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Guard of the Nation

Interview - May 7, 2014
Garda Persada, the first company of its kind in Indonesia, is developing and supplying the Indonesian Armed Forces with an array of battery technology needed to power its vehicles, aircraft, radios and ships. In an interview with United World, President Director of the company Ms. Umi Kalsum explains how Garda Persada is supporting Indonesia’s defence revival.
Can you tell us about Garda Persada’s role in supporting Indonesia’s defence  revival?

Garda Persada is an affiliated company of PT Nipress Tbk and the name itself means ‘Guard of the Nation’. The members of our board of directors are as Erry Firmansyah, Jackson Tandiono, Didit Satrio and Richard Tandiono. 
Last year we supplied approximately 500 units to the Navy, 100 units to the Army and 1000 units to the Air Force. Prior to that, The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) were importing all their batteries. We’ve been meeting some of the battery needs of TNI since the Defence Industry Policy Committee (KKIP) set new targets for Indonesia’s military development. 
We support TNI with a variety of battery products. These include lead acid batteries used for automobiles and motorcycles in the following roles: administration vehicles (RANMIN), tactical vehicles (RANTIS) and combat vehicles (RANPUR). We provide gel and sealed lead and acid batteries for an array of hard and soft skin vehicles including: Leopard tanks, Scorpion tanks, AMX medium tanks, Anoa armored personnel carriers and Komodo tactical vehicles. 
We also provide a solar panel rechargeable gel battery for powering independent posts, border posts and providing lighting. For the Indonesian Navy we supply a lead acid battery for use on KRI (Ships of the Republic of Indonesia) navy vessels.
We are also producing batteries for the Indonesian Air Force, and now Hercules aircrafts and helicopters are undergoing trials of our batteries. However vehicles remain our mainstay when it comes to supplying the military. 
Indonesia is one of the few countries who now have a facility dedicated to the production of military batteries. I hope this year we can provide the first of the submarine batteries to Indonesia. 
The demand for, and supply of, our batteries will increase as the existing TNI batteries reach the end of their lifespan. The TNI have provided us with forecasts of their needs and we have plans to supply each service within the TNI. 
How is Garda Persada working to supply batteries for submarines?

Currently, this is one of our major projects. It is critical as 60% of the space in a submarine is dedicated to powering the vessel and that power comes from batteries. Our submarines are Type 209s from Germany and they hold 428 batteries. Each of these cells weighs about 500kg and delivers around 11,500 Ah (ampere-hour). That equals around 252 tons worth of batteries all together. The lifespan of these batteries is more than five years and all together they provide up to one month of submerged activity.
Strategically these batteries are a very important product for the navy. Currently, there are only 4 producers of submarine batteries around the world. There are producers in Germany, Greece, Korea and India. Garda Persada could very well become the 5th company in the world to be doing this.  
Is Garda Persada developing its batteries independently, or is there some international knowledge transfer?

There is a degree of knowledge transfer. We have received know how from the Germans, who created the Type 209 submarines. However, we have developed our own technology but require further knowledge and expertise in order to assemble and integrate the batteries into Indonesia’s submarines. Still, our team is actually quite experienced; our staff altogether have 43 years’ worth of experience in the battery industry, especially the automotive sector. We have exported our automotive batteries to 60 countries around the world but the submarine battery is naturally a more complex product. The life of the submariners will depend on the integrity of our batteries. 
How do you find the right people and the expertise for your research and development of these batteries?

We have a very good human resources department! As I said previously, our team has extensive experience in the battery industry. We have 1,000 personnel in Garda Persada, the majority of which are based at our Cileungsi facility. 
We charge our batteries with predominantly renewable energies. We have a solar panel array at our Cileungsi facility and that provides the initial charge for our military battery units. 
Are you planning to supply other government agencies, such as the National Indonesian Police (POLRI)?

Yes. At the moment we are following the directives of the KKIP because they are after a specific type of battery. I believe the Ministry of Defence is considering the possibility of exporting our military grade batteries in the future. 
What kind of background does your management team have to achieve your ambitious goals? 

We have an experienced management team with a diverse background, which is what is needed to run such a sophisticated operation. Our President Director, Erry Firmansyah, is a prominent figure in the Indonesian capital markets sector. He graduated from Faculty of Economics University of Indonesia in 1981 and began his career as an auditor from 1982 to 1984. This was with the Drs. Hadi Sutanto Accounting Firm which is the Indonesian affiliate of Price Waterhouse Coopers. It is very important to mentioned that he served as CEO of the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) from 1998 to 2009. In addition to his duties at Garda Persada, Mr. Firmansyah also serves as an independent commissioner for numerous companies including PT. Unilever Indonesia Tbk (since 2009), PT. Astra International Tbk (since 2010), and PT. Pefindo (since 2010). 
Our Director, Jackson Tandiono is an entrepreneur with significant experience in the battery and technology sector and he is a director of our affiliated company PT. Nipress Tbk. One of our other commissioners, Richard Tandiono is also an expert on the battery and stored energy business and currently serves as CEO of PT. Nipress Tbk. 
Didit Satrio Handono brings important military knowledge to our company as commissioner. He is a former Director General of Veterans Affairs at Ministry of Defense of The Indonesian Army (TNI). 
As for myself, I have a background in dentistry and am studying law at the moment. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was young though. I do everything with my heart and am a self-confident and very detail oriented person.
Considering this very experienced team of leaders with complimentary experience, I have great hopes for the continued growth of our company and complete faith we can achieve our goals. 
 Where would you like to see Garda Persada in 5 years time? 

Over the last 43 years we have provided 6 million batteries to Indonesians. For the coming years we would like to increase our output of units specifically for TNI. We would like to be producing batteries for base transceiver station (BTS) applications. These can be used for telecommunication operators in Indonesia and for other organizations using radios. The army alone uses a large quantity of communication related batteries every year. 
In order to increase our production capability we are planning to expand our 11,000 square metre Cileungsi facility in 2015. We have 16,000 square metres of space available to us and have blueprints for the construction of facilities dedicated to the production of batteries specifically for military services. That’s part of our homework; working out how many, and what types of, batteries TNI will require in the years to come. Obviously submarines require a very different type of battery when compared to torpedoes.
At Garda Persada we have a plan, we have a roadmap, we have a blueprint and we have a target. That’s how we already have, and others can, manage to achieve success: By setting clear goals and achievable targets.