Succeeding Beyond Success
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Gloria Haraito Read : 2404 Date : Monday, November 04, 2013 - 08:37:17

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    PT Datascrip founder Joe Kamdani says a combination of business services and sales of some 10,000 office supplies ranging from copiers to highlighters helped the 44-year-old company steal a march on rivals in an industry where profit margins can be thin. Yet he makes up for that in volume, with sales that he sees growing at least 15% in the next few years. That success comes from a lifetime in business, where he learned the importance of establishing long-term relationships with clients and his own staff.

    Joe, 76, is the eldest son of 11 children from an Indonesian Chinese family. He dropped out of college after only one year, eventually becoming a salesman, earning a modest living on commissions selling carbon paper, pencils and office equipment. For a decade, Joe learned the tricks of the trade from other salesmen such as the importance of networking and earning the trust of customers until he opened his first store, Matahari Alka, in 1969 in Jakarta, renaming it Datascrip in 1974. “I had no money but I had the trust from my clients who put their products into my small store,” says Joe.

    The company continues to grow—it now has 30 suppliers including Canon, Nikon and computer maker Asus—but Joe and his Datascrip holds the same sense of relationship with all of them. Services including office design, digital imaging, security systems, surveying and engineering, and IT solution. The company has an estimated Rp 5 trillion in sales, with a profit margin that is probably no more than 3%, given the competitive nature of the industry.

    Long-term relationships with suppliers made the difference when it came to securing products. One of his company's first big wins was securing the rights to sell Schwan-Stabilo highlighters, markers and pens. The relationship between Joe and the German company dates back to 1972. Back then, few in Indonesia had even heard of highlighters, so Joe handed out free Stabilo highlighter samples. “People did not know how to use them. So I had to show them the difference between underlining and highlighting,” says Joe.

    But picking the wrong supplier is also a risk. One example? In 1974 Datascrip signed on with the U.S. firm Monroe Calculating Machine as a supplier of electronic calculators, but it struggled to compete as prices fell. Monroe in desperation bought calculators from Canon and pasted its own logo on them. After Monroe went bankrupt, Joe approached Canon to supply him directly with calculators. “I used to sell Monroe and they used to buy from you. Why don't you just sell directly to me,” Joe recalls as his sales pitch. In keeping with developing long-term relationships, Joe nurtured his connection with the Japanese firm, and as Canon grew, he was able to sell many other Canon goods, such as printers and digital cameras. Joe's take on such episodes is instructive: “Life gives you a test and then you learn a lesson. In school, they teach you the lesson and then you get the test.”