Wooden Beauty
    Category: Companies & People By : Renjani Puspo Sari Read : 1619 Date : Tuesday, May 05, 2015 - 10:22:10

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Singgih Kartono may only produce 1,500 units of his Magno radios a year but that did not stop him from making Magno into a global brand. In 2009, Magno was awarded the Brit Insurance Design of the Year, a prestigious creative award in England. It was also once displayed in the Design Museum of London and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and its product were also once sold in the MoMA gift shop. “My dream is that Magno should become an icon,” he says.

    Adding to its uniqueness, the Magno is produced by his company CV Magno-Piranti Works in the small village of Kandangan on the slopes of Mount Sindoro in Central Java. From this base, Singgih, who is president director, exports about 85% of his production, many going to Australia, East Asia and Europe.

    He produces four models, ranging in price from $150 to $300. The radio combines traditional form with function: a regular radio covered with beautiful wood sourced locally near Kandangan, mostly mahogany, rosewood and pine. Singgih has turned a commodity product in an object of artistic craftsmanship, justifying its high-end pricetag.

    The Magno is Singgih’s way to preserve traditional village life. After studying at the Bandung Institute of Technology, he decided not to seek his fortunes in a big city but instead returned to his hometown in 1992. Together with his wife, he founded Magno-Piranti ten years ago. He saw the village was slowly dying out, and he figured a company based in his hometown making products using natural products and the skills of local craftsmen would help preserve the village.

    Today they have about 20 staff, with the name Magno coming from the first product he made, a magnifying glass encased in a beautiful wooden frame. “People may buy the radio because of its eyecatching design. But we don’t follow the trends by constantly releasing new styles. We prefer a timeless one,” he says. He does introduce some new products, a recent one being bluetooth speakers that connect to devices such as an iPad or smartphone.

    The Magno’s beauty even helped convince Rachmat Gobel to sell him components. When he first started, Panasonic refused to sell  him the components he needed, saying the company only sold complete radios. So instead he would source his components from China or disassemble Panasonic radios to take out the innards. But then Rachmat Gobel, the head of Panasonic Gobel Indonesia, came across the Magno. “Mr. Rachmat saw it and was interested in the Magno,” says Singgih. After that, Rachmat allowed Panasonic Gobel to sell him just the components.

    To make his radios, Singgih needs about 40 trees a year. He has vowed to replace every one tree he uses by planting 10. So now he plants about 400 a year, donating them to local villagers to replant on their lands. “I often say to my children: we do transactions with people with money. But when dealing with nature, we must pay with replanting,” says Singgih.