Located about three hours drive from Jakarta, Cirebon is an intriguing destination for citizens of Indonesia's capital and its surrounding areas. This has had an impact on the activities of the city situated on the northern coast of Java.
In addition to culinary tourism, tourists also come to Cirebon to hunt for batik. The city's batik center in the area of Trusmi always bustles with visitors, especially on weekends. A thick snarl of passing vehicles and rows of the signboards of batik shops give Trusmi a truly distinct character.
The increasing number of batik craftsmen and shops in the Trusmi area mean that the people involved in the industry inevitably have to try and create products that the market demands. Those working in the batik industry also need to continually sharpen and expand their abilities to keep buyers interested.
This is consistent with the activities of BTPN as a bank which is focused on serving the lower-income segment, including pensioners, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as productive poor communities (mass market). BTPN believes that mass market customers not only require financial access, but also training and guidance to enhance their capacities.
Training and guidance aimed at enhancing the capacities of BTPN customers are provided through the Daya program, a measured and sustainable mass market empowerment program. The three pillars of Daya are Daya Sehat Sejahtera (DSS) or Daya Health and Wellness, Daya Tumbuh Usaha (DTU) or Daya Entrepreneurial Capacity Building, and Daya Tumbuh Komunitas (DTK) or Daya Community Empowerment.
As part of the DTK program, BTPN has supported the development of the rattan and batik handicraft communities in Cirebon. The women who build these communities have been taught a number of skills to improve their capabilities, including technical skills related to production, skills related to financial management and marketing, as well as ways of looking after their health.
At the end of July 2016, BTPN President Commissioner Mari Elka Pangestu and BTPN Director Anika Faisal visited the batik kiosks jointly managed by the DTK development community. Prior to joining this community, the batik makers here were merely laborers working to the orders of other people at a minimum wage. “The coloring process takes three times, ma'am, so of course the price has to reflect the process involved in making it,” said Hanifah, one of the community members, to the visiting group from BTPN's headquarters.
Hanifah and all other members of the community are now not only able to produce fine batik tulis, but also sell their work directly to buyers. What's more, they also have great self-confidence and are adept at offering their wares to potential buyers.
“These batik fabrics will be even more appealing to buyers if there is a story associated with the motif and the craft behind its production,” suggested Mari Elka while spreading out a stretch of brown fabric with a royal palace-inspired motif. The former trade minister and tourism and creative economy minister was happy to pass on some practical advice and tips to members of the community.
The spirit of empowerment forms an integral part of the character of Iman Priyanto, a BTPN Mitra Usaha Rakyat (MUR) customer who also owns the Batik Ayunda brand. In his neighborhood, Iman often teaches the local ladies how to create and produce their own batik designs. He is also frequently visited by university or vocational school students who are eager to learn the batik process. “I feel a responsibility to teach batik to the younger generation to ensure that the tradition continues,” he said.
Since starting his business in 1995, Iman has always been convinced that the knowledge and expertise he possesses will be far more beneficial if it is passed on to others. As such, he has never hesitated to share his knowledge with his employees just in case they decide to open their own business.
That afternoon, on Monday, July 25 2016, Iman shared his experience and provided a range of tips to fellow BTPN MUR customers from Trusmi, the neighboring area of Plered and other nearby areas. He spoke about the ups and downs, and the journey of being a batik producer to the participants who, like him, are working in the batik industry albeit on a smaller scale. Among the tips he gave were the importance of understanding market tastes and trying new things. Even at Batik Ayunda, he explained, he is always trying new things in his batik production, such as wax printed batik, embossed batik and and other creative innovations.
“Creativity is a form of capital that never runs out. The amazing creativity on display here will also ensure that batik not only retains a special place in the hearts of the people of Indonesia, but also showcases the beauty of our country's crafts to the world,” said Mari Elka who spent the afternoon mingling and chatting with customers. She also asked all the customers in attendance to continue honing their abilities, to pay attention to current trends and, most importantly, to never give up.
The development of the Cirebon batik industry cannot be seen in isolation. It is being driven by the spirit of the people involved in it, and is being supported by the increased access to finance and to markets that these people are enjoying. We are seeking to preserve this remarkable spirit by empowering the area's talented batik craftsmen. “What you, ladies and gentlemen, are doing is very important. It's important for your own family, important for Cirebon and also important for Indonesia as a whole,” Anika Faisal told the participants in wrappping up the day's event.