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Interview

Berte Simons – Head of Business Unit Asia Pacific, Royal HaskoningDHV, Indonesia

The Head of the Asia Pacific Business Unit at Royal HaskoningDHV Indonesia explains how the right balance between expatriates and local workforce is one of the key success factors in Indonesia. Furthermore she discusses her ambitions for Indonesia and the region and the role Indonesia is expected to play in the future development of their operations.  

What has changed since the merger of Royal Haskoning and DHV in 2012?

After the successful merger of Royal Haskoning and DHV in 2012, we have vigorously focused on integration and simplification of our internal structure in order to fully utilize synergies. We’re a ‘People’s Business’ and although our strategy in terms of growth and market penetration hasn’t changed, it was crucial that we adjusted our structure and processes to the needs of our clients and markets. Simplification reached beyond simplifying our organizational chart – it also meant reducing the number of decision makers and stakeholders at the table so as to ease the process of decision making as a whole. We implemented regional management which acts as a governance board, guiding the individual countries within the region whilst we kept our line reporting tailored to independent markets on a global scale. This allows us to work more practically as we engage with relevant personnel within the same time zone and provides enhanced proximity to clients as they tend to have a regional structure implemented as well.

You’ve been recently promoted to Head of the Asia Pacific Business Unit? What is your ambition for the region and what role does Indonesia play in the future of Royal HaskoningDHV in Indonesia?

Royal HaskoningDHV has been active in the Asia Pacific region for more than forty years now and my ambition is to further steady our position as a dominant player in the regional industry. It is great to get the chance to realize the synergies between the countries and utilize these to achieve our common goals. The three major economies which build the pillars of our region are Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, of which the latter serves as hub for the region.

Historically, Indonesia is the most diversified economy in the region and as the fourth most populous country on the planet offers a rich talent pool to which we can tap into. In Jakarta we have the largest workforce in the region and thus it was the natural choice to utilize our offices here as a regional hub and also position our corporate support groups here.

In Indonesia we have a particular strong portfolio in our heavy industry and maritime and waterways business lines and I foresee strong growth potential in complex buildings such as data centres and renewable energy.

Where do you identify potential infrastructure projects in the oil and gas industry?

I believe oil and gas infrastructure projects will be commencing in the downstream sector as well as certain projects surrounding refineries, hopefully. However, given the low commodity price I am rather pessimistic that these investments will come in the short-term future as economic feasibility is not necessarily a given. It is hard to predict the scope of retail infrastructure developments within the oil and gas value chain, as I am convinced that it is unlikely that an economy majorly involved in the hydrocarbon industry will be able to invest the needed sums alone at this moment. A gas network similar to the established gas network in parts of Europe, for instance, is rather costly given the vast size of Indonesia.

It is true that Indonesia offers great potential for offshore oil and gas projects. As an engineering consultancy, we are aware of these potential projects and we carefully evaluate each opportunity. We are however hesitant to invest highly here, as the competition is fierce and the market is quite saturated with specialized contractors. However, in the long-run, I do identify infrastructure developments in the downstream segment within Indonesia, so we will continue to monitor developments and keep close contact with our clients.

What do you identify as specific challenges in Indonesia?

A special challenge is recruiting the right people; there are well qualified and skilled professionals, however the schooling system’s emphasis on conceptual thinking is relatively low in comparison to other hubs around the world, which create certain cultural challenges that have to be considered when starting a project.  As a company, that requires a lot of flexibility to ensure added value internally and externally.

How do you address this challenge?

When I began working for Royal HaskoningDHV in Indonesia, we had just come out of the merger and had to find the right balance of local and international senior leaders in the company. We do have an ongoing evaluation on how many expatriates should be involved in our operations. The right balance is key for success. The right balance means that expatriates are now the minority in the senior management of the company, yet that our teams are always a combination of Indonesian and international staff. This philosophy is embedded throughout our affiliate here in Indonesia – I run the company together with my Indonesian counterpart. In this way, we remain an international company with local management, which I believe to be a very healthy balance. We involve all of our employees in diverse ways of working and thinking thus enhancing all with know-how and ‘how-to’ experience.

You have many projects located in different parts of the archipelago, some of which are hours of plane flights away. Have you considered opening branch offices elsewhere in Indonesia?

We are currently focused on the non-Java areas in terms of ongoing projects and visit the sites regularly. Nonetheless, the epicentre of decision making is still Jakarta and our main clients, the top five Indonesian conglomerates, have their head offices here. Although we help developing infrastructure all across the archipelago, and although some projects provide less physical proximity than others, Jakarta is the natural and best choice as our location.

In a nutshell, why is Royal HaskoningDHV the ‘go-to’ partner for infrastructure development projects in Indonesia?

The ability to deliver successful projects that fulfil all aspirations of our clients requires experience in Indonesia and understanding of the diverse business climate – we excel in both. With over forty years of experience in Indonesia, we are likely to be the most experienced engineering consultancy in this country; in those forty years we have seen everything, encountered and overcome every country-specific challenge and are thus positioned as the ‘go-to’ partner in our industries.

Engineering projects require a very high level of quality and health and safety. How do you ensure that these two dimensions are held to the highest international standards in Indonesia?

Quality is embedded in the way we work in our teams and ensured through ongoing personal development of our staff. Health and Safety is of upmost significance to us! Before we accept a project we always consider client, condition and purpose of the project and assess if we as company want to be associated with the specifics of the project – partly to ensure that health and safety of all stakeholders involved is ensured. Moreover we implemented our own health and safety team which is ISO certified and are on all of our sites ensuring safety is held to international standards.

With over forty years’ experience in Indonesia, what are the key success factors for business here?

We have the best workforce in the country; a combination of excellent Indonesian expert staff and the right expatriates which is a major reason for our success. We are able to provide tailored local solutions, incorporating global knowledge. We have also been very fortunate in finding and collaborating with the right partners, and some are now on our board of directors. Moreover, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the specific conditions in Indonesia and to adjust your operations accordingly to achieve the right societal embedment. The combination of the aforementioned factors has led to our tremendous success in Indonesia and our growth from 40 to approximately 350 employees.

The slogan of Royal HaskoningDHV is ‘Enhancing society together’. How is this implemented in Indonesia?

‘Enhancing society together’: a substantial challenge yet very significant in the way we work and act as a company. We approach each project by answering four questions: does the output meet the requirements of most stakeholders involved? Does the output provide additional added value for the client and society as a whole? Is the result lasting, is it future proof? And can we meet the client’s demand while using a minimum of natural resources and energy? On top of this we have our CSR program in Indonesia which includes, but is not limited to, blood donations and supporting different charitable organizations – all of which are initiatives brought forward by our employees. As a company we have a longstanding commitment to the country; we are best able to help our clients only through growing and innovating through our local staff and actively helping reshape the country through our work.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from Indonesia, and to download the latest free oil and gas report on the country.

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