President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has promoted Indonesia as a maritime axis, including becoming a global leader in fishery. Muhammad Nadjikh, 54, saw this opportunity many years ago. After graduating from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture in 1984, he worked for various companies, finally winding up at a seafood company in East Java. There, he did everything, from getting a loan from a bank, selling products, and setting up a production facility.
With all the expertise he gained, he launched his own business in 1994 called PT Kelola Mina Laut (KML Food), an integrated seafood company. “I started this company with Rp 15 million of capital from my own pocket and a Rp 100 million loan,” says Nadjikh, chief executive and owner of the privately held KML Food.
Nadjikh early on focused on the international markets. Surprisingly Japan was the first market for KML. “I got an order to ship a container of dried anchovy within the first 1.5 months. It was very challenging at that time,” says Nadjikh. As many know, the Japanese are very strict in terms of quality and hygiene for their food products and Nadjikh had to fulfill plenty of requirements before KML Food could make the delivery.
Luckily, that first step was a great success. The customer was happy and it became a door opener for KML to enter a larger market in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Nadjikh decided to specialize in dried anchovy, which helped KML Food to expand rapidly afterwards, and made KML the biggest supplier of dried anchovy to Japan with 37 anchovy-processing factories spread along the north coast of Java and Madura.
As the market grew bigger, Nadjikh started to diversify. After dried anchovy, in 2001, KML Food established a frozen shrimp processing plant in Gresik. Two years after that, the company started to process crabmeat by founding a canning crabmeat processing plant. The crab from Gresik even became an item on the menu at the White House, home for the U.S. president.
After that, Nadjikh set up a processing plant for frozen fish, cephalopod, surimi, seafood balls, and vegetables. The vegetable business line started in 2014 by acquiring PT Mitratani Dua Tujuh, a frozen vegetable processing plant in Jember. The vegetable business mainly produces edamame and okra with the U.S. and Japan as the major markets.