How Nurturing Relationships Helped This Travel Accessories Brand Thrive In the Pandemic

Cravar bucked the trend in an unloved industry

U-Ming Lee
7 min readMar 5, 2021


Cravar’s Jakarta outlet. Photo from Cravar’s Instagram page. Used with permission from Cravar.

Cravar is an 8-year old leather bags and accessories maker from Jakarta, Indonesia. The sparks that led to Cravar came to teenage Yoki when he saw a leather bag on display in a Jakarta mall in 1998. A chance encounter with a small, family-owned leathermaker on a trip to Florence in 2005 rekindled the passion. In 2007, one of Yoki’s photography business clients led him to craft a leather cover for a photo album, reigniting Yoki’s love of leather. Yoki subsequently launched Cravar with a few partners in 2013.

Cravar debuted on Kickstarter in 2013. The initial product run was a resounding success, raising $31,546 for the start-up, more than 3.5x the $8,500 the young team hoped. Subsequent Kickstarter rounds were similarly oversubscribed. Cravar has since built a 10-person team around the business. By 2018, Cravar had shipped to customers in more than 50 countries. Sales had increased by 40% each year.

Buoyed by their initial success, Yoki and his partners made the momentous decision to open their first physical retail outlet, in Jakarta. The Cravar Ruang Tamu (Indonesian for living room) opened in November 2019. The first COVID-19 case arrived in Indonesia in February 2020, i.e., three months after the Cravar physical outlet opened.

As the trickle of new COVID-19 cases became a flood, Cravar was caught in a bind with 21 months left on a two-year lease. Nevertheless, Cravar pulled off a feat, breaking sales records in 2020. In the first two months of 2021, Cravar’s record-breaking spree looks set to continue.

To find out about the principles that Cravar used to grow sales in a hard-hit product category throughout the worst pandemic in a century, I asked Yoki to describe the key principles he applied to lift Cravar out of the crisis.

Here’s what I learned.

1. Cravar developed genuine personal connections with its customers

Building strong customer relationships sounds cliched. No business will attribute their success to treating their customers like dirt.



U-Ming Lee

I write about business, finance, and freelancing life. | How to contact me: