Trade fair house van Rijn, 1936
History

Getting started in Indonesia

Bosch celebrates 100 years in Southeast Asia

Clock 7 minutes

Even more than a century ago, Bosch had already built up a sales and distribution network on all of the continents of the world. The aim was to make Bosch technology available wherever people bought motorized vehicles. In 1919, Southeast Asia joined the ranks of Bosch’s sales regions when the first magneto ignition devices became available from the company’s representative on the island of Java.

Bosch established a presence in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France around 1900 due to the early and rapid development of motoring in those regions. After the First World War, the company entered every country in which motorization was starting to make inroads. Its aim in doing so was to gain a reputation as a supplier for the local market.

The nations of Southeast Asia, where Bosch is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, were some of the earliest examples of this second wave of internationalization. The company got its start in the country now known as Indonesia in the summer of 1919. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines followed just a few years later.

The first presence of Bosch in Indonesia

Bosch television technology during a sports broadcast in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1986
Bosch television technology during a sports broadcast in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1986

On July 1, 1919, Willem van Rijn added Bosch magneto ignition devices for automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles to his sales portfolio. Van Rijn was a well-known name at Bosch. Having also been founded in 1886, his company was the same age as Bosch and maintained a good relationship with the decision makers in Stuttgart. Van Rijn had already started representing Bosch in the Netherlands in 1903, making him an established partner.

In the 1920s, drivers in today’s Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries were able to buy everything Bosch had to offer for convenient and safe everyday driving, such as electric starters and horns. In the 1930s, offices for the sale, maintenance, and repair of diesel injection pumps – which Bosch had launched in late 1927 – were also opened in Southeast Asia.

New Bosch representatives in the high-growth market of Indonesia

Bosch Rexroth technology can be found in these awnings that protect worshipers from the sun outside an Indonesian mosque.
Bosch Rexroth technology can be found in these awnings that protect worshipers from the sun outside an Indonesian mosque.

Still, even long-standing partnerships sometimes come to an end. On May 1, 1956, more than 35 after Bosch entered the Indonesian market, Jakarta-based N.V. Fitrah took over responsibility for representing the company in the Southeast Asian country. By that time, Indonesia had become an independent nation consisting of over 17,000 islands.

Back then, Bosch relied on various partners in Indonesia. It wanted to guarantee sufficiently brisk business in the booming island nation without being dependent on a single company, while also additionally stimulating business through competition.

In 1961, P.T. Diesel Electric Indonesia Ltd in Jakarta and Van Swaay International N.V. from the Dutch city of The Hague therefore joined N.V. Fitrah as agents for Bosch automotive technology, hydraulic appliances, and testing equipment.

Joint Ventures — first trade, then manufacturing with partner

Bosch packaging technology also enjoys an excellent reputation in southeast Asia. The picture shows a system in Indonesia in 2018.
Bosch packaging technology also enjoys an excellent reputation in southeast Asia. The picture shows a system in Indonesia in 2018.

At some point, Bosch usually sets up manufacturing operations in the countries in which it establishes sales offices – if the size of the market makes it appear promising to do so. Indonesia was no exception. On February 2, 1973, Robert Bosch GmbH signed a contract with Jakarta-based Indonesian Motor Company to set up a joint venture to produce spark plugs for car and motorcycle engines.

For roughly 20 years, the joint venture would remain the company’s only one in Indonesia. Later, however, Bosch would set up further joint ventures in fields such as industrial technology by partnering with Wijaya Kusuma Contractors in 1994. In 1996, Bosch entered into negotiations with Texmarco Perkasa Engineering regarding the joint manufacturing of starters, generators, and engine management systems.

A company of Bosch’s own in the Southeast Asian country

But it was not until roughly a decade later that Bosch would start working toward establishing its own regional subsidiary in the country. In 2006, the local office in Jakarta – a branch of the Southeast Asian regional office in Singapore – opened its doors. Bosch founded its own company, PT (Limited) Robert Bosch, roughly two years later, ushering in the development of dedicated infrastructure in Indonesia.

To train automotive repair shop owners, Bosch founded the Service Training Center Automotive in Jakarta in 2010. In the years leading up to 2013, the company set up several service centers for automotive customers in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Solo, Serang, South Tangerang, and Banjarmasin, which joined the offices opened in Surabaya in 2012.

One year later, Bosch announced that it would commence manufacturing activities in the country. PT Robert Bosch Automotive was established on September 25, 2013. Its purpose is to manufacture and sell automotive components for gasoline injection systems, chassis systems, and electrical powertrains.

It is one of the many companies helping Bosch achieve steady growth in Southeast Asia.

Find out more about how Bosch became a global player

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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