Diamond in the rough

By webadmin on 11:33 am Jan 03, 2012
Category Archive

Yanto Soegiarto

Former banking and marketing executive Intan Abdams Katoppo is the woman charged with turning around the fortunes of ailing state hotel operator PT Hotel Indonesia Natour. She may have only been appointed last month, but Intan is wasting no time in getting on with the difficult job of shining up some very faded stars.

On the sidelines of the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali last November, Indonesian State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan visited the Inna Kuta Beach Hotel. Far from taking a break there, he wanted to examine up close the government-owned property gifted with one of the resort island’s best beachfront locations.

Much to his disappointment, Dahlan discovered it didn’t offer the kind of services one would expect in a five-star establishment. He immediately asked the state enterprises ministry to name candidates as new president director of PT Hotel Indonesia Natour (PT HIN), which operates the Inna Kuta Beach and other government-owned properties.

With the choice of an official from within his own ministry or from outside the ministerial hierarchy, Dahlan opted for former Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) executive Intan Abdams Katoppo. She brings experience in marketing and communications at a number of world-class companies.

On December 2, the 46-year-old officially became the first female ever appointed to head up PT HIN, which is responsible for 12 hotels located in Jakarta, Bali, East Java, West Java, West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

She must solve an old dilemma: how to transform an archaic state-owned corporation into a first-rate enterprise worthy of international recognition. It will not be an easy job but Intan is convinced she will meet her targets.

Since she took up office, she admits she has identified which of PT HIN’s hotels are cash cows, independent or problematic and grouped them in clusters. Intan’s first task is to ensure the five-star properties are providing five-star services.

 We can’t have five-star hotels in prime locations offering three-star services,” she told GlobeAsia at her office overlooking Jakarta’s historic Hotel Indonesia Kempinski. “We will upgrade the showcase hotels first, then after we regain the trust of the stakeholders we will continue with the others.”

The marquee hotels Intan has singled out for instant makeovers are all in Bali: the Inna Kuta Beach, the Inna Putri Bali, situated in the best part of Nusa Dua, and Sanur’s Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel.

 We own four-star and three-star properties as well,” she says. “Once the showcase hotels are fine and functioning as they were supposed to be, then we can work on the other hotels. We might want to offer the smaller ones to other operators in a joint-cooperation scheme. That’s within our 2011 to 2016 program.”

Crash program

Given that PT HIN’s hotels have been under poor management for decades, Intan could be forgiven for asking for plenty of time to fix them up. But she has shunned a lengthy deadline, saying instead that if other executives are given 100 days to start making headway in their jobs, she preferred to aim for improvement in 50.

If Pak Dahlan gives me two years, I would negotiate for one-and-a-half years. If he gives 750 days, I would ask for a 500-day accountability period.”

Intan says she will start to turn the flagging hotels around by assessing their physical conditon. Some may need to be demolished and rebuilt. The emphasis, however, will be on carrying out less expensive refurbishments.

 We don’t want to spend too much on the buildings themselves,” she says. “The money will drain out. It has happened in the past. By the time we get to putting in the software, skills and brainpower, the money will be gone. We can no longer afford to over-invest by focusing on buildings.”

Rebranding initiatives have taken place since 2010, before Intan joined PT HIN. This is an important exercise because some of the hotels the company owns are around 50 years old and in dire need of new images.

 We will do rebranding in the order of five-, four- and three-stars,” she says. “Whether we will continue to use Inna as a brand name or logo, or opt for a different one, we still don’t know. We have debated suggested new names including the minister’s ideas. We will see what we come up with.”

Intan doesn’t seem to be worried about finance. “People used to say that our assets were not bankable. That is wrong,” she says. “The fact is our assets are indeed very bankable. Because of that many people from the private sector are interested in working with us, and so will generate business here and there. It happened with Putri Bali, which has the best location in all of Nusa Dua. So many parties want to work with us on that project.”

A decayed image

Intan says the biggest challenge in her work as the new PT HIN president director is overcoming negative perceptions about the company. “We are not poor, we have the resources, the experience, and we have the investment since 1962. If things haven’t turned out well, we need to take a new approach.”

She explains that she wants to build a platform of substance for the organization, one that creates profit and value, and formulate effective commercial strategies in line with PT HIN’s revamped vision and mission.

Now the financial institutions are looking to assist us,” Intan says. “The financial situation is very liquid at present. We can work together with other parties on an equal footing. We can operate other people’s assets or they can operate ours. We will implement whatever is best for us.”

The formidable businesswoman started her career as a psychologist for a parachuting team. She then joined retail giant Unilever, was headhunted by American Express, before working with the Jakarta Stock Exchange, the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (BPPN) and Bimantara, where she set up Global TV and MTV. She spent her last seven years prior to joining PT HIN as corporate secretary at BNI.

My professional spectrum has seen me being a generalist in many areas, but my passion is in marketing and communications,” Intan says.

She believes how conducive the investment climate is in Indonesia will depend on macroeconomics. “If the economic team is solid and moving at a fast pace, if the MP3EI is working, things should be positive,” she says, referring to the president’s economic acceleration plan.

PT HIN plans to invest approximately Rp500 billion into its hotel refurbishment plan. Funds will come from internal sources, state-owned banks which offer lower interest rates and equity investors. The company is optimistic that it could pocket revenues of up to Rp5 billion in the next five years, according to ministry officials.

Asked about the iconic Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, temporarily out of PT HIN’s stable, Intan refused to comment on the build, operate and transfer scheme with PT Cipta Karya Bumi Indah (CKBI) and PT Grand Indonesia (PT GI).

The issue has become political. The scheme began in 2004 for a period of 30 years but was extended to 50 years in 2010. That’s a long time before it will be handed back to the government.

Dahlan says he has faith Intan will be able to change things at PT HIN. “She has vast knowledge about management,” he says. “She has a good vision and mission for the company. She is a tested leader. I hope Ibu Intan can improve the condition of the hotels, especially the ones in Bali.

We can all rely on her if she puts in the time there, although I know her office in Jakarta is very comfortable. I am giving her two years to complete upgrading the three Bali hotels.” GA