Larding the Figures at TBI Bandung

Word of the Day: lard


a soft, white, semisolid fat obtained by rendering the fatty tissue of the pig

Idiom of the Day: larding the sales figures

Meaning: to make the sales figures seem better than they really are by including low-grade, low-quality or even non-paying customers in the data

TBI Bandung, the adopted home of the notorious Luke Preece, has been the point of origin of almost every weird, whacky, dishonest or just plain deceitful idea to ever gain widespread popularity in TBI, a corrupt language school in Indonesia.This is because the South Australian con-man has had his fingerprints all over every scam TBI has dreamt up from rigged appointments to visa scams. One we haven’t reported on till now is his love of “larding the student numbers” for TBI Jalan Jawa (now TBI Riau). This has produced some bizarre distortions in the way “success” is gauged in the company. So in this article, we aim to investigate the “stinking lard” in the TBI Riau sales figures.

 Little-Known Fact: TBI Riau, their biggest school by far in terms of student numbers, had much less revenue than TBI Kuningan

Why is this so? There are a number of reasons, but the main reason is because the TBI Bandung figures, fudged by Luke and his cronies, were always so “lardy”- full of low-grade customers.

In late 2011, around 2 and a half years ago, TBI Kuningan had around 650 students and TBI Riau purported to have close to 1200. Yet it was TBI Kuningan which was the best-performing school both in terms of revenue and profits. Obviously, in an organization as secretive as TBI, this was precisely the kind of information which was kept from staff. The teachers were kept in the dark about most aspects of the business (including the legality of their visas). When I first heard it, I was surprised. TBI always liked to tell its managers that TBI Jalan Jawa / Riau was their biggest school. This was part of the efforts of Luke and his cronies to create an aura of professional competence around themselves. Perhaps the franchise managers would have been less ready to listen to Luke Preece if they knew that TBI Bandung (where he had worked for a decade) was actually less of a money-spinner than the school in Jakarta. There were definitely PR benefits in “spinning” TBI Bandung to sound more profitable, big and successful than it was. But if the motivation for  their spin was clear, what was the modus operandi? How can you possibly make less money off 1200 students than TB Kuningan was making off 600-650? That would require making less than 50% as much money per student as TBI Kuningan. Were the courses in Bandung really that cheap? The answer to that is a partial yes. TBI Bandung schools earned less money than you would expect for 2 reasons. The first was the lack of Native Speaker courses. The second was due to a super-abundance of lard.

                                                                                          1. Much Fewer “Natives” in Kota Kembang

One of the biggest differences between TBI Bandung and Jakarta was the fact that there were few Native Speaker classes in Bandung. There were a large number of 90% Indonesian and 10% Natuve Speaker classes in Kota Kemabng (a popular moniker for Bandung). In these 90% Indonesian teacher classes, the students would be promised just a modicum of exposure to Native Speaker accents and pronunciation, but, really, this was just a bit of fancy packaging. It was an Indonesian teacher class with a cameo appearance from a Bule (White) teacher. In contrast, at TBI Kuningan there were numerous 100% Native Speaker classes. The mixed classes were still mostly 50% Native Speaker. The price point for these Jakarta classes was much higher. You could say that people were paying at least 30-40% more for the ‘privilege’ of a Bule teacher. Now none of these is ever mentioned by TBI authorities, as they want to create an uncomplicated “TBI Bandung is better” picture, largely to justify the outsized influence of Preece and his cronies in the company. But when comparing TBI Kuningan and TBI Riau student numbers, it was always a case of apples and oranges. The revenue stream from 100 TBI Kuningan students was often as large as that from 140 TBI Bandung students. Yet apples and oranges is one thing. That isn’t the end of the story. As well as apples pretending to be oranges, TBI Riau also hid whole bucketfuls of lard.

Fresh lard with your stats, anyone?

Fresh lard with your stats, anyone?

                                                                                                          2. The Lard

Luke Preece has proven to be a versatile con-man. He convinced the whole of TBI Senior Management to abandon the policy of getting KITASes for teachers, and start employing them illegally on business consultant visas. An accomplished fraudster, Luke extended his dishonesty to most other areas of the business too. In Bandung he started a program where he sent TBI teachers into various schools around Bandung so that public school students would get to have a short class per week with a Native Speaker. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this idea in principle (though it eventually became hated when Scott Martin started forcing teachers without KITASes into public schools, exposing them to danger). But the main interest of the policy here is that each student was asked to make a token payment of something like Rp 20.000 a month for the class. The teacher would then do an activity with a large class of 40 or 50 students, move on to the next class and eventually head back to school. These students were paying only Rp20,000 a month but they were counted as TBI students for the stats. And unlike the business and private school courses that were done off school grounds, they were counted ” as “public student numbers”- the key stat on which TBI managers are judged.

So these “lardy” students were paying Rp 20.000 for a couple of hours of study per month and learning in huge classes. Yet the were counted in the student numbers as being “equal” to the students from other schools who were paying Rp 600.000 to Rp 700.000 per month for 12 hours of study. They were paying perhaps 3% as much as “real” full-paying customers, yet TBI Bandung claimed that these 200 or 300 students were the same as TBI Kuningan students. The truth was, you needed 35 or more of them to equal what 1 TBI Kuningan student was paying. They were just “student number lard” being thrown into the mix to make TBI bandung sound better. If they were counted at all, they should be been entered at a rate of 0.03 per head, as that was all they were paying. Furthermore and suspiciously, no other “in school” classes at other schools were allowed to be treated as public student numbers. The justification was that these students were paying individually, but that was also the case with some other clients.

In short, all this larding was just another instance of Preece cheating. He was inflating his stats with students who were paying a mere pittance. The hundreds of “lardy” students at TBI Riau were the main reason why TBI Kuningan could make more money and profit, yet Preece could still claim that TBI Bandung was doing better. He was rigging the stats, just as he faked his own Degree and rigged appointments for his cronies. There is a lardy culture of fake stas and credentials at the school which he should be held resposnible for.


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