The Spirit of Conquest
    Category: Companies & People By : Zhiang Song & Yessar Yosendar Read : 2139 Date : Monday, December 02, 2013 - 07:46:45

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Accor's strategy in Indonesia may seem bipolar, but it works well. On one hand, the French hotel management company acts like an entrepreneurial startup, taking risks with boldness. On the other, it will also act like the entrenched incumbent, moving with caution. Two decades after it first entered Indonesia, the French company is now the country's leading international hotel operator, and intends to remain in front with continued expansion.

    Accor now has more than 70 hotels in the country, its third largest market in the Asia-Pacific region after Australia and China. The hotels under its management run the range from top to bottom of the hotel sector. On the upscale end, Accor has Pullman and MGallery, for midscale Novotel and Mercure, and on the economy end, Ibis (including the main brand and two variations: Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget). Accor's most exclusive brand, Sofitel, will open in Bali early next year, completing its range of offerings—and more are being mulled for Jakarta and a second location in Bali.

    “We like to go where nobody goes and be the pioneer. This is part of our DNA,” says Frenchman Gerard Guillouet, 57 and senior vice president of Accor Malaysia-Indonesia-Singapore, which is the head position for those three countries, a position he has held since 2001. The company's motto is the “spirit of conquest,” which explains the entrepreneurial side of the firm.

    Accor set up its representative office in 1993 and the first two Accor hotels, Ibis Kemayoran and Ibis Slipi, were opened the next year in Jakarta. Yet in a nod to its more conservative side, Accor executives had already spent 10 years studying the Indonesian market and meeting potential partners before they opened this first office. “Our executive team thought that we cannot ignore a country of more than 200 million people,” says Gerard.

    Yet once Accor commits to a market, it stays for the long term. “In 1998 when there were major changes in this country, many other hotel chains left. We never decided to go. While they retreated, we stayed here,” says Gerard, who himself has worked for Accor for 24 years in Asia.

    Accor's product differentiation was to bring some French flair combined with affordability to the market. “Trendy, modern, quality service, efficiency, and good value for money. These factors made Accor famous in this country,” says Gerard. “When we launched Ibis in 1994, the room was 18 square meters, which was new to this market and an innovation. People were used to large-size but low quality rooms. We provided the reverse—less space but better quality.” Reducing the room size meant Accor could save costs, which it could reinvest into the quality of the room fittings and the service. Today Ibis is Accor's biggest brand in Indonesia.

    As a hotel operator, Accor does not own its hotels but 90% of them are newly built under Accor's guidance, the remaining 10% are renovated to meet Accor's standards. Accor's two biggest partners today are the Sun Motor group owned by Imelda Sundoro and the Agung Podomoro group. Sun Motor alone owns more than fifteen Accor hotels.