Smoked fish was always the sought-after souvenir for tourists visiting the Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia. But for Julika Rina Hutapea, the islands offer so much more.
In 2010, she set up a stall in the city of Ambon, a popular tourist destination, to sell the region’s locally sourced specialities: cajeput oil – distilled from the leaves of Myrtaceous trees found on the islands – bagea, a locally-made hard, round cake which turns soft and chewy when dipped in tea or water, and much more. A year later, Julika evolved her 6.5 x 6.5-foot stall into a brick-and-mortar store and The Ambon Manise Shop – a one-stop destination for local delicacies and souvenirs – was established.
By December 2018, her business had grown, and Julika was running four stores across Ambon. Initially, WhatsApp helped connect her with customers across Indonesia, and as far away as The Netherlands, where people with Maluku heritage continue to be interested in what the region has to offer. In order to professionalize her business’s outreach and better organize customer connections, Julika transitioned The Ambon Manise Shop’s operations to the WhatsApp Business app.
Julika says the app’s business profile boosts the brand’s credibility, adding that, “the catalog feature is very useful to display our most wanted products, making it easier for customers to find them.” Since making the switch to the WhatsApp business app, customer inquiries have grown between 20 and 30 percent. And today, 80 percent of all inquiries – for everything from pearls to premium white steel – result in sales.
“It feels more personal to communicate via WhatsApp compared to other platforms; I always get a quick reply,” says one of Julika’s customers based in Jakarta, more than 1,700 miles away. “I visited Ambon once and brought home some cajeput oil but now, whenever I need more, I just click on the WhatsApp shortcut on the [Ambon Manise Shop] website and place my order.”
Local delicacies and souvenirs are just the start of Julika’s big business plan. Convinced that Indonesia’s Maluku islands have untapped tourism potential, she wants to offer services such as tours to historic sites as well as accommodation. And now, with the WhatsApp Business app helping her to share the goodness of her idyllic home with more people than ever before, an ambitious expansion is within sight.