Exceeding Customer Expectations on Gili Air

By Tanja Harjuniemi

The Finnish-owned boutique hotel, Hani Hideaway, jumped to the top of customer reviews right after it opened last August. At the core of the customer experience are attentive staff, a homely atmosphere, and a beautiful ambiance.

Serial entrepreneur and angel investor Markko Vaarnas and his partner, entrepreneur Tiina Slotte, decided to invest in the hotel business in Gili Air, Indonesia, a year ago; a dream that had been brewing in their minds for some time.

The small island belongs to the Gili Islands group and is located a couple of hours by boat from Bali. On their holiday trip at the turn of 2022–23, Vaarnas and Slotte found an exciting hotel site and a local couple to help establish and operate the property.

After this, things progressed rapidly; during the first quarter of 2023, the company was established, the hotel site was rented, and the renovation started. The eight-room boutique hotel opened in August 2023.

“Practically, the hotel has been fully booked for the whole of these eight months, and the customer reviews are first-rate,” says Vaarnas.

“Even though we are both experienced entrepreneurs, starting a business in a foreign country and a new industry required much work. So far, however, everything has worked out amazingly well.”

Key factors are successful conceptualization and satisfied personnel

“We had a vision of a boutique hotel with a design and service that we like – an aesthetically beautiful ambiance and a homely atmosphere. We positioned ourselves between luxury villas and guest houses popular with backpackers,” Vaarnas describes.

Vaarnas and Slotte manage the hotel remotely from Finland, and the local hotel manager and his team are responsible for operational management on-site.

“The arrangement is successful because we are on the same page with the hotel manager. He is committed to implementing our value proposition and maintaining the desired service level and atmosphere.”

Digital tools, such as real-time financial monitoring, also facilitate remote management.

“We are also smoothly digital, meaning that we keep in touch with customers on WhatsApp and the market on Booking.com and Instagram.

Fix the paperwork with local professionals

As a foreign investor, Vaarnas emphasizes using local professionals to handle legal matters and financial administration.

“Many people try to save on initial costs by adjusting these things themselves, but from the beginning, we invested in using professionals,” Vaarnas says.

Vaarnas used Seven Stones Indonesia’s services to set up the company, conduct due diligence on the hotel site, and conclude lease agreements.

“Indonesia is a challenging business environment, but not impossible. For example, establishing a 100% foreign-owned company is possible today.”

According to Vaarnas, customary business laws work in Indonesia, and with professional entrepreneurship, the equation can be made to work.

“The strength of the Bali region as an investment target is that there is enough tourist flow all year round, and the costs of doing business are reasonable,” Vaarnas concludes.


To see the property, go to: Hani Hideaway at www.hanihideaway.com

Photo by Markko Vaarnas

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Andrzej Barski

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Andrzej is Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia. He was born in the UK to Polish parents and has been living in Indonesia for more than 33-years. He is a skilled writer, trainer and marketer with a deep understanding of Indonesia and its many cultures after spending many years travelling across the archipelago from North Sumatra to Irian Jaya.

His experience covers Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Publishing, Real Estate and Training for 5-Star Hotels and Resorts in Bali and Jakarta, which has given him a passion for the customer experience. He’s a published author and a regular contributor to local and regional publications. His interests include conservation, eco-conscious initiatives, spirituality and motorcycles. Andrzej speaks English and Indonesian.

Terje H. Nilsen

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Terje is from Norway and has been living in Indonesia for over 20-years. He first came to Indonesia as a child and after earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Agder in Norway, he moved to Indonesia in 1993, where he has worked in leading positions in education and the fitness/ wellness industries all over Indonesia including Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Medan and Bali.

He was Co-owner and CEO of the Paradise Property Group for 10-years and led the company to great success. He is now Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia offering market entry services for foreign investors, legal advice, sourcing of investments and in particular real estate investments. He has a soft spot for eco-friendly and socially sustainable projects and investments, while his personal business strengths are in property law, tourism trends, macroeconomics, Indonesian government and regulations. His personal interests are in sport, adventure, history and spiritual experiences.

Terje’s leadership, drive and knowledge are recognised across many industries and his unrivalled network of high level contacts in government and business spans the globe. He believes you do good and do well but always in that order. Terje speaks English, Indonesian and Norwegian.

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Ridwan Jasin Zachrie

CFO of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Ridwan is one of Indonesia’s top executives with a long and illustrious career in the financial world. He holds several professional certifications including being a Certified Business Valuer (CBV) issued by the Australian Academy of Finance and Management; Broker-Dealer Representative (WPPE); and The Directorship Certification for Directors and Commissioners, issued by the Indonesian Institute of Commissioners and Directors.

His experience includes being the Managing Director at one of the top investment banking groups in the region, the Recapital Group, the CFO at State-owned enterprises in fishery industry and the CEO at Tanri Abeng & Son Holding. He’s also been an Independent Commissioner in several Financial Service companies and on the Audit and Risk Committee at Bank BTPN Tbk, Berau Coal Energy Tbk, Aetra Air Jakarta as well as working for Citibank, Bank Mandiri and HSBC. His last position was as CFO at PT Citra Putra Mandiri – OSO Group.

Ridwan has won a number of prestigious awards including the Best CFO Awards 2019 (Institute of Certified Management Accountant Australia-Indonesia); Asia Pacific Young Business Leader awarded by Asia 21 Network New York USA (Tokyo 2008); UK Alumni Business Awards 2008 awarded by the British Council; and The Most Inspiring Human Resources Practitioners’ version of Human Capital Magazine 2010.

He’s a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Law, Trisakti University, Co-Founder of the Paramadina Public Policy Institute and actively writes books, publications and articles in the mass media. He co-authored “Korupsi Mengorupsi Indonesia” in 2009, which helps those with an interest in understanding governance in Indonesia and the critical issue of corruption. Ridwan speaks Indonesian and English.

Per Fredrik Ecker

Managing Director of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Per is the Managing Director of the Seven Stones Indonesia (SSI) Jakarta office and has more than 25-years’ experience in Indonesia, China, and Western Europe. He previously worked in senior management positions with Q-Free ASA, Siemens AG, and other companies in the telecom sector. Over the last six years, he has been the Chairman of the Indonesia-Norway Business Council (INBC) and recently become elected to be on the board of EuroCham Indonesia.

His most recent experience is within Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS), Telecom, and other sectors within the Indonesian market. He is today through his position in SSI and by representing Norway Connect, promoting Nordic and European companies that would like to explore business opportunities in the Indonesian market. He’s also playing an active role to help create the Nordic House concept in Jakarta that will provide an excellent platform for Nordic companies entering Indonesia, where they’ll find a community that can offer support with trusted information and affordable services to enter this market.