Wellington city, coffee, and how “Balayar” came to be

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Reynaldo Akbar (left) pictured with Indonesia’s Ambassador for New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, and the Ambassador’s wife, at the Wellington Embassy, New Zealand. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Within the past five years, the cup milk coffee business in Indonesia has become hot stuff. Many entrepreneurs have dedicated themselves to the formulation of the right milk coffee taste that they can serve in Instagrammable locales. They vie for social media virality, which would attract even more customers to buy their coffees, take photos of themselves and leave good reviews. 

Coffee has been a symbol of social life in all parts of society for ages. The prolonged coffee boom is sustained by the people’s need to socialize, to meet and gather. Coffee even helps with the development of music genres and technology. Joint research performed by PT Toffin and MIX Marcomm magazine revealed that the number of coffee shops in Indonesia in August 2019 was more than 2,950. That’s a near-doubling of 1,950 shops from the about 1,000 shops in 2016. The real number of actual coffee shops is most probably much bigger, because the survey only recorded shops in major cities. 

This is why Reynaldo Akbar, a former special staff of our Ambassador for New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, left Wellington and returned to Indonesia and made his own coffee under the brand “Balayar Coffee”. Amid the busy routines of his day, Rendy spared some time for an interview with the Independent Observer

Q: Mas Rendy, can you tell us about your background? 

A: I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from Brawijaya University, Malang, and I am a Master’s Degree candidate in Business Management in Binus International. As it happens, I am drafting my thesis. However, my spirit sagged a little because of the Corona. And I used to work in the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, before returning to Indonesia. 

Q: What did you do in the Embassy in Wellington? 

A: I spent a year in the Economics Division. I basically helped Indonesian entrepreneurs who wanted to do business with their New Zealand counterparts, and vice versa. The help was in the form of information, liaison, mediation in disputes and other stuff. Spent six months in Protocols and Consulate coordinating Indonesian Embassy protocol issues with both our domestic counterparts, such as Government agencies, and with New Zealand counterparts. Spent 2.5 years in Communications, ensuring that the Embassy’s internal communication network runs smoothly, and being responsible for the Embassy’s communications with other State agencies. 

Q: Why the coffee business? Why not something else? 

A: In my old workplace, the Embassy, they have a coffee workshop every Friday for any Indonesian citizens interested in sharing and learning about coffee. From this forum, Indonesian college students and citizens in New Zealand set up a community called KOKI (Komunitas Kopi Indonesia – the Indonesian Coffee Community). That’s how I became interested in making my own coffee business in my own homeland, and how I ended up establishing Balayar Coffee. 

Q: Can you tell us some stories behind the establishment of Balayar? 

A: It all started with five friends, all of whom are passionate about coffee, meeting and talking it out. From our talks, we fleshed out a design for a coffee shop with minimal budget but high goals and aspirations. 

Q: How does Balayar Coffee build up its promotional network? 

A: Using that minimal capital! We started out giving away a lot of our product samples for taste tests to our nearest and dearest. We introduce the Balayar brand and asked for feedback from our inner circle that way. Therefore, not only do we get a lot of input about how our products taste, these people end up becoming familiar with Balayar Coffee. After having established ourselves in our inner circle, we expand our reach through social media. 

Q: What’s the initial concept for Balayar Coffee? 

A: Initially, Balayar Coffee sold cold brew products. After two months, we found obstacles in producing cold brew products because it’s a tricky production cycle that requires a long production time (8-14 hours). After that, we decided to change directions to espresso base, which only requires 5 minutes for production. Our concept is selling coffee in carts with predominantly espresso based-menu, at an average sales price of IDR 17,000.00 a cup. 

Q: What’s your opinion on the fact that the coffee business is getting hotter by the day? 

A: It’s true that competition in the coffee business gets tighter by the day, but don’t forget that it’s a huge market size that continues to expand. Perception of coffee has shifted from it being a “luxury” item and “occasional beverage” to “daily consumption”. With the large number of competitors out there, we need to reduce idealistic ideas and be “awake” to existing trends, because trends go with what the market wants, and we sell according to the market instead of having the market follows us. The bright side of strict competition in the coffee business is the increased demand for coffee from Indonesian farmers. 

Q: Do you ever consider having another business? If yes, what? 

A: As it happens, I have a second coffee business for coffee to go starting in February. Now we’re in the process of opening our second branch. 

Q: What are your dreams in relation to your business? 

A: Every individual must have an aspiration and target to achieve. I’m no different – I have an ambitious personal concept in the coffee industry. In the journey towards achieving the concept, I am now amassing capital and learning my current business. I want to express the ideas that I haven’t done in this concept. We have a dream of expanding our coffee Industry from upstream to downstream – everything from the plantation, roastery, even the equipment and supplemental ingredients for coffee. 

Q: Any messages or words that you can say to motivate youngsters interested in opening up a new business? 

A: The most important message I can convey for any business is “Trust in the process.” No business will instantly generate results. Efforts made in running the business is directly proportional to the results later. (NHN)