Australia Awards in Indonesia

The Australia Awards are prestigious, transformational scholarships and short courses offered to emerging leaders for study, research and professional development in Australia

31 Jul 2023

Suryaningsih Wibowo Steps Into the Australian Market in The Midst of Pandemic while Employing Women and Laid-Off Workers

Since starting her snack foods business in her Jakarta home in 2016, Australia Awards alumna Suryaningsih Wibowo has expanded her sales to seven countries – including a successful leap into the Australian market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her small home enterprise, PT Kultiva Indonesia Makmur, produces fruit chips with various flavours in simple plastic packaging called Woh Chips.

The product has undergone many improvements, from product quality to packaging, and has successfully penetrated the global market from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Canada, the United States, and now, Australia.

When the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide, the Indonesian economy was highly impacted. Bank Indonesia (BI) reported that 87.5 per cent of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME), also known as UMKM, suffered a loss in sales.

Surprisingly, Suryaningsih, known by her nickname, Surya, was able to seize the moment and expand her market amid the pandemic, entering big cities in Australia from Sydney and Brisbane to Perth.

Surya’s journey to the Australian market derived from her curiosity, which motivates her to learn something new daily. “Someday, when I resign (from Kultiva), I want to be a lecturer or contribute to the education sector because I have always loved the school environment,” said Surya, a mother of two sons.

Her enthusiasm for learning was one of the reasons she took an Australia Awards Short Course in 2021 called International Business Readiness – a Course for Women-led MSMEs in the Food Sector.

Before the course, it never crossed her mind that Australians would love her product. Surya said she first applied for the short course because she wanted to learn more skills to improve and grow her business.

“Because it was the COVID-19 era, there were many things I wanted to catch up on and skills and knowledge that I was unfamiliar with. I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to enrol in the short course,” said Surya, an alumna of the University of Melbourne.

It was not smooth sailing for all the short course participants. The COVID-19 pandemic meant they could not interact face-to-face with the experts and mentors during the course.

Surya admitted that she met a few obstacles during the online course, specifically communication problems with the mentors and other participants. But Surya was determined to make the most of it. She kept in touch with her mentors to get answers and information.

One of the most memorable things Surya remembers was when the mentors and the experts acknowledged Woh Chips as one of the best products among the participants.

“Practically, I have improved my design and learned what I must prepare for the export preparation. I became more confident and ready to export to Australia,” she said.

Expansion to the Australian Market

Surya’s first step in expanding to the Australian market began when the short course facilitated business matching, and she was paired with Sony Trading Pty Ltd.

Since sending her product sample to Sony Trading, Surya has established a solid partnership with her buyers from Australia, specifically in Perth and Brisbane, where her product has already been ordered more than once.

During her studies in the short course, Surya also learned about biosecurity import conditions and food regulations, which later helped Woh Chips to enter the Australian market successfully.

Not easily satisfied by expanding to the Australian market, Surya went all out by formulating two new flavours specifically made to cater to the Australian palate.

While creating the flavours, red sriracha potato-based and tempeh chips mixed with turmeric, Surya consulted with Austrend Food Perth via teleconference.

Helping Those in Need

Surya believes business is not just about making a profit. Instead, she says a person’s success is guaranteed when they do good deeds for others. Following this principle, Kultiva actively collaborates with NGO HOPE Indonesia educating children in disadvantaged areas.

After the short course, Surya became more conscious about inclusivity issues. She was inspired by Australia Awards in Indonesia, which gives everyone an equal opportunity to study, including those with disabilities.

At Kultiva, most employees are women, people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who didn’t finish high school. As long as the person is willing to learn, Surya is ready to employ them.

Besides her busy life as an entrepreneur, Surya is always willing to share her knowledge about business and being a woman in business. In 2022, Surya was invited by the Indonesian Ministry of Trade to educate small and medium enterprise (UKM) entrepreneurs in Bangka about how to export.

“I shared various lessons with entrepreneurs in Bangka, including the knowledge I got from the AAI short course,” Surya explained.

But Surya’s efforts went beyond sharing tips with the business community in Bangka. Seeing their enthusiasm, Surya became like a business consultant to each participant. She gave mentoring to each of them about packaging design and export preparation, including the procedures and documents.

Because of her persistence, Kultiva has been recognised by the Indonesian government and supported to attend many international expos to promote local products. Woh Chips has been sent twice to the United States to promote Indonesian natural snacks. Surya was also invited to go to the United States by Bank Indonesia.

Besides her significant achievements, Surya’s dream still has a long way to go. She aims to sell Woh Chips in Japan, South Korea, Europe, and the Middle East market. At the same time, Surya is also keen to complete her personal mission: to continue pursuing higher education.

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