Hage Tim Henssen! A Dutchman who manufactures cosmetics in Ethiopia.
I can tell from your accent that you’re Dutch. From which part of Holland are you from?
I’m from the very South of Holland, the hilly part, near Marseilles.
And what are you doing here in Indonesia?
We have a cosmetics company called PT Cosmar which manufactures for companies like Pixie and Mustika Ratu. For a couple of years, we also had the license for Barbie and we used to make cosmetics for kids, like lip gloss, but it was too difficult because you have to invest a lot in the brand and it requires a lot of attention and time. Now we have a joint venture in Ethiopia called Cosmar East Africa.
Wow, a cosmetics company in Ethiopia. How did you get into that?
We met a representative in Dubai and they needed help which resulted in a joint venture with the help of some subsidies from the Ethiopian government. The PSOM programme of the Dutch government gave us an incentive to invest in Ethiopia, which put us over the ledge. Thanks to this programme we were able to establish this company called Viola, which produces body lotions, shampoos, conditioners and body butter for sale in Ethiopia only.
What’s doing business like in Ethiopia?
There’s a lot less competition as it’s incredibly difficult to do something there. We have seen an influx of Chinese coming in which scares me a bit, so we have to be well established in the market before they settle in.
Do you like it there?
I love it there. The climate is really nice, in the day it’s a pleasant 24/25 degrees and evenings are really chilly. They have good beer and very civilized people with no corruption because the authorities are incredibly strict.
And how do you find living here in Jakarta?
Well, what can I say? Traffic makes it difficult to visit friends, have a beer, things become cumbersome.
How do you cope?
We moved the factory to BSD which means we go against the traffic so the commute only takes half an hour. I also ride a bike when I can, although I avoid it at night because it’s too dangerous.
Do you wear protective gear?
I wear a helmet which is unusual for a Dutch person. In Holland everybody cycles, but nobody wears a helmet!
Are there any bike lanes in Jakarta?
There is one on Jalan Melawai! All of a sudden and out of nowhere a bike lane appeared which carries on for a couple hundred metres, but it’s completely pointless.
Have you worked in other fields in this country?
I’m educated as an aid worker and when I have time and opportunities, I consult in this field. My first job in Indonesia was in Aceh in ‘85 up in the mountains. I analyzed transmigration camps and made proposals with the government on issues that were lacking on health, education and infrastructure. So basically how to improve the life of transmigrates. Years later I met a consultant who started a coffee factory in Aceh and apparently my report is still being used. So it’s nice to know I may have made a difference.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for money?
To be honest, if something doesn’t make sense I don’t do it. Nothing springs to mind really. Sometimes I play golf, badly, and Indonesians want to bet against me. I don’t like to bet, but every single time they get really excited and bet against me and I suddenly become unbeatable – I never lose!