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BENJAMIN HANDRAJASA: PUSHING TO THE LIMIT

Benjamin Handrajasa, CEO of Navya Retail Indonesia, will make you move faster than ever.

Benjamin Handradjasa cuts a strong, imposing figure. His presence in a room is impossible to ignore. One look at him tells you that this handsome man is sporty and that he works out. He greets us with firm handshakes upon our arrival at his office on the 32nd floor of the AIA building on Sudirman.

“For me, retail is a mix of art and science,” Handradjasa declares at the outset of our interview. “You need to understand the market, your customers, what they want to see and what they need. And you have to give the products a very nice visual merchandising presentation in the store. So when the customers come in, they love what they see and are ready to buy.”

Born in Bandung, the holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Widyatama University and married with a 4-year-old son, 45-year-old Handradjasa is CEO of Navya Retail Indonesia. His company has made a big impact on the retail scene here in its first year of operations.

“We feel that to succeed in the retail industry today, you need to be fast and dynamic,” he explains. “The market is here and the customers are here. But you need to be fast to beat the competition. We must have the right products and they must be distributed quickly also. That’s why we push ourselves to the limit, to build and open the stores quickly.”

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Since it began operations a year ago, Navya Retail has opened no fewer than 42 stores in Indonesia, and counting. These include an Omega boutique at Mal Kelapa Gading 3 that is the Swiss watch manufacturer’s largest store in the archipelago. Navya Retail’s Rado store in Surabaya, meanwhile, boasts the most comprehensive collection of Rado timepieces in the country.

Navya Retail, which was founded in January 2017, manages 12 international fashion, sports, active lifestyle and luxury watch brands. As well as Omega and Rado, it has Adidas shoes and clothing, Ted Baker British luxury clothing, Dope & Dapper sneaker stores and Vans shoes, clothing and accessories. Handradjasa knows the Adidas brand inside out. He was appointed Chief Financial Officer of Adidas Indonesia in 2008.

He is a big fan of the brand. “Working for Adidas for eight years has spurred me on to explore my passion for sports,” Handradjasa grins. “I love running, going to the gym and playing tennis. I run 5 km every morning and play tennis once a week. And three times a week, I do weightlifting.”

Handradjasa says he has learned a lot about retailing since joining Adidas. “When you work with a big brand like this, you need to work closely with retailers,” he says. “At the beginning, I learned about the brand, its mission and its products. But I also needed to learn about the other side, the retail side.

“Because branding is B2B (business to business), while the retail side is B2C (business to consumer). In retail, we have to know how to deliver the products to the consumers. So retail became my passion as I learned about it over time. I learned to love retail by doing it. Retail is actually is half part of the brand itself. Because, without the retail store, the products cannot be delivered to the customers. So it’s one whole cycle from the brand, to end up with the customers.”

Why did Navya move into the luxury watch business? “Personally, I love watches,” says Handradjasa. “From the commercial point of view, there’s always potential in watches. But only for good brands. So that’s why we decided to learn about timepieces, especially luxury watches.

“Are there risks in doing this? Yes, of course. But all businesses must take risks to grow. As long as we can manage the risks, I think we should go forward. For the time being, we have only two watch brands, Omega and Rado. These are great brands by the Swatch Group, which trusts us to manage and sell their products. It is definitely a learning curve for me, and my team also.

“We chose to open our first Omega store in Mal Kelapa Gading (MKG) because there was no Omega boutique in North Jakarta. We identified MKG as one of the potential malls in the north of the city and we decided to open the store at MKG. It’s Omega’s biggest boutique in Indonesia.”

What kind of marketing strategies is Navya Retail pursuing for its brands? “Well, I always believe in customer experience,” says Handradjasa. “We do a lot of customer engagement. Whenever we open a store, we make sure staff are trained so that they can deliver a good customer experience.

“Of course, we use all of the marketing tools that the principals provide for us. Brands like Adidas, Vans and Ted Baker are very strong in this area. We collaborate with them to create events and other marketing activities. In the end, it should be a 360-degree marketing initiative that covers everything from marketing communications to retail activation in the stores.

“So far, the response has been good. But, I’m sure you’re aware that in Indonesia currently, the general opinion about the retail business is that it’s tough, which is true. Several brands have had to close their stores. Some department stores have closed also. But at the same time, there are also always opportunities. For example, sneaker sales are good and sports products generally are doing really well. So to be successful, we just have to be smart to find where the opportunities are.”

What does Handradjasa think about competition from e-commerce? “I would say that they are additional channels for business,” he replies. “I know that some of my colleagues are a bit afraid and feel threatened by digital channels and online business. They believe that online business will kill our offline business and everything. But I think the key is merchandising. It should be collaborative. Navya is working with e- websites like Lazada and Zalora to market some of our brands and products.

“The online selling shows growth. In fact, e-commerce businesses are asking to buy more from us and I really appreciate their enthusiasm. But my priority is brick and mortar, because I have to make sure that my stores in the malls have enough products for their customers.”

What does Handradjasa think about the future of the retail business? “Customer experience will play an increasingly important role,” he says. “People want to engage with the products and the brands, and have a good experience whenever they go shopping. So the retail business will be offline and online. It should be an integrated and seamless experience for the customers. This is the omnichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience, with offline and online sales supporting each other.”

What are Navya’s plans for the future? “In the near future, the expansion will be more into lifestyle brands, which are more affordable and accessible to customers,” Handradjasa says. “Our sports lines will always be there, because as long as human breathes they will need to do sports. As for luxury brands, there’s always customers for these.

“I want to keep developing and building my team, as well as finding new opportunities to add exciting brands to our portfolio. All in all, I’m hoping Navya will become a retail company that can be a foremost provider of good-quality products and world-class customer service for Indonesian consumers.”