Not everyone can say that they have actually turned their passion into their career. So, then, “not everyone” therefore includes Riki Kono Basmeleh, who clearly enjoys being the CEO of Omiyage inc Indonesia, a company founded by Riki and two friends, that specialises in souvenir confectionery. For its first project, Omiyage join hands with a popular Japanese cheesecake brand and opened its first local shop, DORÉ by LeTAO, in Plaza Indonesia.
Being half-Indonesian and half-Japanese also had a heavy influence on Riki’s decision to set up a confectionery company. The International Studies graduate from University of New South Wales always wanted to blend in the two cultures together and he turned his childhood dreams into reality with Omiyage.
Read more about what the young entrepreneur has to say about the industry, his company and his unique upbringing.
How was Omiyage formed?
The company’s inspiration came from my mixed background of being half-Indonesian and half-Japanese. I have always dreamed of creating a business that combines the cultures of these two countries. In search of this goal, I saw a great potential in the souvenir and gift business in Indonesia, and along the way I met my business partners, who interestingly shared the same background as I do. One partner is an Indonesian guy who produces TV show about Japan, while the other is a Japanese guy whose family owns a company that specialises in souvenir confectionery. Needless to say, the three of us have a deep understanding and network in both countries.
Why does Omiyage focus on souvenir confectionery? Where does the inspiration come from?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been surrounded by incredible confectionery both for gifts and for souvenirs in Japan. By contrast, it was really hard to find good souvenir confectionery here in Indonesia, which I found funny since Indonesia has gift-giving culture. So after doing research with my business partners, we were inspired to start our own company.
What are your thoughts on local confectionery? What can be improved?
We have tons of tasty treats in Indonesia, like traditional cookies and desserts such as nastar or klepon. But when it comes to product as a whole, it is not appealing enough—at least for me. It lacks a concept, story, branding and packaging. Hence, many of my overseas friends have never tried Indonesian confectionery because they don’t seem to be interested in it, which again is sad since we have plenty of it.
Can you share DORÉ’s marketing strategy? How will it compete with other cake shops?
We do not position DORÉ as a cake shop. Yes, we do serve cakes, but we focus more on gifts and take-away cakes. By doing this, we encourage people to share our products with their loved ones, which is also part of our company’s mission.
Also, working together with LeTAO from Japan has given us a unique marketing strategy. For example, one of the things we learned is to give out testers to potential customers. You seldom see Jakarta’s F&B business giving out testers, which is odd because I think it’s more fair for our customers to try what they buy. That’s why DORÉ is generous with its testers.
Omiyage’s aim is to promote Indonesian culture to the world. What are your plans to execute this?
We plan to create more products that are not necessarily Indonesian, but which are still related to Indonesia. I believe that promoting Indonesian culture doesn’t mean we have to focus on traditional products. I also would love to open shops in airports in big cities across Indonesia because that is where people buy souvenirs.
What are some of the biggest challenges in running Omiyage?
The biggest struggles are things that are out of our control, such as ordering supplies, because, so far, 90 per cent of time things do not go according to plan. We will face wrong orders and late deliveries, among other things. But I hate to make excuses, so we try to make things as efficient as possible.
What plans do you have for the future?
Our vision is to be the pioneer in the souvenir confectionery business in Indonesia. In a few years, I would love to see as many stores as possible carrying our products in both airports and train stations. We will also keep developing new products and opening shops around Jakarta and hopefully other cities. Meanwhile, we are also interested in tapping into any business related to our core business, such as ingredients and packaging.
Let’s talk about you. What made you interested in running your own business in the first place?
It was the gap between supply and demand in this country. I thought there were great opportunities to explore here.
Who is your biggest inspirations in life and why?
My father. I have seen him running our family business since I was a baby and he has been the biggest inspiration for me. Right now, my motivation and goals are to be as great as him.
What motto do you live by?
There is a quote in Japanese that roughly translates as “Work is play, play is work”. I never separate the two, because, for me, everything that is work-related is also enjoyable at the same time.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully, I will be more involved in uniting Indonesia and Japan, either through business, diplomatic relations, or any other possible way.
Make sure to grab Indonesia Tatler's 2016 June issue where Riki did a retro photoshoot for us!
Another entrepreneur who has passion for the F&B industry: Close Up with Bogdan Vlase.