Interview with Brian Chan, Vice President, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
1. Being born and raised in Hong Kong, how immersed were you in the Indonesian culture growing up?
As a third generation Indonesian Chinese born and raised in Hong Kong, I would say I was immersed in the Indonesian culture only in a few aspects, which are the communities and the food. Growing up, my family was active in social organizations that revolved around Indonesian Chinese diaspora groups, I remember there were many celebrations I attended where Indonesian food was served and songs were sung. Naturally, part of Indonesian culture had permeated into my life. On top of that, Indonesian food was part of my regular diet to the point where I thought they were Chinese food until I had a social life. While most people in Hong Kong were eating with bowls and chopsticks, my family always ate with plates, forks and spoons. When my grandmother was still around, she would repeat tales of her growing up in North Sumatra, and how the weather was always pleasant. She would tell jokes about early Chinese immigrants mixing up the Indonesian languages in funny ways.
2. In your view, how would you compare and contrast Indonesian to Hong Kong culture?
In my view, Indonesians are a lot more relaxed compared to Hong Kongers, and this may be a result of having to deal with more uncertainty in life in Indonesia, while things are more clear cut in Hong Kong. Indonesian society is also much more religious, as it is a part of everyone's identity (stated on the identity card), while in Hong Kong religion often takes a backseat in social interactions. However, once you get past the superficial, Indonesians and Hong Kongers are similar people, we all enjoy a good laugh, company of friends and family, as well as being treated with respect and dignity.
3. Being exposed to both Indonesian and Hong Kong culture has given you great insight into conducting business between these two places. What advice would you give Hong Kong companies, when doing business in Indonesia? What should they know and be most mindful of?
Although I have done business in Indonesia for seven years, I feel I have only scratched the surface of it, as navigating Indonesia's business terrain can be challenging and complex at times. My best advice for anyone who's looking to enter the Indonesian market are the following
Unless you are the prophet, and a business genius, you don't know how things work in Indonesia, period. So keep an open mind, try your best to go in without prejudice.
Make up your mind, and decide whether or not you want to completely immerse yourselves into the business in Indonesia, you may find it difficult to succeed if you just want to offload some products into the market.
4. What are some of the latest business connections between Hong Kong and Indonesia you have facilitated? Which sectors are currently the most popular?
A few connections our chamber is currently facilitating, medical supplies business into Indonesia, toy manufacturing, electrical component manufacturing, e-commerce, lingerie garment supply, and much more. We can't say which sector is most popular as we don't have data to support those claims. If we are looking at official data from the Indonesian government, the biggest investment into Indonesia from Hong Kong has been real estate, and infrastructure projects.
5. What would you say are the major exciting trends in the Indonesian market that Hong Kong businesses should be aware of?
Indonesia is on the brink of drastically revamping its regulation to attract more foreign direct investment, and in my opinion the Covid-19 may just be the catalyst to make this happen. Given its population of 270 million people, a strong domestic consumption market, and its potential to replace part of China's manufacturing capacity, I think it would be a missed opportunity for any Hong Kong businesses that are looking to expand.