Nancy Margried Tradition Meets Technology: Digital Batik

Businesses aren’t built overnight; they take time and effort to maintain and grow. A persistent spirit throughout the ups and downs is one of many traits that a successful businessperson must have, and we can see this spirit in Nancy Margried, CEO and co-founder of Piksel Indonesia.

Interview by Yani Lauwoie

Nancy’s journey at Piksel Indonesia – an umbrella company of Batik Fractal (fashion products) and jBatik (software products) – started when Nancy and two of her friends, Muhamad Lukman and Yun Hariadi, drew plants, birds and butterflies on a computer using fractal mathematical formulas. “When I saw the pictures, they resembled batik patterns. Then we experimented with other pictures, which resembled traditional batik patterns, so we researched further,” Nancy said.

The discovery encouraged them to make their own design software, jBatik. But combining tradition, art and technology wasn’t an easy task. “We questioned ourselves. How could we make batik patterns out of software?” Nancy says. So they consulted many experts from various fields: mathematics, the arts and tradition at the Bandung Institute of Technology. They also spoke to batik artists in Bandung, Cirebon and Pekalongan before launching the software.

When Nancy started to introduce jBatik to the public in 2007, there were pros and cons. “One of the most challenging parts was that many people, especially batik artists, disapproved  of our invention. They were worried that the technology would lessen the artistic value and eliminate the historical importance and the tradition of batik itself,” said Nancy, who is committed to empowering the community through design and technology. Nancy even had to face an angry fashion designer who openly rejected Batik. “We analysed the incident. The possibility was that we didn’t explain it well enough,” Nancy said. The incident gave Nancy a lesson in how to be clearer in representing jBatik. “jBatik exists to enrich the design, not to replace or damage the noble image of batik.  It is not to replace batik artists with machinery either. The use of technology is limited to the creation of new patterns to support creativity and productivity,” Nancy explained. Nancy believes technology can help the batik industry move forward.

The challenges didn’t break Nancy. After approximately 10 years, the creation speaks  for itself. At the moment, there are 3,000 users of jBatik. They are batik artists, designers and students from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, United States, England, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. Users can create designs from two types of software: jBatik Basic, which allows users to modify the 1,000 basic patterns that are inspired from all around Indonesia, or jBatik Pro, which allows the users to create their own patterns from scratch.

The progress of jBatik offsets the Batik Fractal label. The clothing, accessories, souvenirs and other creations under the label have been sold abroad. “Our biggest consumers are from Indonesia, followed by Malaysia, then Australia, Canada and France. Our focus at the moment is to expand our market in the Netherlands and England. Countries in Africa are also my next target. I see the similarity between batik patterns and African textiles, so I believe batik will be welcomed there,” Nancy said.

As well as its success in expanding the  market outside of Indonesia, Piksel Indonesia has also received numerous awards for  its innovations: the Award of Excellence UNESCO (2008), 100 Best Innovations, awarded by the Indonesian President (2008), the Asia Pacific ICT Award (2008) and the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF) Awards (2015), to name just a few. Meanwhile, Nancy herself has won the Young Caring Professional Award (2012) and Kartini Next Generation Award, Women as Agents  of Change, Business Category (2014).

After collecting awards and selling products abroad, what is next for Piksel Indonesia? “We aim to have 5,000 users for jBatik two years from now. Meanwhile, for Batik Fractal, we hope to expand and strengthen our market outside Indonesia, especially in  Asian countries,” said Nancy, who, on top  of everything else, has just finished her Master of Science degree in Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London (UCL).

As a businesswoman who often travels  by plane, Nancy praised Garuda Indonesia. “Garuda Indonesia is one of the best airlines in the world, with excellent services.  I hope Garuda Indonesia can maintain the Indonesian friendliness and continue to improve the flight’s excellent services and safety,” said Nancy, who is actively sharing her business experiences at numerous forums and events.