Greetings from the magical island of Bali.
Last week I was telling you about some wine related culture shocks in Kuala Lumpur. You can read about it here.
The King of Saudi Arabia was in KL, and the day I moved to Bali he came here also with his 1500 strong entourage. They simply closed the airport in Bali for an hour (rescheduled all the flights), so that his planes could all land quickly and easily with maximum security. The news on the streets is that he likes it so much that the whole schedule has been changed to accommodate an extra few days in Bali. I understand how he feels, unfortunately I don't have that luxury - on Sunday I travel to China.
This week I have been rushing around with Ringo (our agent in Indonesia) visiting suppliers, working on new products.. trying to find you the next big thing.
We have a warehouse here where we consolidate orders and do the packaging. None of the artisans involve themselves in bubble wrap or boxes, they see that as a non-artistic job (quite rightly) and leave that to the cargo company. There are lots of cargo companies in Bali all doing packing and finishing and stuffing containers for export. They charge by the cubic meter of products finished.
When we started here six years ago, we used the cargo companies, it was costing us almost 40% extra on the production cost to get the stock from Indonesia to our UK warehouse.
Since then we have learned a few tricks and fixes to control those costs. We have a pretty warehouse and office in Yellow Coconut Village just outside Ubud, where we can do the packing in-house and stuff the container on-site. Without giving away all our secrets, often we truck products to Java (the main Indonesian island) and load a container there - it's more efficient than bringing a container from the port in Java to Bali and back again.
Basically over the years we have reduced the extra costs to about 18% on the product, which gives more scope to pay artisans a little more and still give you our customers the keenest prices. So now you know why AW is the best place for artisan Indonesian products :)
Ringo is a hard working guy, he lives and breathes AW, it's not unusual for him to be Whatsapping me at 2am his time with some questions or updates. Give him a mission and he will think about it and come up with ideas and solutions. He is a good guy, and full of interesting information about Bali. His dream (as a Hindu) is to visit the Ganges river in India, but like most Indonesians he has never been outside of the country, it was a big adventure the first time he went to Java. So I have promised him that I will take him India, just as soon as he get's himself a passport. Our India agent Chatterjee (he has been to Bali and met Ringo) lives close to the Ganges in Bengal, so it would be easy to organise. But there is a problem with the paperwork, to get a passport he has to fill details about his father, name and date of birth. This is causing a problem, his father doesn't know his birthday, it can't be verified, and even his name has several spellings. They have four different calendars here and names are somewhat fluid things. He comes from a remote village in Bangli regency, and the local officials are trying to help but it's taking time. I'll update you as it happens.
Denpasar is the capital city of Bali. It is a melting pot, people from all over Indonesia come here to make their fortunes. While the city is absolutely Balinese in culture, there are Muslim stone carvers from Sumatra, rattan weavers from Kalimantan, Christian joiners and furniture makers from Flores, and brass artefact producers from Solo in Java. I met them all this week.
I also learned something about Denpasar - (from Ringo naturally) - Den means East and Pasar means market.. so quite literally Denpasar is the Eastern Market.
More news from the East next week.