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The Bitterness in Selling VCO

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Eight months ago a cold wind breeze penetrating J. Kuncoro's jacket who went early in the morning. Carrying a bag full of the specialty of virgin coconut oil (VCO) brochure. Kuncoro visited every newspaper stand in Cawang and Kalibata, Jakarta, ridding his loyal motorcycle. There, he inserted a VCO brochure inside morning newspaper pages.

 

The brochures he printed on his own were his path to get into VCO market. After spreading out the brochures, the husband of Susiawantari must come home in a hurry waiting for newspaper readers who might respond the brochure though a phone call. Although it was unpredictable, in one day there were 1-2 readers on the average called Kuncoro. ‘They called more to ask wether coconut oil can cure various illness.’ remembered the man who is now the largest VCO distributor in Jakarta. Whatever the readers' respond, he would be delightful to explain the specialty of VCO as if a company public relation.

Free Gift

Marketing a new product which is still unfamiliar needs a lot of patient. ‘During the first 2 months I explained the benefit of VCO until I was exhausted,’ said Patria Ragiatno who has marketed VCO since June 2004. Even that had not convinced the buyer candidates yet.

The path of the senior officer of PT Patria Wiyata Vico in Gudeg City (Yogjakarta) was easier after he had advertised in various national media. Moreover, it was supported by articles publication about the benefit of VCO which was written by Dr Bambang Setiadji, a VCO researcher from Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta. ‘There has been a market and the last thing to do is only to convince people that this product is very positive,’ informed the man who was born in March 11, 1996.

Andi Nur Alam Syah in Bogor implemented a different tactic to create VCO market. He knew that virgin oil - the nickname in Malaysia - had not been known well, thus this staff of Balai Besar Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pascapanen Pertanian in Bogor then gave away hundreds of bottles VCO 100-250ml. Every visitor in the agriculture exhibition booth at Semanggi Expo Medio back in 2004 was given free VCO.

‘We took the moment because the Minister of Agriclture was there so that it attracted wider participant. However, beyond that we also gave away free sample to people who came to the office,’ exclaimed Master of Chemical ITB. The promotion program lasted 3 months. During that period, around 200 liters virgin oil made in Cianjur were given away for free.

Participating in training

The obstacle to penetrate the market also forced Sri Maryani Santoso to think smart in making cooperation. After the first 8 months she could only sell 15 liters oil per 2 weeks, she finally cooperated with a medical officer in one of well-know hospitals in Surabaya. ‘He helped me to market it because his profession is reliable,’ said the production manager of PT Kinarya Cipta Mitra in Malang. The effect is the demand increasing up to 50%. Two months ago Sri Maryani was able to sell 120 liters per week.

Participating in VCO training which are many nowadays is done by Sarjono to reach the market. Moreover he was promised that all the manufacturing products would be taken by the tutor. Although they were indeed patched in January-March 2005, the next manufacturing products were rejected because the tutor was facing a problem. Sarjono must go to and fro to offer a partnership and so the offer was accepted. One of the manufactures in Yogyakarta asked him to be a supplier but first they wanted him to join VCO training again to increase the quality standard.

Another player who targets export market is also confused. Asep Syaefudin, for example,   still cannot fulfil demand for 140,000 tons per year from Kanada because of licence issue. ‘They are asking for a letter which explain that the products sold are organic.’ stated this senior officer of PT Selaras Agro Lestari in South Jakarta. The organic certification is actually can be obtained through a private institution which has the authorization to issue a certificate. Unfortunately, Asep has not done so.

The same thing also happened to PT Patria Wiyata Vico when they tried to supply the consumers in Europe, United States, Singapore, and Japan. ‘The Organic Certification must be available,’ said Patrio Ragiatno. Although the certificate has been obtained, the goods which are delivered cannot be received in an instant. Export to Singapore, for example, is not as smooth as free way. Twice shipments were rejected because the soluble acid level was less than 50%, the oil colour was impure, and a little bit smelled rancid. After the quality being improved, the third shipment to that country was successful.

Material

Marketing is not always the only obstacle. Another obstacle is also occured in the manufacturing process. Ani Setyopratiwi, in the beginning, can manufacture 20 liters oil per day because she used fine filter paper. This chemical lecturer in UGM then modified it by adding vacuum pump. ‘The pump has sipping function so that the oil is forced to come out faster than through filter paper,’ she said. It is proven that after using that modification, she can manufacture up to 40 liters per day.

The careless comparison rate of provoking oil will cause trouble. ‘There are tricky plasms, and after being advised if such case ever happen again, then the goods will be rejected,’ said Patria. A straight quality control is indeed being implemented in order to fulfil export standard of lauric acid. The material source control is also a must so that the event Ani experienced when she was researching with her students never happen again. All this long the materials which were supplied were often mixed with the coconut grains. The effect is the manufacturing process often fails. ‘Therefore, in the beginning I always select the coconut myself in order not to be tricked again,’ said Ani. (Dian Adijaya S/ Reporter(s): Rosy NA, Sardi Duryatmo, Lastioro Anmi Tambunan)