Last year, Irwan Danny Mussry made it into The BoF 500, a definitive professional index of the people shaping the global US$2.4 trillion fashion industry. The list is created by The Business of Fashion, a prominent London based website that has been described as “required reading” for style connoisseurs everywhere. The list is based on hundreds of nominations received from current BoF 500 members, extensive data analysis and research. Mussry, 55, is the only Indonesian businessman to appear in the list. Mussry’s global recognition comes about because of his successful track record in bringing many luxury brands to Indonesia in his role as President and CEO of Time International – most recently Valentino.
His company now has no fewer than 60 brands in its portfolio, including Chanel, Fendi, Berluti, Tory Burch, Rolex, Cartier, Chopard, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre and TAG Heuer. Last October, the company announced its latest partnership, with Valentino and REDValentino. Amid shifting consumer behaviours owing to the rise of digital technologies and the e-commerce revolution, Time International seems unstoppable. Surabaya-born and of Iraqi descent, Mussry is a born entrepreneur. He started out in business as a watch distributor when he was still a teenager with his cousin, Victor Sassoon. From the beginning, they decided to focus on high-end watches, with Gucci as the first brand they distributed. They started with a 65-sqm space servicing watches in Menteng.
Four years on, the duo achieved the company’s second milestone, capturing TAG Heuer’s business in the Indonesian market. In the early 1990s, Mussry penetrated the mall business with the opening of Indonesia’s first Cartier boutique. He subsequently turned the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 into an opportunity to expand. When the crisis caused many businesses to begin pulling out of malls, Mussry saw an opportunity to open his first multi-brand timepiece boutique, The Time Place, at Plaza Senayan. Since then, the company has conquered the luxury timepiece market here by placing a strong emphasis on customer facing, which means having good people on the front line who can deal with clients first-hand.
“As time went on, we opened further The Time Place stores in Plaza Indonesia and in Tunjungan Plaza IV in Surabaya,” said Mussry in a previous interview with Prestige. Another milestone was when Time International opened the first Tory Burch boutique in Plaza Senayan in 2014, followed by the first Chanel Fragrance and Beauty store in Plaza Indonesia in 2015. Today, the company has more than 1,000 employees and 97 stores across the nation. “I’d say, humbly, we don’t actively search out brands,” says Mussry. “But when a good opportunity comes along, we don’t want to miss it.” He is talking in his penthouse at the ultra-exclusive Keraton Private Residence on Thamrin the day before a business trip to Tokyo. He spends at least 50 percent of his time travelling on business.
When we meet for the interview, he greets everybody in the room graciously and is all smiles. Not once does he look to be in a rush, even though he has a packed schedule ahead of him. “You have to be able to enjoy the time and be true to the moment. That’s part of luxury,” he philosophises. Valentino is not a new brand for Indonesia. Red Valentino and Valentino boutiques were previously active in Jakarta, and Time International will introduce the new concept boutiques in early 2018. What makes Mussry believe that his company can revive the label here? “It’s always about either the glass is half empty or half full, right?” he smiles. “When we were growing in 1998 during the Asian crisis, we saw opportunities.
That’s why we penetrated malls and, thank God, it was the right decision. Today, we also see challenges from the region and Indonesia’s regulations, but we still think it’s a good time to start planting. Hopefully, when the season comes to harvest, we will have a good harvest. But, you never know without planting, right? I also believe we have the best team running Valentino, and we have the hunger to make Valentino as successful here as it is around the world”. “I think our partnership with Valentino is the fruit of our good work and commitment. People see our brands in the market, they find out who is behind them and they contact us. It was the same with Valentino. They were looking for opportunities and they saw us as a potential partner. For us, Valentino is an institutional brand, a brand with heritage and one that’s definitely inspiring. Therefore, the partnership happened. But basically, we have to like a brand before we agree to manage it. It’s not just a commercial decision.”
Staying positive and continuously seeking opportunities seem to be the secrets of Time International’s strong business performance. Looking ahead, the luxury market is expected to revive. Bain & Company, one of the world’s top business consulting firms, has reported that the global luxury market is set to return to growth in 2017. One of the key growth factors is millennials, who will “redefine the luxury market the next decade and beyond”. Bain projects that millennials and generation Z will account for 45 percent of the global personal luxury goods market by 2025. But the problem for mall operators and retailers is that they think and shop very differently from previous generations.
Mussry agrees that the Indonesian luxury market is evolving, mainly owing to the rise of social media and e-commerce. “There has been a noticeable change in our customers actually,” he says. “They are more knowledgeable than ever, and very updated on new trends. They are also more aware of value, quality and services. More often than not, customers come into our stores knowing already exactly what they want and what their options are, and they enjoy the knowledge exchanges they have with our team members in the stores.
Now, it’s also no longer just about the products. The importance lies in the entire experience and journey of finding that product of their dreams.” How is Time International adapting to the situation? “I think one of our strengths as a company is that we are always open to learning new things,” Mussry replies. “Our Consumer Insights & Analytics department spearheads the learning of our customer behaviours and preferences. Thanks to their analysis, we have clearly seen shifts between brands, the mix and match between the luxury products with the lifestyle fashion products, mixing formal and casual. We’ve been able to understand all of these changes through their insights. Digital, which is also playing a larger role these days, is a division we have set up to ensure we cover all our bases.
“I would say that we have warmly welcomed the era of e-commerce. We have launched a few of our own sites for our lifestyle fashion businesses in the last 18 months. They are still in the early stages and there are still a lot of things we have to learn. I have always believed that any natural evolution of retail should be embraced. There is room for both online and offline retailing to co-exist harmoniously.” Mussry explains his company’s preparations for facing the digital challenge: “We launched our Digital Department in 2016. I believe that you need an expert and a proper team to run such a platform. That’s why we’ve just appointed a Chief Digital Officer to lead a full-fledged digital team.
Eventually, we will grow the platform into an e-commerce business. We are in transformation mode and ready to join the bandwagon of the digital world.” Time International’s CEO believes that Indonesia’s luxury retail sector will grow stronger. “Despite the current challenges that are happening in the region, we believe that with Indonesia’s strong and growing domestic market, we can remain optimistic and benefit from the situation,” he says. “Time International has seen good growth over the years, so we are positive.
We see potential in exploring other markets, which is why we have opened in Medan and Bali. All of this without steering away from our drive to be a strong and successful customer-facing retailer.” Finally, does the challenge of pleasing picky millennials worry Mussry? “I’m actually happy that the age groups are getting younger all the time,” he insists. “Because millennials are so astute, critical, fashion savvy and well-informed, that pushes us to work even harder. Therefore, our standard of knowledge also needs to be enhanced. But we understand how millennials think because up to 80 percent of our team members are millennials themselves. That’s the key to growth for us.”