Shaping the Future

HP Inc’s David Tan on how the company is revolutionizing 3D printing and embracing a younger, more proactive corporate approach

By Joshua Rubin
Sunday, August 26, 2018

With the world and business increasingly dependent on all things electronic, and disruptive technologies shaking up whole industries, it is important for global technology companies such as HP Inc to remain ahead of the game, focusing on innovation and evolution in terms of products and practices.

David Tan, President Director of HP Indonesia, believes the company is ideally placed to stay ahead of the market, and he shares a deep passion for its work in the region and hopes for expansion in the coming years. 

Tan has been with HP for 19 years, and in his role at HP Indonesia for almost two years. Prior to HP Indonesia, he started his career with HP in Singapore, then joined the Southeast Asia sub-region. He later moved to roles in its Asia Pacific and Japan regions. Over the years, he has worked in category management, sales, consumer products, printing and PCs.

“In HP, we don’t decide to make a product because we think it will be fun,” he said.” We observe trends. We look at changing global demands of consumers and business and are adapting to suit the needs of our customers.”

Among the important “megatrends” Tan stresses hyper-globalization – the idea that the world is now smaller than ever – and rapid-urbanization, whereby cities with a population of more than 10 million are on a rapid rise, which affects city planning, housing, middle-income consumers and the general consumption of technology in an ever-shrinking world. HP, he said, wants to get the best technology available out to the masses and make lives better for people everywhere. 

He also called out the megatrend of Indonesia’s large working or productive population. Given changing demographics, the vast majority of the working population will soon be composed of Millennials and Gen-X individuals. Everything from HP’s working space, to its external image have changed in order to meet the future demands of the workforce. 

“We want to change and make lives better for Indonesians,” he said, adding that HP Indonesia regularly conducts community outreach in Jakarta, volunteering, and has pushed to level out its hierarchy with open workstations. And the same applies to the products it sells.

“We make battery life longer, security features stronger and products more beautiful,” he said. 

A new world of printing

Business growth has been supported by the acquisition of Samsung Print under the HP Inc umbrella, together with increased adoption of technology from its Graphics Solutions and 3D Printing business segments. Together, these developments bring the ability to print on a plethora of new mediums, from wine bottles, to cardboard boxes, and manga, and brings us to the very exciting frontier of 3D printing, which HP expects to dominate. It possesses proprietary 3D printing technology that has the ability to print in one hour what others in the market do in 10 hours. HP is also the only company with the technology to announce plans for 3D printing on metal and in full-color. Its aspirations? “The whole manufacturing industry,” said Tan.

HP’s 3D printing tech has applications in dozens of fields in manufacturing, from medical devices to airplane parts, saving organizations time and money in ways they could not have previously imagined.

Given its direct applications within the fields of electronics, research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and medical technology, it is going to be a growing market in the coming years. 

“Our innovation starts with relevance to megatrends,” said Tan.

At the heart of it, he said, HP innovates with these trends in mind, and its 3D tech is not meant to compete with but rather disrupt the manufacturing and consumer goods markets. 

HP has partnerships with Nike and BMW, but is expecting to take on many more once this technology hits the market, redefining the concept of customization among consumer goods. 

“There’s a whole lot of interesting science behind it, but HP’s cutting edge 3D printing tech is different from other products available today,” Tan said.  “It uses traditional printing methods to rapidly print beyond two dimensions.” 

“HP has evolved, and I am very proud that HP has led this innovation. It has really changed the way that future generations will consume technology.”  

Thinking freely

HP now has close to 40 percent of the PC market in Indonesia, producing goods for consumers and workspaces. It creates innovations like the secure screen mode on its laptops called HP Sure View that allows the user to block out surrounding viewers from seeing the screen. 

Tan emphasizes that HP will not compromise quality for price. It is not always the cheapest, but it maintains a standard of quality, together with customer service and security in a design that is hard to beat. In order to stay relevant, he said, HP needs to embrace constant change in its practices. 

When asked how long it took for the company culture to change from a top-down flow of leadership, to a fluid and flexible one that emphasizes start-ups like disruptive innovations and leadership within every corner of the corporate hierarchy, Tan said that it was immediate. HP in Asia Pacific and Japan expects its workforce, from the regional director to the interns, to make decisions, take responsibility, and “treat the company as if it was their own.” 

It is this leadership style that has allowed freethinking and self-motivation to proliferate within the HP ranks and drastically increase efficiency over the last two years.  Alignment and engagement, leveling of hierarchical structures and the opening of its culture to free-flowing communication has made the challenge of change in this massive organization relatively easy and swift.   

“We have the muscle of a Fortune 100 company, with the heart of a start-up,” said Tan. And when you walk into the HP office in downtown Jakarta, everything from the free-flowing soft drinks located in the middle of a colorful share-space, to the boss in his jeans and fashionable batik, drives this home. 

Tan believes that more can be done for industry engagement with the Indonesian government, with a lot more in educating government officials to unleash the future of education for schools in the country.

He also believes that Indonesia’s growth will be dependent on the open attitude that industries take towards business.  With an open mind towards the possibilities that technology can open, HP will be able to better deliver on success for the people and businesses in Indonesia.

Tan has been positive of government engagements, in that the government has been willing and open to accepting ideas and feedback. Through AmCham and other institutions, HP has been able to approach the Indonesian government to draw attention to big-ticket issues. So far, Tan says, things have been particularly good for HP over the past five years, with the company receiving little pushback from the government. 

Looking forward for Indonesia

As far as future issues within the tech industry, Tan said, “The people of Indonesia embrace what you give them, whether you are a local or foreign company. This warmth is what inspires us to do more for the country, its businesses and its people.”

“The government is doing what it can to continue bringing in foreign investment; Indonesia is not a closed economy,” he said. “Combining this reality with giving back to the country, I believe we will continue to see growth within the country and that motivates us to want to do better.”

Regarding HP Indonesia’s future, Tan expects its social impact and internal diversity to grow immensely, from corporate social responsibility to the demographics that make up its workforce. Fun is also a key point in its corporate success, from Halloween parties to bring your kids to work days, morale and passion have been on a clear rise since Tan started almost two years ago. 

“It has to be a great place where people want to come to work,” he said. “Our success will follow.” 

All through the interview, we could hear the voices of children bouncing off the colorful walls just outside the boardroom we sat in. When the interview was over, on our way out, lining up in the hall by the elevators, were two dozen employees on their way to watch Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, hoping to catch the 3:30pm screening. 

“The whole business is growing organically here,” said Tan. “Honestly, I think we’re just getting started.”

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