Entrepreneur / December 2015

Passion for Safety

Extreme sports need extreme safety protection. At least that’s what Ario Sadewo believes. In Indonesia, his conviction that safety should come first is sometimes ignored, but he has never given up on spreading the idea. He shared his thoughts with Elsid Arendra.

Fond of sport bikes since he was a kid, it didn’t take long for Ario Sadewo to note that not many adherents of extreme sports such as moto-cross, enduro, downhill racing, dirt jumping and other types of two-wheel extreme sports appreciate the importance of investing in decent safety gear.

A motorcycle accident taught him that medical expenses are not cheap. His knee injury cost him almost the price of a motorcycle.  “Today’s costs for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are at least Rp2 million. Injuries such as sprains and torn muscles cannot be handled by a traditional masseur. Medical treatment is a must,” he recounts.

Starting from a hobby

Recovering from his accident in early 2010, Ario browsed the extreme sport shops. He concluded that there was very little in the way of adequate rider protective gear. Many bike stores just sold and repaired bicycles. He couldn’t find a single bicycle shop selling equipment and accessories for the rider.

A long-suppressed desire surfaced when Ario met an old friend, Ogel, the same year. They joined together to open a bicycle concept store called Adrenaline in two floors in a small building in Bintaro.

The first floor was used for selling bikes, as a workshop and a cozy hang-out for riders. The second floor sold protective gear and accessories. Before long, the small shop was crowded with two-wheel extreme sports enthusiasts.

Word about the new store spread quickly, attracting more people every day. Bike enthusiasts gathered from all over the surrounding area. The riding gear sold out in a short time and Ario found he was spending more time on airplanes flying back and forth to Singapore to stock up on supplies.

Then news of the Adrenaline store drew the attention of Fox, long the byword for premium riders’ protective gear. The company offered to help with funding for a larger store and asked Ario to become its main distributor in Indonesia.

Even though his partner Ogel had died from a heart attack while practicing for a downhill race, Ario decided to accept the challenge. He shut the Adrenaline shop and established Xtrim1st, focusing at first on extreme sport apparel. He had long envisioned the concept, and opened in Jakarta’s Gandaria City in early 2011, making it the first shop of its type to move from the outskirts of the city into a major city mall.

“We aim for customers who can afford the gear and are also aware how important rider protection is, as well as all the accessories. The items we sell are arguably not cheap, but they are much cheaper compared to the cost of medical treatment if you have an accident on your bicycle or an off-road motorcycle,” says Ario.

“We are also trying to get as close as possible to our customers. They can stop by our store when they come to the mall for a business meeting or after office hours on their way home. On the weekend, many enthusiasts spend time with family, so that’s one way Xtrim1st can get closer to its customers and be more family-friendly,” says Ario, himself the father of a daughter.

“Usually kids ask their parents to take them to an amusement park or the mall to look around or eat out. We didn’t want to distract fathers from their kids by opening our store in a distant area so now the dads can visit our store while their kids play or eat at the food court.

“The other impact is that we can support regeneration. Kids who come along with their dad recognize Xtrim1st so if they take up their father’s hobby, they know where to go to buy protective gear as well as casual daily clothes that are associated with their hobby,” Ario adds.

Pioneering awareness

The name Xtrim 1st was a natural. Ario was sure that his would be the only company to open a concept store for two-wheel apparel and protective gear in Indonesia. “We didn’t want to become a regular store, but to be a concept store-based retail company that is always innovating with creative ideas,” says Ario.

“At the beginning, many people thought the business was pretty strange. Some of the riders asked why they should buy expensive protective gear when there was so much cheaper gear on the market.”

Ario came to realize that a lot of counterfeit goods were in circulation in the Indonesian market. “I used them as indirect promotion, and in the end customers were able to compare the products that they bought at a low price with the products we sold. The counterfeit product tended to be harmful because the material used can actually harm the wearer in the event of a collision.

“We were there to provide customers with the original products. Customers who didn’t know what the original product was like could see the quality. We tried to clear the way for the idea and raise awareness by encouraging the enthusiast community and encouraged our customers to take part in the campaign.”

Ario admits that the struggle against counterfeit gear remains a challenge.  “There are always pros and cons but we never give up. To us, the safety and comfort of two-wheeled sports enthusiasts was our primary objective. This campaign ultimately worked, slowly but surely.”

From concept store to mega store

A creative thinker determined to continue evolving, Ario has continued to expand Xtrim1st throughout the community. Just as people are familiar with department stores such as Matahari, Debenhams, Metro, Sogo or Centro that sell everyday clothes, Ario wanted two-wheeled sports enthusiasts to be able to easily find their go-to place.

“Originally Xtrim1st only carried the single brand, but now we have started with a variety of brands. Our concept store in Summarecon Digital Center is selling brands such as Metal Mulisha, O’Neill and SevenSeven. We hope to open branches in other cities in the near future so that consumers find it easier to buy good gear.” And, of course, there’s now an online store.

Ario’s belief is supported by the fact that two-wheel sport, both bicycles and motorcycles, is a growing trend in Indonesia. “People who are fond of this sport have at least one bicycle or one dirt-bike. But the apparel they use may not be just one or two pieces. In one month they go out twice, so they buy at least four sets of clothes. That does not include other equipment such as gloves, shoes, helmets, eye protection and body armor,” recounts Ario.

The entrepreneur, now 44, started his first business at the age of 26, when the 1998 financial crisis hit Indonesia. Laid off from his job, he saw that Indonesian furniture had become very competitive in the world market. He set up an architecture and furniture design business that continues to run well until now.

His optimism in the bike market is well-founded. Growth in the sales value of bicycles and motorcycles in Indonesia last year was strong, putting the country in third place after China and India.

“In 2014 the total (motorcycle) market was 7.9 million units,” Johannes Loman, vice-chairman of the Indonesian Motorcycle Industry Association (AISI), noted early this year. If only 1% of the total motorcycle market is composed of riders who like extreme sports such as two-wheel enduro, motocross or dirt, then Ario estimates that the market share for apparel and protective gear is as big as 79,000 consumers. And Ario is convinced that awareness of two-wheeled sports will continue to increase.

“We remain consistent in providing education to the public, especially for two-wheel extreme sports enthusiasts, about the need for safety equipment. When there is an event, we not only open a booth and sell goods, we also provide education, exchange ideas and share experiences of the riders we endorse. We want to share knowledge and awareness of the importance of protective gear for your ride.”