Trade fair house van Rijn, 1936

A tradition stretching back almost 100 years: Bosch in Indonesia

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By around 1910, Bosch had forged links with business partners on all five continents so as to lay the ground for selling his magneto ignition systems everywhere that people drove motorized vehicles.

Bosch already had a presence in the United States, the U.K., and France around 1900, as this is where automobiles first caught on.
After the First World War, the company branched out once again – as before, by means of partner companies — into all countries where motorization was taking off and it was important to have a local presence as a supplier.

Among the earliest examples of this second wave of internationalization was Indonesia, or, more precisely, the island of Java that now belongs to the state of Indonesia, but which back then was part of the “Dutch East Indies” colony.

First foothold

It all started off on July 1, 1919, when Willem van Rijn, the general representative of Bosch in the Netherlands, added Bosch magneto ignition systems for automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles to his sales portfolio and became the exclusive representative of Bosch on the island of Java.
Van Rijn was an “old acquaintance” of Bosch. The company was the same age as Bosch, both having been founded in 1886, and maintained regular contact with Stuttgart.

Rijn had first started representing Bosch in the Kingdom of the Netherlands as early as 1903 and was thus an established partner.
During the 1920s, automobile enthusiasts in what is now Indonesia were able to buy everything Bosch offered to make everyday driving more comfortable and safe, such as electric starters and horns. In the 1930s, a sales office was also set up to handle sales, maintenance, and repairs for the diesel injection pumps that Bosch had launched on the market at the end of 1927.

New allies

An associate at the Bosch sales office in Soerbaia, 1936
An associate at the Bosch sales office in Soerbaia (nowadays Surabaya) with a diesel injection pump for trucks, 1936

But partners often went their separate ways, which is how, more than 35 years later, N.V. Fitrah, based in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, came to start business with Bosch on May 1, 1956. By then, Indonesia had become an independent state consisting of more than 17,000 islands.
All the same, Bosch fostered links with various other partner companies so as to both ensure sufficiently healthy business in this prosperous islands-state without being dependent on just one company and generate competition to stimulate this business.
Hence from 1961, P.T. Diesel Electric Indonesia Ltd from Jakarta and Van Swaay International N.V. from the Dutch capital The Hague represented the Bosch lines in automotive technology, hydraulic appliances, and testing equipment.

Progression from trade to partner-based production

Bosch generally ended up launching production in the countries where it had gone into business if the market seemed promisingly large. This was also the case in Indonesia. On February 2, 1973, Robert Bosch GmbH signed a contract with the Indonesian Motor Company based in Jakarta. The agreement launched a joint venture for manufacturing spark plugs for automobile and motorcycle engines.

To start with, this remained the only collaboration, till further joint ventures in other areas of business were founded around 20 years later, such as with Wijaya Kusuma Contractors in 1994 in the field of industrial technology. In 1996, Bosch also started negotiating joint production of starters, generators, and engine management systems with Texmarco Perkasa Engineering.

Packaging foodstuffs using systems from Bosch Packaging
Packaging foodstuffs in an Indonesian factory using systems from Bosch Packaging

Its own company

However, it was not till around ten years later that Bosch took the first step toward founding a regional subsidiary. In 2006, the sales office in Jakarta opened its doors as part of the South-East Asian regional group run from Singapore.
Around two years later, Bosch founded its own company called PT (Limited) Robert Bosch. After this, it set up an infrastructure throughout Indonesia — a Service Training Center Automotive for workshops in Jakarta in 2010, a number of Service Centers for automotive customers in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Solo, Serang, South Tangerang, and Banjarmasin up till 2013, along with a sales office in Surabaya in 2012.

The following year, Bosch announced it would be commencing its own production. On September 25, 2013, PT Robert Bosch Automotive was founded to manufacture and sell automobile components for gasoline injection systems, chassis systems, and electrical drives.

Dietrich Kuhlgatz

Since 1998 I have been at Bosch. I’m working in the Historical Communications department as spokesperson and researcher, in charge of all product history requests. I also take care of contacts to technology and transportation museums.
Before joining Bosch, I studied in history and philosophy at Universities of Konstanz and Hamburg. After graduating, I was editor of a scientific journal and research associate at Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.

Picture of Dietrich Kuhlgatz

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