If Batik Can Transform, Why Shouldn’t Your Company?

If Batik Can Transform, Why Shouldn’t Your Company?

When you think of heritage, you think of a historical and cultural constant, right? However, that’s not always the case. If anything, our most signature cultural inheritance, batik, has benefited greatly from a certain level of flexibility and ability to transform. 

Formerly a form of clothing commissioned by royalty and the elite and kept within their exclusive circles, batik has now evolved to become an item fit to be worn during various occasions by people of all generations. One can argue that the continued popularity of heritage items such as batik, is owed to the efforts of innovative artisans who update the good for the modern-day, resulting in batik not just surviving, but to continuing to be a highly-valued and much-prided part of Indonesian fashion today

This week, our founder and CEO Ripy Mangkoesoebroto became a moderator at the ‘Transformation of Batik’ talk show presented by Amandari Gallery and sponsored by PLN, and we had the pleasure of engaging with batik innovators, who shared their work in updating our beloved cultural heritage for the modern day. First in our line-up of innovators was Nova Suparmanto, CEO of Astoetik, and inventor of an electric version of the stove that batik artisans use to melt the wax they use paint on batik. His invention provided a solution to the issue plaguing batik makers that year, which was a shortage of oil that was traditionally used, increasing in its price. Since the traditional oil method of heating the wax had become costlier, Nova and his team identified the issue for the consumers and moved to create an efficient,  lower-cost solution, bringing about the creation of the electric stove.

Although Nova’s creation removed the costly oil from the batik-making equation and provided an alternative that introduced modern technology to the art of batik, he still met resistance from more traditionally-minded artisans who insisted on preserving the traditional process of batik and argued that using the electric stove would degrade its cultural value. Nova believed that his invention still kept the original value of batik, in that the patterns were still handmade, used the same materials, yet eased burdens on newer and younger artisans. By using his electric stove, artisans were ensured a cheaper and slightly more sustainable way of heating their wax. Additionally, by providing a lower cost and more easily accessible tool, barriers to entry for would-be batik makers have been lowered, allowing more youths to try their hand at batik using tools utilizing today’s technology.

Nova recognized that an improvement was needed in the field of batik making and swiftly moved to create a product to fulfill the need for that improvement. By being genuinely curious and attuned to their needs and how their business can be enhanced, and how new artisans can be empowered with his new tools, the process behind the development of his electric stove showed 3 essential behaviors of an agile culture: customer-centricity, self-direction, and experimentation. Additionally, in transforming one’s existing culture, there are several archetypes that the transformed organization can fall under and target, before conducting the transformation, the most important being that of the Innovation Archetype. The traits of these archetypes were also displayed by fellow batik innovators Uti Raharjo, founder of Amandari Gallery, in her work of showcasing the beauty and ensuring a culture of appreciation for batik spanning three generations in her family, Dwita Herman, who displays her appreciation and openness by combining local influences to create new forms of batik, such as bringing Pekalongan batik to Madura, and taking aesthetics from foreign cultures to bring into batik, such as from Aboriginal and Islamic art, and stained glass church windows. Finally, Amalia Prabowo presented the concept of Batik in the 4th Industrial Revolution, using her advertising experience to market a traditional product to a youthful audience that has a high potential of becoming loyal customers. Our pioneers displayed behaviors from a culture that values Innovation, by producing new thinking to continue keeping on the leading edge, pursuing excellence, agility in keeping on their toes and responding quickly, and learning, to continue to draw benefits and improvement from every experience.

It is important to remember that the most unexpected things can transform for the better. While most of us think of batik as a constant, there are elements of it that have gone through changes to transform it from its original state to how we know of it now. And we owe it all to the innovative batik artisans that we saw this week, and many more like them.

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