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What makes Erik Meijer a recognizable face in the telecommunication industry?
Conviviality, many colleagues answered about the new chief commercial officer of PT Indosat.
“He is adept in human relations, plus he shows regard to those senior to him,” said Setyanto P. Santosa, the chairman of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) with over two decades of experience in the telecommunications industry.
Koesmarihati Koesnowarso, another telecommunications veteran who currently acts as a special adviser at a directorate in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, concurred.
“He is amiable to everyone, and this eased negotiations connected to the construction of base transmission stations in various places,” she said.
Koesmarihati, whom the Dutch national calls Ibu Koes, served as the first chief executive officer of PT Telkomsel for three years starting in 1995.
It was during this period that she met Meijer, then part of the advisory team representing KPN Royal Dutch Telecom, a former share owner in PT Telkomsel.
“At that time, I wondered how could this young person, who was 24 or 25 years old, be the expert who I should pay in dollars,” she recalled of her first impression.
However, KPN assured her that she was welcome to dismiss Meijer if his performance fell short.
Instead of getting the boot, Meijer, 42, ended up serving Telkomsel for the next 11 years, ascending to the position of vice president before leaving the company for Bakrie Telecom.
“He was the first to introduce the concept of tariff packets, such as tariff packets for our young consumers,” she said, adding that the young man was “full of ideas”.
She added that another of his innovative ideas was getting billboard advertisements as well as creating jingles to promote the products of the company, a marketing strategy uncommon among operators in those days but an industry staple today.
Hasnul Suhaimi, the president director of XL Axiata, similarly gave credit to his past colleague’s ingenuity.
He said he was impressed by the launch of simPATi Nusantara, Telkomsel’s revolutionary product which enabled consumers to top up their mobile phone credit with pre-paid vouchers.
“The marketing process was wildly successful, making the product a hit and became the launchpad for Telkomsel in being the number one provider in Indonesia,” he said.
And what does Meijer have to say of his work, after having been in the telecommunication industry for almost two decades?
“I happen to be assiduous and highly motivated, and this helps me perform anywhere,” he commented, adding these have been his traits since his youth.
He says he “stumbled” into the telecommunications industry after securing an internship at KPN Royal Dutch Telecom. The marketing student was soon hired by KPN, where he worked in the international business department.
In the early 1990s, KPN bought shares in the fledgling Telkomsel, among other investments, and sent him to Indonesia to represent them. However, when KPN withdrew ownership from Telkomsel, he stayed behind after being hired by the company.
“The growth in telecommunications is astounding. No day is the same because of the speed of innovation,” he said on why he stuck to telecommunications.
He added that two factors affected decisions by expatriates to stay or leave the country. The first is whether they “could stand living here” and the second was whether “people here could stand” the expatriate.
However, he said he had no trouble fitting in, even pointing out with a laugh that adopting the habit of Indonesians to be late was one of the first things he did.
His childhood plays a role in his ability to adapt. Born in the small town of Veendam, Groningen – populated by roughly 30,000 inhabitants – he always leaned more toward tight-knit societies, like Indonesia.
“It can be said that I’m from the village folk,” he said with a chuckle.
He added that not having English as his native tongue served him well, too.
Given that Dutch was only spoken by a handful of oma-oma [grandmothers] here, he was motivated to learn Bahasa Indonesia after feeling lost in translation during meetings with colleagues.
“The more I could speak Bahasa Indonesia, the more effective I became. I enjoyed things better and this became an incentive for me to stay,” said the man who often banters with journalists in Indonesian.
The command of the language and his need to connect with others, topped by his professional experience, are the factors behind his style of “participative management”.
“My primary focus is to involve more people in developing forceful ideas. Only once this is done would I make a decision, which I hope to be on the mark,” he said.
He added that he preferred conducting one-on-one discussions with each team member to overcome tendency for Indonesians to build consensus or maintaining ‘asal bapak senang [as long as the leader is happy]’ culture during group meetings.
“I can change my opinions as well if someone presents a strong argument backed by solid information. That’s how mutual trust is established,” he continued.
And what does the BlackBerry, iPad, iPod and Kindle owner do once work is done and the weekend has arrived?
“I make it a priority to catch nine to eleven hours of sleep because if I don’t do so after several consecutive hectic weeks, I’ll definitely fall ill,” the fan of novelists Jeff Archer and Frederick Foresight said.
Next on the list would be bonding with his family – his son, Eddy Malik, and wife, Maudy Koesnaedi, who is a noted actress and model.
“My son is just five years old, and the give and take with him is amazing. He is both my source of relaxation and my energy booster,” he remarked.
Place and date of birth: Groningen, the Netherlands Sept. 6, 1970
Education: International Business School, Groningen, the Netherlands; international marketing, Middlesex Polytechnic