Globetrotter Magazine: So tell us where we are, it looks pretty festive. What’s going on?
Leonard Theosabrata: We’re sitting at the Goods Diner, one of our outlets. It’s been going on for about two years and going pretty well. Today, we’re having our first Thanksgiving dinner, so hopefully it goes right.
Globetrotter Magazine: Tell us a little bit about you and all your various endeavors that you’re involved in.
Leonard Theosabrata: I started out in design as a product designer. I worked for a little bit in the United States as a graphic designer, but I decided to come back to Jakarta because I thought there was a lot of opportunity in Indonesia. Sure enough, everything rolled out pretty quick. I’m not sure if I stayed back in the U.S. that I would have gotten the same opportunities that I have here. It’s always good to be the bigger fish in the small pond.
Globetrotter Magazine: Can you tell us about your furniture brand Accupunto?
Leonard Theosabrata: It all started out when I was in college. For my senior project, I worked together with my dad on this project, and we designed this cushion that interacts with the user, the aerogonics. It actually moves with the user and follows the contour of the user; it’s unique because people always think about the aesthetics of a chair instead of how you actually sit. I think that’s where we somewhat revolutionized that thinking, and we’ve received some awards because of that.
We pay attention to the comfort level that’s proactive in that it moves with you, and it sort of breathes as well, that’s why it’s been revolutionary.
Globetrotter: It seems to be an interesting time to be in Jakarta. Can you tell us about your beloved city of Jakarta?
Leonard Theosabrata: I think Jakarta is an exciting city, because it’s made up of a lot of unique things. Just like Indonesia, Jakarta is actually very rich in history, but you don’t get to see it because of how big of a city it is, and Jakarta is the capital, after all.
It lacks in a lot of places, but it also gives you a lot because it’s lacking in a lot of places. Therefore, you’re actually challenged to make something out of that. For me, this is more interesting than a government-centric country, so that excites and challenges me. From improvising, people don’t get spoiled and learn to do things on their own, so if you come up, it’s because of you and it’s sweeter and much more rewarding that way. Of course, ten years after I’ve been back it’s not as much as before, but still there are still a lot of opportunities. It’s a chaotic city, but it’s beautiful chaos. You can find things that you see in most big cities. At the same time there are things here that you wouldn’t find in other big cities. So that makes it a pretty unique place.
Globetrotter Magazine: Does it look like the Government is cultivating that as well?
Leonard Theosabrata: Well, they are doing some things, and in its early stages, I was involved with the Ministry of Trade in relation to the creative scene, the creative economy and so on. But I think at the end of the day, it’s the will of the people and also their creativity that will sustain what we have, and really, it’s what gave birth to what we have right now. I like to compare us to our neighbors in Thailand in that we sort of share the same vibe or DNA.
But the difference in Thailand was that there was a lot of government backing, and [that helps them] do well, but as soon the government pulls out, there are problems. So in a way, it’s actually good not being so reliant on the government. I always feel that’s the beauty of the Indonesian people, especially people from Jakarta. Lately, there’s been a great mix of foreigners and expats, and it’s creating this new dynamic in Jakarta, which makes it interesting for those of us living here. Knowing that people outside of Jakarta want to come here and are paying attention [to what goes on in Jakarta]—that says a lot.
Globetrotter Magazine: A couple of weeks ago, we saw you at the Brightspot Market.
Leonard Theosabrata: Just like what we discussed earlier, it started because of the situation we had. In reality, there wasn’t really anything interesting when we started it. Then an opportunity came and we took it. But we sort of gave it a new direction. We wanted to bring independent designers, creative people, and musicians in one sort of forum or platform for them to actually be able to showcase their talents to a bigger audience, and it’s really worked out. The growth and success of Brightspot is really what our Goods Department store is right now. Everything sort of multiplied and literally became this cultural phenomenon overnight.
At the end of the day, we do things with passion but there‘s got to be some business aspect thrown into it that is sustainable, and we gave them that platform, but it really should be the government's job to support this. So we’re nurturing and incubating brands that not too long ago were pretty small when they started with us. Now, they’ve grown pretty big and are able to stand on their own feet and have their own boutiques, so we’re happy about that growth because at the same time, we grow too.
Globetrotter Magazine: Sounds great. Now I know it can’t be all rosy, what are your concerns or fears that could threaten the good things going on now or in the future?
Leonard Theosabrata: I feel like there’s still a lack of originality. In any type of emerging scene you have people getting caught up who are like, “Hey I want to do this and I want to do that too” without realizing that they’re not supposed to do that. I mean, that happens everywhere, but it happens more so here than anywhere else I feel. So it’s something that we just have to look after and nurture so that it doesn’t get out of hand. Hopefully, it’s more organic and the scene will eventually mature on its own. It’s going to take some time but we’re still young. But in general, the scene here is attracting all kinds of people, which say a lot about the power, the numbers and growth potential.
Globetrotter Magazine: I also think the people matter. It’s one thing being in a big city. It definitely helps if the people are also hospitable, wouldn’t you say?
Leonard Theosabrata: Yes and I know I might be biased because I’m Indonesian, but I truly believe that out of the whole region of Southeast Asia, we have the best people. We have a very young population that’s going to be in the middle class sector very soon and are very powerful in terms of spending power. Intellectually, a good amount of people speak English, So English proficiency isn’t really a problem here.
Culturally and on a sophistication level, I feel we are the best in Southeast Asia. And its not just a small group, but a lot of groups who all know each other, cross paths and work with each other, so it’s a good scene but it still needs to evolve and sustain. I see the old players still playing which is good but I’d like to see more from the new younger players with fresh Ideas coming up. So I say don’t follow those who’ve been here, just do your own thing. I think in general, for the commerce, business, and creative scenes and even musically, we’re good.
Globetrotter Magazine: : What’s next for you?
Leonard Theosabrata: I’m actually focusing on designing again, starting with more furniture. Honestly, I miss the feeling of just making things with your own hand and getting that reward from making things on your own.
The business grew fast and it sort of became, you know: a business. So I miss that sort of process of creating. We’re still creating, but it’s on a different level that is not as tactile and tangible. And I miss that tangible feel, having something I can touch and give to people who love it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop making products. Products can be anything; I like creating spaces and products, but at the end of the day, it’s just the process of creating that I really enjoy.
For more on Leonard, follow him on Instagram.