for us. We have a comprehensive understanding of color, and we know that there are best practices when it comes to color because it influences people. Our team at the global esthetic center in Sassenheim, Netherlands spends a lot of time studying this. For example, when you are at Kulon Progo Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia - you’d see what I mean with our products and special effects paints on its walls.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Can you elaborate more about the Dulux Painter Academy?

INDRA LABAN: Since 2011, Dulux Painters academy has held a variety of courses from basic understanding of paint application all the way to a more skilled level of how to apply on different surfaces and different techniques as well as how Dulux products create a wide range of finishes.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What are your human resource policies as a paint and coating company?

INDRA LABAN: We focus a lot on safety and making sure that all our people know how to properly handle our products. We conduct checks accordingly. As talent development is the key to successfully run a business, we make sure to invest in our people.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Indonesia is such a big country, and distribution is often a challenge. How do you see AkzoNobel growing in the market beyond the cities which are already developed?

INDRA LABAN: Distribution channel is the model we are working with right now. We have a local factory in Cikarang and we supply to retail shops, both large and small-scale organizations all over Indonesia through the distributors.

How to expand further? We will keep doing it through the current business model. The key is to find the right partner to do the distribution on the same platform and also believe in what we are doing, not just signing on because there's money on the table. Also, we are working to enhance service and reach to our consumers and provide support, especially for rural markets. We want to continue educating the shops and consumers about the products. Many consumers, especially those in the 2nd tier cities, are not aware that our products are mainly water-based.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How will the changes coming from the government affect the ease of doing business for new companies entering the market?

INDRA LABAN: Every sector is unique, so the first step that businesses need to do is to really understand the market and the infrastructure around it, including government regulations. This also means understanding the culture of Asia and the competitiveness of Indonesia. In our case, we have to look at factors like color preference of the market, weather, full capacity of operations for Indonesia, and so on. The AkzoNobel formulation is made at global headquarters, but we have a lot of autonomy regarding what our market needs. The global platform must go hand in hand with local knowledge when breaking into a new market. Some sectors are more incentivised than others, and some industries are more strongly regulated compared to others, so these are factors to look into. For multinational corporations, stability is key, and it is good to know about government plans for the different sectors regarding growth prospects and any incentives (such as tax or subsidies). The other part is getting clarity on the expectations from the companies.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Why is Indonesia the ideal place to capitalize on compared with other countries in the region?

INDRA LABAN: I have very high confidence in Indonesia. For me, as a businessman, Indonesia is the market place. We still have a large and growing population at a productive age – in other words, the nation is pretty young. The government is bringing more security over their roofs and salaries are increasing, which means they will spend more while they develop new skills. In this trajectory, the economy should continue to grow.

ASEAN Business Leaders has contacted Mr Oscar Wezenbeek, Regional Managing Director of AkzoNobel Decorative Paints in South East & South Asia to talk about AkzoNobel's strategy in the region.

Q&A for OSCAR WEZENBEEK, Regional Managing Director, AkzoNobel Decorative Paints South East & South Asia.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Are there any new measures that the company has put in place during this pandemic to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus between the employees and customers?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK: During this COVID-19 outbreak, our priority is to keep our employees, their families, and our partners safe and well. We are closely monitoring the pandemic situation and taking all necessary measures. We fully support and follow national and local government requirements. We are also taking all reasonable steps to continue serving our customers and maintain business continuity. We are monitoring and managing the extent and duration of local requirements impacting/related to our physical locations. As the situation continues to evolve, we are constantly adapting our actions.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: AkzoNobel is built on nearly 50 brands, including household names like Dulux, Sikkens, International, Nautical, Interpon and Polyfilla. How do you determine the market position of AkzoNobel and what are the challenges to elicit trust and confidence in the market?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK: In the current economic climate, generating long term sustainable solutions will help improve our business performance and reinforce AkzoNobel’s leadership position in the field of sustainability. The market is highly demanding, and customers want to feel good about what they are buying, so it is no longer enough to simply deliver high-quality products and services at fair and competitive prices. To adapt to this change in customer expectations, we continuously innovate new products and re-engineer old ones. Moreover, the environmentally and socially responsible nature of these green products and services can differentiate companies from their competition and increase customer loyalty. In everything we do, we empower people, reduce our impact on the planet and consistently innovate to bring sustainable paint and coatings solutions to our customers. Sustainable practices and improvements will continue to take precedence in the company’s growth strategy.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What is the importance of adopting sustainability practises and promoting green leadership in AkzoNobel?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK:It is integrated into every part of our business, from our own operations to the products we deliver. Our sustainability agenda incorporates economic, environmental and social aspects across the value chain. We protect the environment and preserve our planet by reducing waste, becoming carbon neutral and transitioning to renewable energy by 2050.

Part of our global sustainability goals is to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. So far, we have reduced our waste by 40% over the past eight years. All these make AkzoNobel a consistent innovator as a paint company that offers to our customers choice and competitive advantage through a wide range of products and services.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What are the main challenges to retain a qualified human capital in AkzoNobel?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK: How we treat our people, our suppliers and inspire and empower the communities around us is very important. We dedicate special attention to our principles and approach to human rights and how we aim to be a more inclusive and diverse AkzoNobel. We also believe that a well-developed and visible corporate sustainability initiatives are extremely appealing criteria for attracting and retaining the best employees. Today’s employees increasingly expect more than just competitive salaries and job security; majority of them prefer a safe workplace and to be part of a company that has a positive impact on the environment and society.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What is the role of research and development in AkzoNobel, and is there an innovation development strategy in place?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK: AkzoNobel spends an average of €250 million a year in R&D, or €1.25 billion in the past five years, employing more than 3,000 scientists and technologists in 130 laboratories worldwide, with a strong emphasis on sustainability. Innovation has long been part of our company’s DNA – now we’re ready to take things to another level. Now we want to step things up and collaborate with forward-thinking partners to turn exciting potential into brilliant reality, such as the Paint the Future start-up challenge. Furthermore, we believe that collaborative innovation allows for faster and better improvements for the company.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What is your message of confidence to foreign companies willing to invest in ASEAN and to choose Indonesia as a country of choice for investment?

OSCAR WEZENBEEK: Southeast Asia has always been fundamental to our global strategic vision and Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world with a young work force and a large and growing domestic market due to the demographic bonus, making Indonesia one of the world’s leading economies. These combined with today’s growth of technology and innovation, we see an abundance of opportunities for Indonesia to flourish. I believe a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship would help propel Indonesia onto the global stage. I would harmonise and harness the various interplays of the country’s people, environment and culture to propel Indonesia through business, tourism and consumerism. Balancing these aspects also takes into account the needs and interests of future generations, thereby ensuring the long-term sustainability of Indonesia.