Bis unearths export riches in Indonesia
Bis is an Australian success story in Indonesia. The company employs over 250 local staff, counts some of Indonesia’s largest miners as key customers, and is well regarded for its innovative products and services.
Nine years ago, however, Bis was unknown in the Indonesian mining industry.
In this case study, President Director – Indonesia Andrew Prout explains how the company established itself in a market where it had no profile. His top-line advice:
- Enlist your Australian network for advice and introductions when entering the market.
- When conditions allow, spend time in the country to understand the business, regulatory and cultural landscape.
- Set up an office in the market as soon as possible as this holds weight with the local industry.
‘Above all, engage with Austrade,’ says Prout. ‘They can assist you at every stage of the export journey, from providing initial market research and connecting you to Australian and local businesses, to facilitating your first meetings and helping you expand once you’re established.
‘Austrade has been with us from the beginning and they continue to provide assistance almost a decade later.’
Act on an opportunity
Bis specialises in hauling, transporting, processing and handling raw materials and commodities using a fleet of assets, including multi-combination off-road haulage vehicles. These are trucks with two to five trailers capable of travelling between 10 and 100 kilometres. They are used to transport commodities to roads, ports or rail lines that are at a distance from the mine.
Indonesia was identified early as an attractive market given the size of its haulage requirements. There is no significant rail infrastructure connecting mine sites to ports. Miners typically use trucks then river barges to move bulk commodities to ships at sea.
‘The Indonesian market for medium haulage is as large as the rest of the world put together,’ says Prout. ‘As experts in medium haulage, Indonesia must be a market we play in.’
Tap into Austrade’s network
Bis was breaking new ground in Indonesia. The company had no brand recognition in the market and did not have connections with any Indonesian mining companies.
After identifying the top 10 miners it wanted to target, Bis reached out to its Australian network in Indonesia for assistance. In one instance, an Australian mining contractor organised site visits to a potential customer and vouched for the company. Its legal, accounting and banking advisers were another source of contacts.
Bis also reached out to Austrade, who provided market assessments and introductions to other Australian businesses, industry bodies and government.
‘Austrade’s networks can provide interesting links that you haven’t considered,’ says Prout. ‘Even if they are not in the same industry, these connections can lead to unexpected benefits.
‘We have also asked Austrade to accompany us to customer, supplier or government meetings, to help facilitate the meetings and assist with communications in the local language.’
Establish a physical presence
Bis set up an office in Indonesia in 2012 before it had even generated any business. The company’s senior executives, including the global CEO, often flew to Indonesia to meet with potential customers. Prout says that’s important in a market where hierarchy is valued.
‘Having a presence in Indonesia built our credibility and showed customers that we took the market seriously,’ says Prout. ‘We invested time in building relationships in the industry and navigating the complex regulatory environment.
‘There are challenges but they are not insurmountable if you have identified your competitive advantage,’ adds Prout. ‘It took us two years to secure our first contract but all our groundwork has paid off – the average length of our contracts is 5 to 7 years.’
Offer tailored services where possible
Bis is now a familiar name in the Indonesian mining sector. The company has more than 250 local staff in Jakarta and East Kalimantan, with the majority of senior roles held by local staff. It also partners with two local companies to manufacture its trailers in market.
One of Bis’ competitive advantages is its focus on innovation, which allows it to accommodate specific or unique customer requirements. The company can design trailers that address site or transport constraints and maximise haulage efficiencies.
‘One customer has to use a bridge to transport its commodities,’ says Prout. ‘We custom-designed a solution that met the bridge’s weight limits, saving the customer haulage time and costs.’
The company’s innovation has not gone unnoticed. ‘We trialled new ways of working and providing haulage services which we are pleased to say has since been progressively adopted by other providers in the market,’ says Prout.
As it deepens its local and in-country leadership, Bis is placing greater emphasis on increasing gender diversity. In 2019, the company started a program to train women to become heavy haulage operators.
‘The program is one of our proudest achievements – we’ve provided 15 women with jobs to date,’ says Prout. ‘We’re now starting a maintenance traineeship program and our Australian operation is exploring options to adopt similar programs.’
Keep customers at the centre of your business
COVID-19 has slowed down expansion plans but Bis is still working with Austrade to explore markets in North America, South America, Asia and Africa.
In the meantime, the company continues to build its presence in Indonesia. Prout believes the key to Bis’ success is relationship building.
‘If I know a customer has an opportunity in 18 months, I’ll spend 6–12 months cultivating a relationship with them,’ he says. ‘Building trust is important. Be visible in the market, be proactive in seeking meetings and stay in touch through virtual meetings.
‘It took a number of years to establish ourselves in Indonesia but the rewards have been well worth the effort.’
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is the Australian Government’s international trade promotion and investment attraction agency.
We deliver quality trade and investment services to businesses to grow Australia’s prosperity. We do this by generating and providing market information and insights, promoting Australian capability, and facilitating connections through our extensive global network.
To discover how we can help you and your business, visit austrade.gov.au or contact us on 13 28 78 (within Australia).