Newsmaker Interview: Nader Nazari

Williams-Sonoma country manager on how Indonesia is furnishing the world

By Karmila Bain
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Williams-Sonoma is one of the United States’ largest e-commerce retailers with some of the best known and most beloved brands in home furnishings. With sales of over $5 billion per year worldwide under brands such as Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, Williams Sonoma Home, Mark and Graham, Cultivate, and Rejuvenation. Williams-Sonoma has over 600 stores in the US alone and multiple countries such Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom; it has franchise holders that operate stores in the Middle East, the Philippines and South Korea and stores and an e-commerce website in Mexico.

AmCham Indonesia sat down with Williams-Sonoma Indonesia Country Manager Nader Nazari, who started living here eight months ago and joined AmCham in early February. Nazari has been working for Williams-Sonoma for four years and was previously Director of Global Operations based in China. He told us how the company is helping Indonesian economic growth.

AmCham Indonesia: Tell us about Williams-Sonoma?

Nader Nazari:Williams-Sonoma Corporation is a US company. The founder, Chuck Williams, was very passionate about cooking. In 1956, after returning from Europe, Williams, who was a carpenter and gourmet home cook, purchased a hardware store in south San Francisco and converted it into a store specializing in French cookware. He was inspired to bring high quality products to the United States and forever changed the way Americans cook.

The first store, Williams-Sonoma, came from his last name and the name of the city of Sonoma, in northern California near San Francisco.

As the company grew, it got involved not only in the kitchen but also with furniture, lighting, textiles, decorative accessories and eventually anything that goes inside your house.

Williams Sonoma designs everything ourself, with hundreds of designers. We generate the specifications and then we give them to different factories to build. We don’t want to just buy things, so these are unique products that the factories cannot sell to just anyone because we design them. Our designers are based in San Francisco and New York, they come up with these great ideas and then we go to different parts of the world and make them into products.

What kind of opportunities do you see in Indonesia and how did you decide to do business here?

As Williams-Sonoma grew into different categories of business, from kitchens to furniture, Indonesia was a place that provided a lot of wood and craftsmanship; Indonesian people make very nice furniture. The availability of resources and expertise in Indonesia attracted us to open an export business in Indonesia.

The unique craftsmanship in Indonesia is that some furniture requires more human interaction rather than the machine just cracking down the logs. More handcrafted activities are involved here, and when resources of wood are available here, it makes it cost effective. 

Indonesia manufactures many of our big stuff, especially for the outside or backyard. In California, where the weather is so nice, everyone spends their time outside. Because the sun is nice, they want to stay outside, so that’s why the furnishings and comforts outside are important for our customers.

Unfortunately, however, our products are not available yet in Indonesia. We don’t interact with customers here, we only export and ship to the US, Australia, Korea, and other countries.

So, our purpose is only export and to create jobs for Indonesia, helping Indonesia businesses but not making money from customers in Indonesia.

The primarily reason we have offices in both Surabaya and Jakarta is because we have many major vendors in both cities. Some have had a close relationship with Williams-Sonoma for many years, before we even opened the office. As we grew, the company decided to open offices in different countries.

We thought it would be difficult to manage them all from Surabaya but we also have vendors in Semarang and Yogya, but no offices. Overall, we have 30 vendors in Indonesia.

We have products that we actually buy from Indonesia, some furniture that has been running for 10 years and people keep buying it. Usually we have new designs and new products come in, but the customers keep ordering these products, so they keep producing.

If you sell your products here in Indonesia, how do you see the potential market? Also, what are the challenges you find while operating in Indonesia?

I am very optimistic that Indonesia’s economic growth will be very robust for the next five years. I went to a shopping mall in Jakarta and I saw nice client products that obviously people will be buying. There is a good customer base for the products, the middle-high class, and I definitely see Indonesia as having potential. 

However, it depends, because we have so many different spectrums of products. The reason people like Williams-Sonoma is because our products are a little bit higher end, high quality and nicer design. That’s why we are more careful to see which market to go to, because it needs to be marketed in affordable areas.  

But we are getting some new countries. Hopefully one day we will open Williams-Sonoma stores in Indonesia.

What are the challenges while operating in Indonesia? In terms of work operations, speed and communication are the biggest challenges besides cultural. In China, the speed of operations is much faster, here, although the people are great, the response is not on the same page. Culture and communication are interrelated so this is an opportunity to improve, to have more efficient and clear communication. Also, the labor rates here are going up very significantly. The annual wage rises are becoming challenging for us, making Indonesia less competitive with other countries.

What are your expectations of joining AmCham?

I am new in this country. My job is to bring more business into Indonesia. While I am still trying to get adjusted to Indonesia, people are very nice but I don’t really like the traffic. I travel a lot and do not much stay in Jakarta. Sometimes I go to Surabaya or back and forth to the regional headquarters in Singapore and my family is in California. So, I don’t know many people.

That brought me to look for some valid and credible information to know what’s going on here. Then I decided to join AmCham Indonesia, perhaps to expand my networking, get exposure to rules and regulations, updates on major issues or crises, so we have some avenue to communicate, and of course to stay informed on business in Indonesia.

Usage of the AmCham Indonesia website states your compliance of our Terms of Use