Betong carving a niche in batik industry
Posted By rajlira On 6th January 2008 @ 10:00 In TheSundayPost
THE latest innovation in the art of Batik printing does not comes from Kelantan and Terengganu — the East Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia traditionally famous for their fine batiks and home of the finest batik artists in the nation.
It comes from the unlikeliest of places — an Iban longhouse in the outskirts of Betong an interior town in Sarawak through the artistic talents of a former headmaster Edward Augustine and his wife and the business savvy of their 29- year old entrepreneur nephew Roger Laping.
Never before has batik gone to such transformation as Roger and his uncle literally added a glow to their highly sought after customised silk batik pieces with bold and bright shades in their designs painted in fluorescent paint.
The uniqueness of Batik Betong has already captured the hearts of some big names in the country — Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein.
Roger Laping said his uncle and his wife Magkenna Samuel,both loved arts, started making batik and selling their work through Edmac Craft Enterprise in Betong Division in 2004.
Back then, he said they only sold their batik, featuring native motifs to family and close friends by word of mouth and exhibitions but he saw a bigger potential in their works.
He became a partner/managing director and renamed the company to Edmac Craft Sdn Bhd in March last year and revolutionised the batik the couple produced.
“The batik produced used to be monotone and there’s no shading. But I told them how to colour — playing with flourescent colours to give their batik more shades, as well as incorporate Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu and contemporary floral motifs,” he said.
He said he travelled with his uncle to Terengganu and Kelantan for a month to learn more about batik making and having travelled to Australia for a holiday before, he said he also incorporated Australian aboriginal designs into Batik Betong.
“We also receive requests from the Chinese community of Betong to have dragons painted on their batik,” he said.
Roger said Batik Betong was as distinctive as finger prints because each piece was customed-made, the company would ensure that there would be no duplication.
“Each Batik Betong is unique as there is no duplication in design. If a customer wanted the same design of another, we will inform the earlier customer to make sure that he does not mind or make slight alteration in the design,” he explained.
“As such, each wearer of Batik Betong is unique and the designs were created to suit his or her personality,” he said adding that he only used the finest silk from China to ensure the highest quality and satisfaction among customers.
“We paint on normal silk and full jacquard silk,” he said.
Besides, Roger said batik from other states in Malaysia used lighter colours than Batik Betong.
“Batik Betong is more expressive in terms of colouring and designs. It grabs people’s attention. What’s the point of wearing a piece of batik that cost a few hundred ringgit if it does not grab people’s attention?” he argued.
A walking model for Batik Betong, Roger wears his own Batik Betong shirt everywhere he goes. He said many people were surprised to learn that he made his own batik shirts and even more surprised that they came from rural Betong.
He said batik was synonymous to Terengganu and Kelantan like pua kumbu was to Sarawak, and therefore many found it unbelievable that Betong produced such beautiful and exquisite batik pieces.
“The brand ‘Batik Betong’ was the brainchild of Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Jabu when he visited our booth in an exhibition in Betong, and from now own we’ll be selling our batik under that label,” he said.
Roger disclosed that he would open a showroom at Badruddin Road in Kuching so that he could better promote and market Batik Betong locally and internationally.
The showroom would probably be opened in late February or early March this year, he said adding that a catalogue on Batik Betong designs was also in the pipeline.
“Currently, our workshop is in Betong next to our longhouse. The workshop provides part time employment to 10 or 11 residents of the longhouse ,” he said.
He also had plans to promote and market Batik Betong pareo (cloth worn by women as beach wear) online through one of his companies, Borneo Global Market as there had been some demands from Australia, Hawaii, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
With these plans in hand, Roger said he had to give up his business of selling toilet paper.
Roger could have been a doctor as he was a fifth year medical student at Universiti Sarawak Malaysia (Unimas), before quitting much to the dismay of his parents.
He said he could no longer bear the heartache of seeing young patients suffering from all kinds of illnesses.
“I can’t get them out of my mind even after work. Being a doctor is tough as I have to sacrifice my time with my family,” he said.
So, he switched to accountancy but left that too to jump into the deep end to start his own business with just RM500.
“I started to sell toilet papers to coffeeshops in 2003 but I have to close shop in December last year to concentrate on developing Batik Betong,” he said pointing to a stack of toilet papers placed in his living room.
Being an introverted former medical student when he first started, he said he knew nothing about business but selling toilet papers taught him how open his mouth to communicate with others to make ends meet.
“I learn to talk and smile. If I talk, maybe something will happen. Those who want to venture into business don’t think it is easy but one must never give up,” he said.
He said he also joined Amway, one of the leading international direct-selling company two years ago and this taught him many good lessons in business.
From toilet papers, he said he branched out to printing, ICT, entertainment and now, batik making. He believes making use of opportunities, hard work and research would lead to success
Roger is married to a physiotherapist, Sussy and they have two children.
At a relatively young age of 29, Roger has already travelled down many well trodden paths but now he has taken a road less travelled in his latest venture of promoting batik that glows - perhaps that would make the difference.