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On the road... and waiting

A research analyst visits 15 Indonesian companies in three days and braves standstill Jakarta traffic.

Top: Roz Hongsaranagon tours an S&R store, which is a Costco-type store in Southeast Asia, with portfolio manager Jonathan Knowles. Bottom (from left): A Jakarta traffic jam, and a sale at Matahari Department Store.

Roz Hongsaranagon is a research analyst who evaluates small- and mid-cap companies in Asia for potential investments. In order for Roz to meet with 15 companies in three days during her recent trip to Jakarta – a metropolitan area populated by 28 million people but without a rapid transit system – she had to withstand some of the world’s worst traffic.

One ambitious day began at 7 a.m. at a hotel breakfast meeting with the executives of a mobile phone distributor. She then drove to see an auto distributor at their headquarters, followed by a visit to a hospital, where Roz toured operation rooms and surveyed medical equipment. At lunch, Roz ate with the 80-year-old founder of Kalbe Group – a family-owned pharmaceutical company of six siblings who, remarkably, seem to get along.

Her day ended with a late meeting with the fourth richest man in Indonesia, whose family owns Indofood and who only has meetings in the evening because he starts his day at 6 p.m. and works through the night. “When you meet with someone at that level, it’s not as much about the details but more about the big picture strategy,” says Roz.

Perhaps the most taxing part of her day was the seven hours spent in the car getting from one place to another, which she used to catch up with emails and calls.

Roz’s most interesting visit was when she went to Lippo Village Mall and Matahari Department Store, a 100-store chain that Roz describes as the “Macy’s of Indonesia.” Their competitors don’t have air conditioning, which is a major competitive disadvantage. Catering to the Indonesian working class, Matahari sells jeans for around $5 to $7 USD, so the stores are crowded.

“Their stores have a lot of similarities to western countries. People love bargains there. But people everywhere in the world love bargains,” says Roz. Bargains so good they’re worth braving the traffic.


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