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Diageo Dreaming With Christophe Beau

Karen Donald talks to Christophe Beau, managing director of Diageo Indonesia, about the company’s new office in Bali and why he believes so passionately in local culture. Photo: Ryerson Anselmo For Costes Portrait.

Christophe, can you tell us what is Diageo and how does it operate within Indonesia?

Diageo is a British multinational alcoholic beverage company with a 180 offices worldwide, including Indonesia. Diageo Indonesia produces world-renowned brands such as Smirnoff Vodka, Captain Morgan, Smirnoff Ice, Mr Dowell’s and Gilbey’s at our Bali production office. In addition, Diageo Indonesia has been very successful in brewing Guinness locally for many decades through our partner MBI, and successfully commercialising it through our associate’s PT DIMA.

How big is the demand for alcohol from the Indonesian market?

Diageo always believed in the Indonesian market. When we realised there was a demand from here, we chose to produce through a third party: PT Multi Bintang, and through our own facility in Bali. But in addition to this, Diageo always puts effort into making sure our consumers have access to quality alcohol, and we promote ‘positive drinking’ through a responsible drinking campaign. In addition, we also educate and train the frontline (bartenders) to be more responsible when serving, especially our brands.

Why did Diageo decide to establish roots in Bali?

Diageo is very proud to be in Indonesia and foresees a lot of great opportunities for our business to grow in this market. We all know that Bali is the centre of the entertainment and leisure ‘pulse’ in the country. By establishing our roots here we are getting closer to Bali, and can apply various objectives, including cutting carbon emissions from our distribution process.

How does Diageo collaborate with local communities?

Diageo is extremely conscious about leaving a positive impact on the local community. On our first business trip we spent hours with Balinese village leaders discussing what they wanted, and how we could help them grow. One expectation was regarding Diageo’s responsibility to manage the operation: whether in maintaining quality of water or managing our waste. We have continued to strengthen the community relationship through some of our initiatives, such as our Ecotourism Sustainable Development Programmes where Diageo and partners develop skills of people in the nearby Nyambu Village in Tabanan (where our office is located) to establish an eco-friendly new tourism spot in Bali.

Why did Diageo recently renovate the Bali office?

The newly renovated Bali office shows a commitment to improving the Diageo working environment by reflecting our position as a ‘creative and innovative thinking hub’, allowing all employees access the same opportunities, to express themselves and contribute to the business. We wanted to be seen as a 21st century company respecting local culture in line with our global strategy. Diageo is also committed to running its business in Indonesia responsibly and it has a significant and long-term positive impact to stakeholders as the one of best providers of Consumer-Packaged Goods.

Tell us about the concept of the new office?

Our new office design is in line with Diageo values, with a big focus on the community. We want to make sure people feel at home in a modern space; motivated and valued for their own diversity. Everybody is here to communicate with each other and facilitate the flow of information and knowledge, and we believe – as we have tested in our market – that this model is an effective way to do business today. I am personally proud because the manufacturing industry is not an easy environment to transform.

How does Diageo Indonesia’s new office promote Indonesian culture?

We worked with the Bali-based interior designer Melati Danes to bring our office to life and achieve an ‘authentic look and feel’ from Indonesia. Diageo is not here to promote British culture, we are here to learn from an amazing country of 17,000 islands, each of which shows us how to value diversity and ethnicity, as the motto ‘Unity in Diversity’ suggests. We incorporated the batik graphic into some of our Guinness packaging and regional songket, carvings, and rattan handicraft ensures that when people come to the office, it’s obvious they’re visiting Diageo Indonesia in Bali.

How do you create a stimulating workplace environment?

We employ people with a variety of personalities, experiences and perspectives. Diageo is at the forefront of bringing gender diversity into the workplace with 40 percent of the leadership team being women. We also have a progressive parental-leave policy to support quality parenting. Under the policy, new mothers have 26 weeks paid leave and new fathers have four. By giving both mother and father leave we help them enjoy the birth of their child, adding to a healthy workplace environment when they return.

You have an office bar and Happy Hour? How does that work?

Certain activities like our ‘Diageo Bar Night’ encourage employees to enjoy a relaxed way of interacting and sharing ideas in an informal environment. What really matters to us is fostering the team in a healthy culture and if you want to build culture you have to socialise, and we believe that because of our industry what better opportunity during the week than to have a ‘One Day A Week Happy Hour’. It helps people to get know each other better and disconnect from work. We incentivise our employees to bring a friend because we want people to know more about Diageo and discover our product. It’s also a great opportunity to infuse the team with knowledge on responsible drinking.

How has Diageo raised levels of employee engagement?

We managed to elevate employee engagement to 84% because employees look forward to learning and contributing to Diageo. They feel proud to work for us. To declare “I work for Diageo in Indonesia” is not always easy because there can be a social stigma attached to working for an alcohol beverage company. But when an employee wants to be an ‘ambassador’ it’s easier for them to feel proud. We live by the motto ‘Celebrating life, every day, everywhere’.