Heri Kismo Rusima, owner of Batik Hafiyan Trusmi Cirebon in West Java, said there are five main challenges that are currently being faced by Indonesia's batik industry.

(1) Indonesia's batik industry is too dependent on imports of raw materials. It is estimated that about 90 percent of the raw materials required to manufacture batik - mainly cotton and dyes - is imported from abroad. In 2015 Indonesia imported approximately USD $1.6 bilion worth of cotton (Indonesia does produce cotton but the quality of this cotton is far below international standards while there frequently occur domestic supply shortages). Key cotton exporters are the USA, Australia and India. Meanwhile, dyes are mostly imported from Great Britain and India.

Dependence on imports of raw materials implies that the batik industry is highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the rupiah exchange rate. In times of rupiah appreciation imports of raw materials become cheap. However, in times of rupiah depreciation costly imports become a burden in terms of operational costs. In recent years the rupiah has been highly volatile amid monetary tightening in the USA and slowing economic growth of China. Between mid-2013 and late-2015 the rupiah depreciated from IDR 9,400 per to IDR 14,600 per US dollar. So far this year, however, the rupiah has appreciated around 4 percent to IDR 13,290 per US dollar.

(2) The second challenge is the lack events that encourage the use of batik. For example, during the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration (2004-2014) a presidential document (dated November 2009) declared 2 October as Indonesia's national batik day. Since this declaration many state-owned and private companies started to encourage their employees to wear batik clothes each Friday of the week. For civil servants it was more-or-less mandatory to wear batik clothes to the office on Fridays. This 'encouragement' boosted demand for batik clothes. However, the current administration has not continued such encouraging measures although national batik day is still celebrated each October.

(3) Rusima said there is a lack of quality and quantity in terms of promotional campaigns and other sorts of advertisement that can encourage people's enthusiasm for batik products.

(4) The lack of education about the art of batik. There are few Indonesian people who can tell the difference between the various batik styles and techniques even though this form of art plays an important role in the history of Indonesia.

(5) The number of batik painters is on the decline due to a lack of interest of the younger generation. Generally, the young generations of Indonesians tends to think employment in a factory is more fruitful than becoming a batik painter.

Rusima added that - since 2013 - he has been using social media and other online applications to boost sales of batik products (primarily through Facebook, Whatsapp, and Blackberry). Currently about 10 percent of sales at Batik Hafiyan Trusmi Cirebon originate from these online platforms. Rusima is now eager to cooperate with domestic online platforms such as Elevenia, Bukalapak, and Matahari Mall as well as global online platform Alibaba to boost batik sales.

At the "Gelar Batik Nusantara 2015" exhibition in Jakarta (24 to 28 June 2015) Trade Ministry official Nus Nuzulia Isaac said the USA is the largest importer of Indonesian batik (around 37 percent of Indonesia’s total batik export is shipped to the USA), followed by South Korea, Japan, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands.

Isaac added that - despite the above-mentioned challenges brought forward by Rusima - the value of Indonesian batik exports has grown from USD $22 million in 2010 to USD $340 million in 2014. The Indonesian Trade Ministry has high hopes for batik as it targets to see a 300 percentage point growth in the value of batik exports over the next five years to USD $1.5 billion.