Interview with Rituraj Mohan, COO of Guardian Indonesia

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BritCham undertakes two business roadshows per year and match-makes potential exporters and primarily members who have an interest in representing their products or services. Guardian Indonesia is a member of the Hero Group. It is the most recognisable international health and beauty store chain in Indonesia. Some British healthcare and beauty products that represent the fruits of our roadshow labours can be found in-store.

Last week I caught up with Guardian Indonesia’s Chief Operating Director, Rituraj Mohan, who is a ‘newer-comer’ to Indonesia and who is very excited by the Guardian legacy and the opportunity it presents going forward.

As the interview unfolds, it is very easy to get a true sense of how Guardian’s three core values of trust, passion and inspiration drive some of the thinking and business decisions.

Almost everyone is familiar with the Guardian orange livery both within malls and on the main thoroughfares of Jakarta. But please share the extent of the Guardian reach outside the capital and are there plans to continue to extend your presence?

Around 50 percent of our stores are outside of Jakarta. We are present on all the main Islands and are particularly strong in Bali. We always look for expansion opportunities, so watch this space.

Guardian of course doubles up as a pharmacy as well as health and beauty retail brand. What do you believe to be the main attraction to the Indonesian consumer?

We strive to offer a wide choice of products in both health and beauty. In healthcare, we offer international as well as trusted local brands in both prescription and non-prescription categories. We want to provide the Indonesian consumer with a one stop shop for their well-being and their beauty needs.

The growth in retail generally seems to have cooled down in recent times, yet it seems that health and beauty is bucking this trend. What are the reasons for this and is it likely to continue?

The reasons are many and varied. The introduction of new brands, the growing affluence of the population, and the desire to test and try new things are all helping to drive sales. Manufacturers are becoming more innovative and delivering better and better products. Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of their own healthcare needs and are taking proactive steps to remain healthy. These are among the many factors that are driving the H&B sector.

To what extent does being a member of the Dairy Farm international group (wholly owned by Jardine Mattheson) add value to the shopping experience of an Indonesian shopper? Do you think this also helps you to acquire new brands and provide more choice?

Being a member of the Diary Farm family certainly helps me with internal processes, with fresh thinking from around the world and with world class expertise in many different areas. All of these combines to help me deliver a better shopping experience for the customer.

Regular shoppers at Guardian will have noticed a growing number of own-label products on your shelves. What drives this strategy?

Own brands give Guardian a differentiation from other retailers. They also offer choice and value to the consumer. As such they are an important part of our plans.

You are British and previously spent time in another ASEAN country, Thailand. What have you noticed as the main differences in consumer habits, say between Thai and Indonesian millennials? Does prevailing culture impact choices at all?

Leaving aside difference due to religion such as halal products, there is very little difference between the needs and aspirations of millennials here in Indonesia and in Thailand or indeed in other countries. They all want to look good, want the latest products, are digitally connected and so know what’s going on in the world. They are not afraid to experiment and are constantly looking for new things to try. They keep retailers on their toes!

Also, by way of a comparison, what are the most notable differences of leading retail in Thailand vis-a-vis Indonesia?

The retail markets are very similar in the way they are set up. Big shopping malls dominate the big cities, street retailing is not popular and traditional retailing (mom and pop stores) still dominates but is declining. There is more choice in Thailand right now, but things are changing in Indonesia and more and more manufacturers are bringing new brands to the country than before. Although retail in Thailand is slightly further ahead than Indonesia, we are catching up fast.

Finally, and one for the ladies… what are your top three selling health and beauty products?

  • Cetaphil skin cleanser
  • Bioderma Sensibio
  • Calendula cream

All three are skin products that are used extensively by our customers to help them look and feel great. (Keep looking and feeling great! CW).

 

(Note: The answers may have been combined from various parts of an entire conversation and may not represent direct quotations in sequence)

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Indonesia Expat is Indonesia's largest expatriate readership (formerly known as Jakarta Expat and Bali Expat)