Didirikan pada 1998 silam, kini American Furniture Manufacture, Inc milik Harry Chou tumbuh dengan pesat. Tahun lalu Harry saja ia menggarap kurang lebih 70 hotel di Amerika Serikat, dari hotel skala besar maupun kecil. Puaskah dengan kesuksesannya itu? “Kalau merasa puas, kita akan berhenti memperbaiki diri. Untuk itu, kita mesti pasang target lebih tinggi,” katanya, berharap dapat memasuk mebel ke pasar hotel yang lebih luas.

Banyak orang menanyakan kenapa Harry Chou (53) yang awalnya merupakan seorang arsitek dari Surabaya lantas berubah haluan menggeluti bisnis furnitur di Amerika Serikat. Bukan hal sulit untuk dijawab. Harry hanya mengatakan semua itu suratan takdir yang telah ditentukan oleh Yang Maha Kuasa.

Harry mengawali American Furniture Manufacture, Inc saat krisis moneter di Indonesia pada 1997, yang diwarnai dengan huru hara setahun kemudian.

“Sebenarnya tidak ada keinginan untuk pindah ke AS. Tetapi berhubung paman saya kebetulan di Lippo Group memohonkan melalui lotere, saya mendapatkan Greencard, lalu baru pindah ke AS. Pertama datang saya, lalu empat bulan kemudian keluarga menyusul,” kata Harry kepada KABARI beberapa waktu lalu di Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta.

Setelah hijrah ke AS, Harry mulai mengembangkan American Furniture Manufacture, Inc. Awalnya, mulai dari usaha kecil-kecilan di San Fransisco. Selama beberapa tahun perusahaannya hanya memasok seperangkat furnitur yang khusus digunakan di rumah tangga. Tapi pada 2004 lalu, American Furniture Manufacture, Inc telah merambah jadi pemasok ke dunia furnitur khusus perhotelan, restoran, dan rumah sakit.

“Sekarang kami tidak hanya menggarap khusus furnitur saja, melainkan juga membuat lampu, marmer, mebel, kursi, karpet dan lainnya” katanya.

Harry mengatakan untuk lampu, kursi dan furnitur banyak didatangkan dari Tiongkok. Namun mulai tahun 2011 mulai masuk kayu-kayu dari Indonesia. Dia mempunyai alasan memilih Tiongkok, alih-alih bukan ingin mendapatkan bahan baku yang murah melainkan negeri yang dijuluki tirai bambu ini unggul dalam waktu dan urusan menyelesaikan furnitur dibandingkan Indonesia. Hanya saja saat pemerintah ingin menggalakkan eskpor produk lokal, Harry berupaya menjawabnya dengan membawa kayu-kayu dari Indonesia untuk produksi furnitur.

Dalam membuat furniturnya, Harry bekerja sama dengan beberapa desainer di AS. Akan tetapi itu tidak menghilangkan ilmu Arsitek yang sebelumnya dia geluti. Ilmu arsitek tetap membantunya menjalankan bisnis, sebab menurunya, jika menerima spesifikasi dari desainer berupa tulisan kata dan foto kemudian harus menerjemahkan untuk diberikan ke tukang gambar menjadi gambar dua dimensi dan diwujudkan dalam barang aslinya.

Terkait bahan baku dari produk furniturnya, Harry menjelaskan tergantung pada permintaan yang masuk. Jika furnitur yang dipesan untuk ruangan yang banyak, misalnya di atas 100 kamar ke atas, bahan bakunya banyak didatangkan dari Indonesia. Lain halnya jika untuk ruangan yang tidak terlalu besar, semisal ruangan restoran, bahan bakunya berasal dari AS. Selain bahan baku, waktu juga menentukan, misalnya pengerjaan furnitur di hotel butuh 6 minggu-an.

“Kita semua membuat furnitur berdasarkan spesifikasi yang diminta. Hanya materialnya terkadang ada di AS, namun tak jarang harus didatangkan dari negara lain. Jika di pasar AS, material yang digunakan yang ditetapkan di negara ini, misalnya lem tidak mengandung racun dan catnya menggunakan produk AS, dan sebagainya,” kata Ayah dari Andrew Chou dan Jennifer Chou ini.

Dan untuk urusan pemasaran, furniturnya hampir merambah seluruh wilayah AS dari Hawaii sampai Alaska, hingga Amerika Selatan, tepatnya di Guatemala. Untuk pasar Indonesia sendiri, furnitur dari American Furnitur Manufacture, Inc masih dalam perencanaan ke sana.

Harry bercerita, menembus masuk jaringan hotel bukanlah hal mudah. Dibutuhkan kerja keras, keuletan, kerapian dan ketelitian serta jaringan yang luas. Dia mencontohkan untuk masuk jaringan MGM dibutuhkan waktu setahun. Masuk ke hotel tingkat risikonya juga besar dibanding mengerjakan furnitur untuk rumah tangga.

“Pengerjaan mebel di hotel bukan masalah kecil. Jika ada satu kesalahan kecil saja, misalnya salah satu pintu tidak bisa dibuka, maka kita harus mengganti semuanya. Untuk itu harus ada sales support team. Pernah pengalaman, ada lampu kurang ditempel stiker. Kami harus bayar sampai 80 ribu dollar untuk mengganti semua lampu di hotel tersebut,” tuturnya.

Memang tidak semudah yang dilihat dan merintisnya juga sangat susah. Prinsipnya, harus siap semuanya, mental, produk yang harus dikerjakan, ulet dan tabah. Harry berpetuah jangan mengaku sukses karena itu dapat membunuh seseorang untuk berkembang.

“Saya merasa puas jika barang yang dijual ke hotel tidak ada masalah. Furnitur yang dibuat untuk masing-masing hotel berbeda permasalahannya. Harapan saya, tahun ke tahun dapat meminimalisasi masalah. Manusia memang tidak mungkin lepas dari masalah, tapi kita berupaya untuk mengurangi problem yang ada dari tahun ke tahun,” kata Harry.

Indonesian American Business Council dan Dwi Kewarganegaraan

Bersama anggota IABC

Selain kesibukannya berbisnis, Harry menyempatkan diri aktif di organisasi Indonesian American Business Council atau IABC dan duduk sebagai Presiden. “Di dalam organisasi ini kami berkumpul dan sepakat membantu menjembatani calon investor yang ingin tahu tentang Indonesia, begitu juga sebaliknya. Kami semua bekerja secara sukarela, dan melakukan meeting sebulan sekali,” ulas Harry.

Selain menjadi jembatan bagi para calon investor, IABC juga menyelenggarakan acara penganugerahan Diversity Visionary Award. Belum lama IABC menominasikan Konjen Umar Hadi sebagai salah satu pribadi yang berhak menerima penghargaan di bidang Public and Community Relationship. Sebab menurutnya, sejak kedatangannya di Los Angeles, Konjen Umar telah memperlihatkan dedikasi tinggi terhadap komunitas Indonesia, baik dari sisi pelayanan masyarakat, peningkatan hubungan bisnis dan perdagangan antara Indonesia dan Amerika Serikat. Terlibat aktif dalam berbagai diskusi dengan kalangan akademisi, serta berinteraksi tinggi dengan berbagai kelompok masyarakat Indonesia.

Menyinggung sedikit soal Dwi Kewarganegaraan yang saat ini menjadi isu terhangat di kalangan diaspora di Amerika Serikat. Harry berpendapat itu sangat baik, karena banyak temannya yang sudah hidup lama di AS rindu ingin pulang ke Indonesia.

“Mereka, maksudnya para diaspora, dapat membawa pengetahuan, modal dan lain-lainnya. Tetapi itu urusan pemerintah, overall Dwi Kewarganegaraan itu baik manfaatnya, jika disetujui” pungkas Harry. (1009)

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