It is not easy for Indonesian products to resist the prestige of foreign brands in terms of luxury purchases. But not when it comes to handcrafted goods, according to Warwick Purser.
“The world has been giving Indonesian artists much more deserved credit for their shining works than hitherto,” Warwick says, pointing one of his acclaimed collections of Putu Sutawijaya’s paintings.
Into Indonesian contemporary art, Warwick has quite a few of Putu’s masterpieces in his art collections. Unlike many of those buying paintings as an investment, Warwick further says that his interest in Indonesian art and culture is what motivated him to collect the shining works such as those of Putu. “I don’t buy art collections for their investment value. I have bought mine simply because I really love them and admire the artists.”
Showing his cozy apartment in a Jakarta’s prime area, which is surrounded by Indonesian art objects, one can sense that the Australian Warwick’s passion for Indonesia has long blended with his soul.
Born and raised in Sydney Australia, Warwick has spent 25 years of living in the archipelago altogether. First visited Indonesia during his honeymoon on Bali Island in 1969, Warwick admits that he found the island of gods an escape to living in an exotic world. He was on his way to England that he had to cancel his flight and instead made Bali his permanent home.
His love for Indonesia is undoubtedly seeds that implant him a sense of belonging to living in the country’s unity in diversity. Despite maintaining a strong sense of being Australian, being Indonesian, to Warwick, is a destiny. He in 2007 gained Indonesian citizenship by a presidential decree.
In the onset of his years of staying on the island, Warwick set up Pacto Tour, the Indonesia’s then largest travel company. Due to the predicament where the government stopped allowing foreigners to own companies related to the tourism industry, Warwick left Indonesia for a stint as the director general of tourism in Vanuatu, Thailand. His stay in Thailand what actually led Warwick to embark on a venture that later would penetrate Indonesian handcrafts to the world’s market.
Having main incumbency to promote tourism and local handcrafts in Vanuatu, Warwick realized the potential of Indonesia as the country with abundant natural resources.
His dream eventually reached fruition as he in 1995 established “Out of Asia,” the Indonesia’s largest exporter of handcrafted products. Thousands of various goods produced by Out of Asia, ranging from bamboo boxes to woven pandanus objects and wooden furniture items, are staggeringly displayed at a myriad of the world’s upscale stores and boutiques such as Harrods, Macy’s, Liberty, Marks & Spencer, Polo Ralph Lauren, to name a few.
While sipping a cup of Kopi Tubruk, an Indonesian coffee style, Warwick recalls his philosophy that has smoothly facilitated Out of Asia to hit the road of success. “It’s a reflection of a simple sentence, Sharing Your Fortune.”
Prior to setting up Out of Asia’s manufacture in Tembe, a village near Yogyakarta, Warwick witnessed the village’s poor infrastructure and high unemployment rate. Most of the villagers possess skills that can contribute to the art making, but there’s no opportunity for them. “So, my objective was to create a job to these people. Now, the majority of the 800 villagers are involved with my handcraft business,” he says.
In addition to paying the villagers above-average wages, Warwick has established a foundation that benefit to the local. The presence of his foundation has led to the creation of a health clinic, a gamelan school and sports center. This not to mention other benefits his company pays to its employees and their families such as school allowance for their children.
Warwick’s Out of Asia is a pride in a way that prosperity has not only brought social stability in Tembe, but also national pride. “Thousands of products being produced by locals are now in mass market chains in North America and Europe,” he remarks.
Maintaining a balance
Commuting Jakarta and Yogyakarta has become his routine in running Out of Asia, but the get-up-and-go Warwick doesn’t stop there. Notwithstanding the great success he has gained with Out of Asia, Warwick is currently expanding his new venture, Warwick Purser Lifestyle.
Selling and distributing housewares and furniture items to department stores and boutiques throughout Asia, Warwick Purser Lifestyle is another business destination that will surely fill his daily agenda to the brim.
For a determined businessman like Warwick, an appreciation of working hard and smart should include time management. Not only is good time management a key to running a business efficiently, but also maintaining a balance between work and leisure.
In spite of his busy schedule, Warwick is one of those appreciating the art of living. The globe-trotter who likes to explore his culinary journey in food and wine, Warwick enjoys eating good Asian cuisines. “I’m an Asian food aficionado. The food is tasty and healthy. I prefer Chinese main course to steak. Not that I don’t like western food, but I just don’t eat heavy western food. I don’t eat potatoes, as a matter of fact. But I love dessert.”
As for wine, Warwick loves Australian Shiraz. “I like red wine best when it comes to alcoholic beverage, though I once in a while drink cocktail.”
Always get up at four in the morning, Warwick believes the importance of living a healthy life. Working out has long become part of his daily activity. The tall athletic build man regularly walks for up to 10 km with dumbbells before taking a 45-minute swim. “It sounds crazy to some people, as I have to spend more than two hours of exercise before gearing up for regular daily routines. But I have been doing it for years.”
To Warwick, nothing is infeasible. Any hidden potential can be unearthed. Just like written in his book, Made in Indonesia, “These people, who live by the traditions of many diverse indigenous cultures, possess that most special and often overlooked resource – the ability to make beautiful objects with their hands.”
By Aulia R. Sungkar, published in the 5th edition of PMR Magazine S’pore, September 2009.