Flour Power
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Renjani Puspo Sari Read : 1858 Date : Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 05:06:54

    Roy Rubianto for Forbes Indonesia

    Desideria “Desi” Utomo took over her family’s flour business, PT Kobe Boga Utama, by accident. Her parents passed away while she was halfway through her studies at Melbourne University. To help her family, she decided to take two years leave and join her brother, Dipa Agung Utomo, then 17 years old, to run their parents’ company, which operates under the name Kobe Flour. Both Desi and Dipa were appointed at a very young age. “I had no idea about running a company when my parents passed away. My brother and I were still too young. It’s not even the career I planned. I wanted to be a lawyer or an activist. However, our employees wanted the company to keep running, and that’s what convinced us to support and develop this business. And now I can happily say that it works well,” says Desi, now 36.

    Under Desi and Dipas’ management, Kobe now has a leading 30% of Indonesia’s market share for seasoning flour, used to cover items such as fried chicken in a crispy and tasty coating. Despite its Japanese-sounding name, the Kobe brand is actually an abbreviation of kata orang banyak enak, which means “people say it’s delicious” in Indonesian. Kobe now produces more than 12,000 tonnes of flour a year. Moreover, Kobe has also branched out into various kinds of flours, noodles, shrimp paste, chili sauce, shredded chili, drinks and desserts. Its shredded chili, Bon Cabe, is the only product of its type on the market, and is also exported together with Kobe Flour’s products.

    “Actually we didn’t intend to export. People took our products abroad and sold them in Asian groceries. When I was in Cape Town, I even found it. In countries where many Indonesians live, such as the Netherlands, almost every Asian grocery has our products, thanks to the Indonesia Diaspora,” Desi says.

    Kobe is a pioneer of seasoning flour. Before, most households would make their own flour for coating food before deep-frying it. Kobe pioneered the idea of selling pre-made coatings. The company was started by their mother Hestia Utomo as a home industry. She left her job in the Indonesian branch of U.S. multinational Colgate-Palmolive to look after her children; and to help support the family she would sell goods door-to-door in their neighborhood in the early days.

    Hestia used to have two brands: Kobe and Lina. Kobe was for karage seasoning, a Japanese spice, while Lina was for fried chicken. But then she decided to use only Kobe. The children later developed the brand Bali Kitchen for exported goods. “Especially for the European market, we use Bali Kitchen to highlight the best of Indonesian cuisine. It is now available in major supermarkets in Germany, Norway, France and Japan. While Bon Cabe and Kobe are exported to the U.S., Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Australia,” Desi says. Including indirect exports, Kobe products are sold in about 55 countries. Desi is proud that Bali Kitchen products don’t use any MSG, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

    Kobe has also a passionate customers base. Through its fan club website, dapurkobe.co.id, they currently have around 5,000 members who live in Java and Sumatra. For their members, Kobe regularly offers cooking classes, recipe SMS, members gatherings, cooking demonstrations and other activities. Singer and music producer Maya Estianty is Kobe’s product ambassador. “We really take care of our consumers. It contributes highly to the trust in our companies,” Dipa says.