Interview with Mr. Ony Hindra Kusuma, Dutch Honorary Consul in Medan

Read our conversation with Mr. Ony Hindra Kusuma on the evolving role of the Honorary Consul’s office in Medan, and his role in connecting the Netherlands and North Sumatra.

©Honorary Consul Medan

Hi Pak Ony, please tell the readers a little bit about yourself, and about the HC office in Medan.

My name is Ony Hindra Kusuma, and I have been the Dutch Honorary Consul in Medan since 2010. I came from the private sector, and I enjoy sharing information, as well as connecting people. I live in Medan with my wife and kids. Some of my kids followed in my footsteps (working in the private sector) and they are also very much internationally-oriented. I hope one of them will explore a possibility to continue their studies in the Netherlands.

The Honorary Consul (HC) office in Medan started as a Dutch Government representative office in Sumatra, which supported Indonesian people traveling to the Netherlands with documents, like visa, and assisted Dutch citizens in Sumatra. This role has been evolving over the years. Currently, our office also focuses on facilitating economic cooperation, in collaboration with the Embassy team in Jakarta. I am supported by my colleague Ervina, who also has been working in our office for 11 years.

How do you see the impact of the current COVID-19 situation in North Sumatra on the local economy?

In North Sumatra, currently positive cases are increasing [1]. Just like in many places, businesses are heavily affected by the situation, everybody is working hard to survive. From my own observation, some industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, show a relatively stable growth despite the pandemic, and were still able to carry out their activities during this pandemic.

This is of course a difficult time for all. On the bright side, I see various parties, such as youth communities, working hand in hand to support North Sumatran MSMEs, for instance by collectively buying their products. I see optimism and hope through these initiatives.

The current situation encourages us to change our approaches, also when connecting business partners between the two countries. The current Dutch virtual trade program on North Sumatra and the upcoming economic mission are examples of a changed approach.

How do you see the collaboration prospects between Dutch and North Sumatran companies, particularly with regard to sustainable business opportunities?

There are plenty of opportunities to discover. A number of Dutch companies have explored trade and investment potential here since a few years back. There are a number of North Sumatran companies which have had sustainability in mind and have applied it in practice for a long time already. I know some companies already use renewable energy like hydro in their operations, also utilizing waste for energy generation.

The current virtual program and economic mission led by the Dutch Embassy gives a platform to explore more sustainable business opportunities, such as on waste and energy. A focus session on this topic was held last July. This is very positive, because sustainability is the way to go moving forward.

So far, I am happy to say that the ongoing virtual “focus sessions” have generated some concrete leads. In this framework, my role is to support the Embassy to ensure proper follow-up between the companies and institutions. This is already a good start to attract more interest for cooperation from both sides.

Additionally, the focus session on “exporting Indonesian Products to Europe” for North Sumatran SMEs last June was highly appreciated by the local stakeholders, and we are already working on follow-up of that as well.

How do you see the Dutch image in North Sumatra over the years? How does the current virtual program and economic mission to North Sumatra add value to that?

When meeting local business people or communities, I always try to emphasize that our bilateral relationship is forward-looking – how we can work together and exchange knowledge and expertise to solve shared challenges. This is the image that I think we should promote further.

Last year’s visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Netherlands to North Sumatra was warmly received by the local communities. This has given a positive boost to the relationship between the Netherlands and North Sumatra.

Moreover, the Head of the Economic Department of the Embassy and the Provincial Secretary of North Sumatra have met several times in previous years to explore collaboration opportunities. This was also an important foundation for the current program. The current virtual program and upcoming economic mission give a concrete continuation in strengthening our relationship.

To ensure the success of this program, our HC office acts as representative on the ground, particularly liaising with the local government agencies. For this, I am in close contact with the Economic Team of the Embassy.

What is your hope for the future bilateral economic relation between Indonesia and the Netherlands?

I am very confident that the relationships between Dutch and Indonesian businesses and institutions will remain sustainable in the longer term, and I am positive that companies and institutions from both countries can solve challenges together through mutually beneficial collaboration.

We in the HC office are maintaining warm relations with the Dutch business community, and also Dutch alumni (Indonesian people who studied in the Netherlands). I think we can nurture these relationships further. Hopefully after the COVID-19 pandemic eases, we can conduct regular business activities more often, such as dialogues. This is particularly important to ensure long-term collaboration.

Dutch companies and institutions can always contact me, and the economic team of the Embassy through JAK-EA@minbuza.nl and conmednl@indosat.net.id .

[1] Follow the latest COVID-19 data in Indonesia through https://covid19.go.id/