Text & photo: Aulia R. Sungkar. Originally published in The Jakarta Post.
Leading businessman Timothy Charles Parker uses a flexible management style to maintain his solid team in his luggage and travel wear empire.
‘Finding the right people that can contribute to building a solid team is always the basic step. But for a company with a large district network, like Samsonite, simplification is what we also need to keep the business growing.’
Simplification in his leadership map is cutting out as many unnecessary layers of management as possible. This is done to minimize the gap between top executives and their subordinates.
‘In other words, we will decentralize our decision taking as much as possible. It is far better to leave the decision taking to people who understand and are in any of those particular local markets,’ he asserted.
‘They still need direction from the top, but I want people to inform the overall direction with their own ideas that stem from what they know about their marketplace.’
Adding to his assertion, he said, ‘I’m a great believer in making people as comfortable as possible about arguing against me.’
Flexibility is also what he emphasizes in his leadership approach. He doesn’t find himself irretrievably wedded to a particular decision or strategy. ‘We have a strategy, we know what we want to do, but if something doesn’t work, we will change. That’s my very pragmatic management style.’
On the upbeat
Parker stepped down from this role as CEO of Samsonite International in October but continues to serve as the chairman of the company. Ramesh Dungarmal Tainwala, who has been part of Parker’s leadership for five years, has taken over the CEO role.
‘Samsonite was a privately owned entity when I took over the company. My job at that time was to seek out the company’s strongest foothold and make sure that the private equity owners achieved a good return on their investment, Parker, 59, said during his short visit to Jakarta..
‘The company has done very well, and it was time for me to hand over the CEO role to Ramesh. He’s now responsible for the company’s overall strategic planning and management. I remain as chairman and look forward to something more to contribute.’
His role as chairman is basically leading the company’s leadership board, ensuring that the board functions effectively and acts in the best interests of the company.
The luggage and travel wear brand Samsonite has regions in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, as well as a small team under each regional head.
‘There are six of us on the board, each helming one region. The number of people in our corporate is 20. In general, I have to lead the board, making sure that the company as a whole is run in accordance with good governance,’ he said adding, ‘I’m also there to manage the board to maintain a good relationship with the shareholders, give some advice and ensure the team works together.’
In managing his team, Parker also emphasizes the importance of communication. ‘Especially in difficult situations, the right communication can be the recipe to turn the company around. Listening to the opinions of people working in the company for a long time is definitely a help. But in many cases, I have to pick the right opinions to base my decisions.’
The business has been doing well, Parker said. ‘We have doubled the business in the last five years, and I’m optimistic that we can achieve another twofold increase in our next five-year venture.’
Parker said that Samsonite was currently a US$2.5 billion business, ‘and I’m very confident that that figure can reach $ 5 billion in the next five years. Our business has recorded tremendous gains in almost all countries we have established a presence. Just a little bit behind Malaysia and Singapore, but Indonesia has natural advantage to grow faster. It’s already Southeast Asia’s largest market. I see that there are political issues here, but I believe they are temporary in nature. It doesn’t really distract us or make us worried.’
Parker is delighted with the brand’s local joint-venture partner PT Mitra Adi Perkasa (MAP). The collaboration helped the brand establish a wider market in the archipelago, he said. Currently, there are around 300 points of sale in 16 cities across Indonesia.
‘Our plan is to add one or two more cities every year. The plan is unquestionably doable. My crystal-clear vision is based on the fact that buying power in Indonesia is on the rise.’
Timothy Charles Parker
Date of birth
June 19, 1955
Chairman of Samsonite International since March 2011; previously served as the company’s chief executive officer (Jan.2009-Sept.2014), non-executive chairman (Nov.2008-Jan.2009); and managed various large corporations (1980s-2007).
Master of Arts in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Oxford, UK ( 1977 ) and master’s degree in business studies from London Graduate School of Business Studies, London, UK ( 1981 ).
As I’m in the luggage and travel wear business, travel has become part of my work. British Airways looked at my 20-something year’ flying record, and I found that I have traveled over 2.3 million miles and 309,000 minutes in the air. I also travel for leisure. I like cities a lot. Rome, Paris, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo are among my favorites. Sometimes my wife and I prefer places with a laid-back atmosphere and beautiful landscape, like Bali. We really like the island.
Wherever I travel food is always something that I won’t miss. Sampling local dishes is an interesting experience for getting to know a local culture. I pretty much eat anything, from Western to Mediterranean and Asian fare. I do love Asian food, especially the spicy dishes in the Thai, Indonesian and Indian cuisines.
I’m into art, music and sports. I collect various art objects, from sculptures to paintings. Music is a big part of my life, and I put the classical genre on top of my list. I play flute and Mozart is my favorite classical composer. My other hobbies are jogging and running ‘ a great way of staying fit.