A Talk With Eric Santosa

Born 26th November 1968, Eric Santosa, father of two and researcher, has been bridging applied sciences that has taken practical economics to another level. Presently working for a marketing and business consultant firm, the University of Indonesia graduate went from field of academics to entrepreneurship while pursuing a passion for marketing. After returning from Germany, the literary buff started out as an academic lecturer that led him to develop an arts and crafts business in Kemang. Even though his business is soon to be relocated from the area, Eric Santosa shares a lesson or two on living with an added value.

What brought you to Kemang to do business?

Born and raised in South Jakarta, you could say I am an ‘anak Selatan’ to the core. Being a Chinese Indonesian, issues concerning pluralism and unity-in-diversity has always been a deep concern of mine. That was how Kemang came into scene. I also hardly consider myself as a businessman; I’m a scientist at heart.

Does marketing have always been a choice of career of yours?

I got into marketing from friends that happened to be advertising executives. They are looking for a market researcher then offered me the job. I work in marketing ever since.

What is market ethnography exactly, and what does one do as a market ethnographer?

Market ethnography is roughly put a study of market segments through ethnical perspective. When you’re looking at crowds in Kemang for instance, you’re looking at a modernization of ethnic and its cultures. It’s no longer about ethnics in archaic sense. I recommend learning from studies of anthropologists such as Margaret Mead to understand the concept.

In your opinion, what sells in Kemang and what doesn’t?

Anything that offers and facilitates social space. Anything other than that won’t sell.

How does Kemang play a role in terms of accommodating marketing campaigns?

Couple of things to acknowledge about a product: price and value, also how they are distinguishable parts of a product. In Kemang, price transcends into values; the value being offered primarily concerns Kemang as the lieu to interact and commune. Let’s say there’s a brand of bread, famous for its pick-up-order-and-go service. This does not sell in Kemang. Value marketing can be considered an offer of social signifiers, getting the market to inquire what sort of image they seek to project from themselves, and how certain products associate with it.

Having a doctorate degree in philosophy, do you have a theory or paradigm that you live by?

Can’t say I have theories making so much of an impact, it shaped and altered how I identify myself. What I do believe in is to do everything from love, by love, with love. You got nothing to lose from doing deeds out of love.

The most influential philosophers in your life, and why?

I would say Kahlil Gibran and German poet, Herman Hesse. I am very much influenced by Herman Hesse’s literature. From Hesse’s works, I learned that, when you do everything from love, by love, and with love, everything is worthwhile. When you love, you are blessed. To which Hesse said, “[…] love is greater than hate, understanding greater than ire, peace nobler than war, this exactly is what this unholy World War should burn into our memories, more so than ever felt before.”

Either way, literature inspires me more than theories or philosophical discourses.

From being an academia and researcher, how did you then decide to establish an arts and crafts business?

I used to work for a community empowerment center initiated by an academic institution. Then I was acquainted with crafts artisans during travels organized by the center. A number of these crafters requested to usher in their handmade crafts to Jakarta. The business I established in Kemang was initially formed to manage the artisans’ conveyance of goods in Jakarta as reseller, and simultaneously to finance it by working with a network of corporations and communities.

Any advice in doing business and marketing in Kemang?

Advice especially to entrepreneurs in the area: Dare to explore and broaden your horizon, and mind the steeply priced rent.


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