Lius Widjaja was born in Jakarta, Indonesia but raised in Singapore and Malaysia. He later studied his Bachelor Degree in Management and Marketing in Curtin University in Australia. His intensive education abroad allowed Lius to acquire proficiency in English and Mandarin, simultaneously moulding him as a person to become a very independent, resilient and resourceful. After graduation, Lius worked in Banking and Coal-Mining and led a very healthy and active lifestyle, often engaging in extreme sports. He eventually co-founded Quintenssentially with his partners.
Lius is here with the Asian Entrepreneur today to talk to us about his venture and experiences.
What is Quintessentially all about?
Quintessentially Lifestyle is all about time, access, and VIP treatment. As the world’s economies grow stronger, people’s lives are improving as a result but at the same time they invest a lot more time in their businesses or work life.
This leaves them less time to do non-work related things like planning a birthday party for a dear friend, looking for a reliable nurse or maid, or when traveling abroad, arranging Visas-on-arrival, VIP fast track services at the airport, car and driver rentals, checking hotel rates and booking, hiring an interpreter or translator, booking a table at the best restaurant in town, planning for you a private guided tour of the destination, and even helping you find a phone or passport that you left in a taxi by working with the local authorities and related parties.
These things all consume time and we can’t possibly bring our PAs with us wherever we go – most don’t work 24 hours a day, speak 10 different languages, or understand luxury. Plus most of our Members don’t want their PAs to know about what they like to do in their free time; a reason people sign up for our services is because they are not comfortable letting their PAs know what they are planning to do for their next holiday, if they are not already too busy helping out with work-related matters. Members outsource their lifestyle requests to us, effectively making us their lifestyle PA. This means that we can also help their companies with all sorts of arrangements for their visiting VIP guests and investors, from accommodation, to restaurant bookings, to nightlife entertainment.
Quintessentially also provides access to the world’s most exclusive events – think VIP tickets to the Oscar’s, seats at the amFAR charity gala in Cannes, VIP tickets to a UEFA Champions League final, tables at Amber Lounge Grand Prix parties, tickets to the Paris, London, Milan, New York, Berlin Fashion Weeks, red carpet film premieres, etc.
We also work with luxury partners worldwide to provide our Members VIP treatment, as well as exclusive benefits and privileges. As a Quintessentially Member you get preferential treatment at partner establishments such as hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, beauty and spa salons, etc. Examples of benefits include complimentary food items, personalised welcome greeting by the top manager, free spa sessions, discounts, priority reservations, just to name a few.
What led you to establish Quintessentially Indonesia?
Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. It has a vast HNWI population that are mostly based in the major cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, Medan, Surabaya. The wealthy here are powerful and are used to maids, drivers, nurses catering to their every want and need. While some of them have connections, or ‘fixers’ everywhere in the country to make their lives relatively easy, the newly wealthy may not. In either case, both groups have limited contacts abroad to help make their lives easier.
Quintessentially Lifestyle, with our global network of close to 70 offices around the world, aims to be their fixers wherever they go in the world, and this is something our Members’ PAs struggle with.
So, for example, the wealthy here usually send their children and loved ones abroad for education and medical assistance – we can help with both. We can leverage our sister offices abroad to help organise the hiring of nurses, tuition teachers, guardians, research or recommendations for schools or universities, applications into those institutions, and provide support for any medical trips. One of the most common requests our Southeast Asian offices help our Members with is personal shopping of rare or limited items from abroad. These items include luxury items such as Hermes handbags, limited edition Patek Philippe watches, or the newest and hottest selling electronic gadgets that won’t officially be in Indonesia until months after release.
Indonesia’s wealthy have acquired a taste of luxury, and so there is a demand for these kinds of services. Our Members can look forward to not only save precious time with our services but also help them get the most value out of their hard-earned money.
So was there a lot of demand for your services in Indonesia initially?
There was and there remains to be significant demand for our services. Even now we are responding to inquiries from corporations who would like us to serve as a behind-the-scenes concierge support for their VIP guests, clients, institutional investors, and a few are even interested in bundling our Membership packages with their products and services.
The nature of the business also means that our team will be working with restaurant owners, top bank execs, luxury hoteliers, travel providers, airlines, etc, eventually entering into mutually beneficial relationships and personal-level friendships with them. This has allowed us to build a very strong, yet still growing network within the country. We regularly do favours for our friends and they reciprocate in turn, and this has worked wonders for all parties involved. So apart from earning a bit of money, we get to make friends in high places.
How was the reception at the start?
Almost everyone we spoke to has been saying that they’ve never heard of this kind of service offering before. A few have heard of us from their previous time abroad. Yet another few people have even told us they thought of introducing this exact kind of service into the market but never had the opportunity to set up. It’s a completely new concept in Indonesia and we hope it gains traction quickly with the help of our media partners.
So what was the main means of marketing it at the beginning?
We do more PR than marketing, as we don’t really put ourselves out there as we are targeting a very niche market. So what we have been doing is we work with our media partners, who have the same target demographics as us, for example Tatler, Tatler Traveller, Prestige, Millionaire Asia, DestinAsian, to spread the word with press releases, conferences, treat them to “A Day as a Quintessentially Member” to let them experience what it feels like to be a Member. In return they not only write about us but they also describe in detail how someone might find our services useful. We do have a Facebook page but we are not getting as many followers as we’d like. We have seen the gradual declining popularity of FB so it’s not something we are not focused on. In the near future we’d like to be active on Twitter as well as Instagram.
We also plan to hold or sponsor events that our target market are likely to go to. We also work with local celebrities, business leaders, socialites, etc to further promote Quintessentially. We pick a few of them to be our ambassadors, who we gift Memberships. These people have many followers and they help spread the word by attending and inviting their friends to our events as well as promoting the service.
Would you say there are a lot of competition in your field?
Not a lot of competition. Our closest ones are complimentary concierge services from banks such as American Express and a few big local banks.
What has been your response to competition?
Our bank competitors’ concierge services do not have a global reach like we do. Local banks outsource their concierge services to local firms who only specialise in Indonesia. AmEx’s concierge division only has 2 hub offices in Asia Pacific, Hong Kong and Singapore. We have the advantage of being local experts almost everywhere you go in the world.
For them, concierge is an after-thought. This is our main business and we are the specialists.
Our Members get tons of benefits and privileges from over 30,000 luxury sector partners worldwide. No other concierge company can boast such an impressive list of benefits for its members. So we like to flaunt the fact that we have strong relationships with high end restaurants, hotels, clubs, spas and salons, etc that most of our competitors don’t.
Another counter-strategy we like to use is to join forces with them, or get them to be our clients. Throughout the world, and the history of Quintessentially, we have had and still do have major banks as clients. They are wary of our strong presence globally and would like us to help service their clients either from the background or directly by co-branding a concierge service with us, for e.g. “ABC Bank Concierge: powered by Quintessentially”
So how is the luxury hospitality industry in Asia like?
The luxury hospitality industry is at its infancy in developing countries in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, but it is steadily growing as their economies and quality of life improves. More and more people have increased spending power, especially in major cities such as Jakarta.
Middle-upper class to high end restaurants are opening up every other day and these restaurants tend to be always crowded. They are filled with people who are fashionable, people who want to see and or be seen. More luxury retailers are setting up shop in the city’s high end malls. More malls continue to pop up and almost all are swarmed during the weekends.
4 and 5 star hotels are almost always fully booked even during the low seasons because we have so many foreign investors or guests flying in for business trips. There are close to 8 million cars that drive around in Jakarta and about a thousand cars are added daily to the capitol’s streets. If you visit Jakarta, you can see that a significant portion of these cars are middle-upper to luxury class.
The country is growing economically at, some would say, an uncontrollable rate, which is one of the main reasons Jakarta is plagued with horrendous traffic all day long and almost everywhere. But this is also a sign that people now have a lot more money to spend, and that there is a bright future for luxury sector establishments, if they play their cards right.
How have you managed to start relevant in this industry?
Because there is a growing number of HNWIs in Jakarta, we have to be actively and constantly educating our target market through aggressive PR strategies. It is advisable to be good friends with the media as, if any one party can spread the word on how to properly use our concierge service, it is them, since as I’ve mentioned before, the concept is still very new and unfamiliar. The more they realise that we can help out with pretty much anything related to their lifestyles, the more interest we can generate.
Another way of staying relevant is working with corporations who have their own list of VIP clients or investors to look after. These corporate clients will always have people who they have to look after and they can outsource that to us. Serving these VIPs proactively at a personal level, providing relevant promotions/tickets/information related to their interests, paying absolute attention to detail their likes and dislikes, basically becoming their best friends, all play a part in ensuring our Members and clients keep using our services
I cannot stress the importance of educating our target market about how any concierge service ,ours or a competitor’s, can improve their lifestyles. If we get this right, we can look forward to being relevant in our target demographics’ minds for many years to come.
If you could start all over again, would you do anything differently?
I would have done our soft launch event totally different. I was not involved as much I should with the planning of our soft launch. Personally, I didn’t like it as it was more of a chaotic, noisy clubbing event, rather than a controlled feed of information of who we are, what we do, and how we can help our Members in a quieter environment with guests who are paying attention. We also hired a local celebrity singer who failed miserably to capture our guests’ attention. What a monumental waste of money!
Overall the soft launch did not generate the impact we desired, marketing and PR wise.
What are your future plans for the development of Quintessentially Indonesia?
We started as a very small team and would like to hire specialist staff particularly in the fields of PR and Corporate Sales as we steadily grow bigger with each Membership and corporate deal signing. Eventually we will have to hire more operations staff to take care of our corporate clients who may purchase hundreds of Memberships in bulk. There will be a huge spike in activity in the office whenever we sign these deals.
We are looking forward to working with luxury property developers in Jakarta as there is not yet a single luxury apartment or housing complex with a VIP concierge booth set up to service their wealthy tenants/clients. The prospect of managing an off-site concierge booth with professionally trained staff manning it is going to be exciting and challenging.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to see myself taking advantage of my built up network of contacts by setting up more businesses with at least a few of them in the luxury sector. Countries like Indonesia can only grow stronger economically so I’d like to think it’d be a great idea to stay put and earn some money. I’d like to see myself contributing more to charity, giving back to the community, particularly in the areas of education, science, and technology. Perhaps then I will also have more opportunities to travel around the world for either business or leisure or even both at the same time.
What are some important lessons you’ve learnt pursuing Quintessentially Indonesia?
Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, whether from your mentors or friends or business associates. Always cultivate a healthy curiosity, and never turn down the opportunity to learn from your betters. Being humble and asking for advice when you need it is the first step towards being independent and successful. I was lucky to have great mentors and friends who are always ready to advise me. These kinds of people only impart their wisdom to people who listen, so keep the ratio of listening to talking 2 to 1 , the same ratio as the number of ears to the number of mouths we each have.
What is your own definition of success?
Half of my definition of success is not being stagnant. This will hopefully allow me to earn enough money to, one, lead a more than decent life for myself and loved ones, and two, so I can significantly give back to the community to help improve the lives of people around us who are less fortunate.
The remaining half of my definition of being successful is the presence of great friends around you. They make life so much more richer when you get to share with them a common interest, such as sports or culinary. It’s hard to live a life without any enemies but you can significantly improve your chances by simply being polite and appreciative to those around you, especially your colleagues and business associates.
What do you think is the most important thing that entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Never be satisfied – keep going hungry, as complacency can lead to stagnancy, and stagnancy will eventually lead to gradual decline. Listen, and always be a critical thinker. Plan, and implement. Value and retain your best human resources as they are the ones who drive your start-up forward. Don’t be hesitant, but cautiously aggressive. And finally, reward yourself with a break from time to time to prevent burn out.
Any parting words of wisdom?
While we all recognise the importance of earning a living, don’t forget that your health is priority. Cultivate a healthy lifestyle, as well as cherish your ties with your loved ones as they are your emotional and mental pillars. Make the time and effort for your friends and get to know your business partners better, earn their trust, and never betray them. These people are the backbones of every successful entrepreneur and they will in turn push you forward towards a fulfilling and successful life.
Connect with Lius and Quintessentially Indonesia today
Email: [email protected]