Business Opportunities | May 10, 2023

Could you briefly tell us about the career stages you have gone through up to now?

I was born and raised here in Bremen, in beautiful Bremen North, and graduated from high school in 2011. After that I did a year of voluntary social work in an intensive care unit in a hospital, as I wasn’t quite sure where my path would take me.

I then decided to study general management in Cologne and completed my bachelor’s degree there after three years. I got a lot out of it, but I realized that I also needed something practical, so I did an apprenticeship as a wholesale and foreign trade clerk in Hong Kong with a German toy manufacturer “Dickie Toys”. After the 20-month training, I was offered a job there. As I had already completed my studies, it all fit very well. I was there from 2015 to 2021 and loved the city until the end, despite the protests and the pandemic. Nevertheless, Hong Kong changed a lot during that period of time.  I decided to return to Germany for the same company, to Fürth to be precise, because that’s where the headquarters are. There I worked as an International Business Developer, looking  after our subsidiaries within Europe and discussed licensing issues with them. The Simba Dickie Group consists of almost 30 companies in the toy sector, and each of them does something different. In the process, 4-5 people managed an assortment of 30,000 articles, which is not something you can do everywhere. My tasks were therefore to discuss the assortment for the individual markets or to lead the discussions with major customers across countries.

At the beginning of August 2022 I moved back to Bremen and then on to Indonesia in November.

What brought you to Melchers and why the decision for Indonesia?

During my time in Hong Kong, which as I said I enjoyed until the end, I always thought that after 5 years I should reflect on whether I wanted to stay in Hong Kong for the long term. So, I decided that if I stay here now, I would have to settle down for a longer period of time. And I was not willing to do so at that time, but wanted to see something new. Therefore, I returned to Germany. Fürth is also something new for me as a person from northern Germany.

After a year there, I realized that I wanted to go abroad again. Germany is all well and good, and I’d love to go back later in my life, but now I still feel the need to go overseas again. At the same time, I wanted to keep my connection to Bremen and thought about it for a while. It is well known that I have family roots at Melchers and so it came up for the first time that I might come and talk to the people here. So, this really developed during these talks with the management from the beginning to the middle of 2022. I have to say now that I had little contact with Melchers before, which was a bit of a personal concern for me, because I always had family connections here and wanted to be a bit detached from that and do my own thing. But now the point came where everything fit together and so I came to Melchers.

Indonesia itself wasn’t really the subject at the beginning, I rather went into the talks in such a way that I was ready for everything except Germany. The only thing I said was that I didn’t want to go back to Hong Kong or China at that time. These talks were more about where there is potential, where perhaps a new perspective or a new generation has new approaches. And then the topic of Indonesia came up on the part of the management and I knew Indonesia briefly at most. I was once in Jakarta for a weekend, but otherwise I only spent time in Indonesia on Bali. In general, one is usually not drawn to Jakarta a lot.

But the position was offered to me relatively quickly and I didn’t have to think about it for long, as I said, I could have settled with many things. After all, I went to Hong Kong without knowing a single person. I am now looking forward to my tasks in Jakarta.

Have you noticed any cultural differences between Indonesia, Hong Kong and Germany?

In general, I would say that Jakarta is just as different from Hong Kong as it is from Germany. And I would say that after 5 years I have a certain expertise on the subject of Hong Kong.

Indonesia is of course, as the world’s largest Muslim country, on the one hand for religious reasons noticeably different. On the other hand, the mentality of the people is completely different than in Hong Kong or in Germany. But I am only three and a half weeks in Jakarta and I think I will find a lot of cultural differences. In any case, this is something very exciting, which is of course also locally very different, so the culture I got to know in Bali is again completely different than that in Jakarta. Indonesia is also a huge country, it is a 3.5 hours flight from east to west, that’s like from Bremen to Turkey, which is culturally also a huge difference. That’s why I’ll need the next few months and years to figure out these cultural structures In detail, but I’m looking forward to it.

Has Melchers changed compared to previous stories from the family? How?

As I said, I have a family connection to Melchers and if I were to say that the topic of Melchers did not play a role in some form in my childhood would be a lie, but they were less than what you might expect. My father is of course glad that I have found my way to Melchers, but it must be said that my father was mainly responsible for China and Vietnam. I am now going into the Indonesian market and that is completely different from what he did. Of course, we have talked about Melchers now and then, but most of the stories and examples he told me from the past I can’t really apply to myself.

In the past, when he started, it was a very classic agency business, digital services weren’t even in their initial stage. I know a lot of stories from the past, of course, but they’re hardly applicable to Indonesia, which of course has to do with the markets, but also simply with the times. Back then, as I said, it had been a completely different business. Earlier I mentioned that it’s like the countries in Europe, France, Italy or Turkey are all completely different just as it is with Asian markets. Also, times have changed completely. I mean Melchers is over 200 years old and survived a lot of history. Melcher’s strength has always been to adapt and redevelop itself. I think especially in the trading business, stagnation or standstill is an absolute step backwards. That’s why the business can change insanely in 10 years and that’s one of the points my father sees as well. The business he actively left 5 years ago is already a completely different one today. So, it is quite good that a new generation comes along and maybe brings some modern ideas. At the same time, of course, one must not forget to learn a certain amount of expertise from the older generation. For example, I spoke with Horst Esser from Thailand, who is retiring this year and who has been in Southeast Asia for 40 years and was able to tell me how to work with certain companies or even state-owned enterprises. I can’t know that, and it takes years to acquire that knowledge! That is what you can find out in personal conversations and this contact is of course super important.

What goals do you want to achieve in the future? Are there already things you would like to change?

As I said, I started on 1st August and first spent four weeks here in Bremen getting to know the MTE and Melchers in general. I would say Melchers is very fragmented and the diversification is insane, you need 4 weeks to even understand who is where and how the individual divisions operate.

Then I went to Jakarta for three weeks and was able to see a few things there. Now it’s a matter of holding talks and setting myself concrete goals.

One goal is communication between the markets, i.e. accessing the expertise and know-how of the other markets. In other words, not only to work with principals throughout Germany, but also to access certain competitor markets or products within Asia. And then also to do that between the individual subsidiaries. In the past, everyone mainly looked at their own market, which is absolutely understandable, the markets are so different that everyone pays attention to their market and their branch, but I believe that in the future and also through digitalization, you can work much more with each other to see what the others are doing. It’s not just that everyone operates differently, everyone also serves industries that others have nothing to do with.

That is one issue, but it is also important for our classic agency business that we are completely interchangeable. So, you have to be well positioned as a strong partner for any company in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Accordingly, you also have to create structures that not only sell products for someone, but also offer a service afterwards, so that this goes further than just this classic agency business.

Of course, there will also be things that I would like to change on site. That is also in the nature of things, on the one hand it is a generation change and on the other hand it is also simply a new managing director and that always brings changes with it. We can talk about what changes exactly next year, because I’m still at the beginning. Just as diverse as we are here in Bremen, we are also in Indonesia, which means that one part goes into mining, the other into gas and so on, it’s all very specific and people look very closely at their own industry and in this context everyone is responsible for their own area first.

At the same time, however, I would like to establish the basic idea among my sales people to look left and right to see where there are possibilities for what could be done. Actually, at least one piece of information should come out of every customer meeting, at least about what we can’t serve at the moment. And for us, this is super important, because it shows how we can continue to build up our portfolio, as I said, standing still is a step backwards at this point. This looking left and right is essential for me, but for that the sales people also have to understand what we do, which is not so easy, because we do a lot and have many possibilities. But that’s also the exciting part!

A current topic: Indonesia has the world’s largest nickel deposits and is therefore the ideal production location for the German automotive industry. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo wants to make the country attractive as a production location, also by imposing export restrictions. Are there opportunities for Melchers here if many carmakers are going to Indonesia?

Well, if this is really implemented, there are definitely opportunities for us, but it’s not just about producing batteries from the nickel deposits and exporting them to Germany. Production, for example, requires a lot of energy, i.e. oil and gas in some form, of which there are natural deposits in Indonesia. We are also active in the oil and gas industry, so we sometimes look to the left. At the same time, we also work together with the automotive industry in terms of software technology and can contribute even more.

E-mobility is an absolute trend topic, but one must not forget that China has brought several billions into this industry in Indonesia for years and is already well positioned there. If we now have the opportunity to enter the market there due to the export restrictions, this is of course extremely interesting. The most important thing is not to wait and see whether it will happen or not, but to position ourselves correctly now. This means that you can act and not try to react afterwards.. You have to position yourself accordingly beforehand. I also think that in general Indonesia wants to open up more and more. Not only in terms of nickel deposits, but also in other areas. Thus, Indonesia creates naturally also an incentive for German enterprises, one may not forget that Indonesia is a giant market with a population of 280 million.

But it is not only about importing things in Jakarta and Surabaya, for example, there are many people with great expertise in certain areas and you can build on that and export certain things. To the previous focus on the import business, I want to start with this other angle. There are many products that are produced in Indonesia that are also interesting for the European market. We must wait and see how the industry develops there. In Europe, we have other basic requirements and certain hurdles, be it quality or other things, but that was also the case in China a few years ago and has developed further.

China is currently under some criticism for certain issues, and if it should come to an exodus of certain companies, Thailand and Vietnam would be a target, but shortly thereafter also Indonesia. Whether this will happen is of course unclear, but even so there are no real reasons why Indonesia’s exports should decrease. Whether it will develop as grandiose as many predict remains to be seen, but it will definitely not shrink in the next few years.

#melchers #indonesia #sales #trade #asia #yourpartnerinasia #blog #mmes #interview #newjob

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