Join our conversation with Sayan Gulino, CEO of Waterbom Bali, Asia’s #1 waterpark
Welcome to the heart of entrepreneurship, where passion, purpose, and sustainability converge. In this candid conversation with Sayan Gulino, CEO of Waterbom Bali, we explore the journey from inheriting a business to crafting a powerful culture. Join us as we delve into the transformative odyssey of making a water park sustainable, addressing challenges, and envisioning a future for Bali. Discover how a commitment to culture, a clear vision, and a data-driven sustainability approach can shape the success of a business. Get ready for insights that go beyond the slides and into the depths of conscious entrepreneurship.
00:55 Sayan’s Background and Taking Over Waterbom
05:40 Creating a Strong Culture at Waterbom
07:03 Embedding Balinese Philosophy,Trihita Karana, in Waterbomb’s Culture
12:18 The Importance of Data and Measurement in the sustainability journey
18:03 Creating a Vision for Bali
19:03 Lessons for Entrepreneurs on the Sustainability Journey
22:51 Practical Initiatives for Sustainability
- Chris Edwards, founder of Launchpad and The Honeycombers, and host of the Good Business podcast
- Sayan Gulino, CEO of Waterbom Bali
Good Business goes behind the scenes of the leaders of good businesses, who have people, planet and profit at the core of their mission. Follow the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Chris Edwards (00:02.602)
Welcome to Good Business, a Launchpad podcast that goes behind the scenes of entrepreneurs who put people, planet and profit at the forefront of their mission. Hi, my name’s Chris Edwards and I’m the founder of The Honeycombers, which is a digital media business in Asia. And more recently, the founder of Launchpad, a community of conscious entrepreneurs.
Today’s conversation is a super juicy conversation. I am joined with Sayan, who is the CEO of Waterbomb. And we talk about all many, many facets of business, including inheriting a business that his dad founded, how to create a powerful culture and what he’s doing on his own sustainability journey. And the biggest nugget of gold I really enjoyed from today’s chat was talking about how Bali is changing and what we can do as business leaders to support an ever evolving society.
All right, let’s jump into it. I’m so intrigued with your story. And from what I understand, I mean, it started with being conceived in Bali and then you grew up in Bali, but you spent some time in Europe. But your father created the very famous water bomb park. I presume it has so many happy memories for so many people you meet. I mean,
I have lots of happy memories at Waterbomb. You started working there at 13 and eventually became CEO. So maybe you can just share with me, how was that experience? Or when did you know that you were going to take over your father’s business and run Waterbomb?
Sayan Gulino ()I didn’t know until I actually started working here because it was never obviously insisted in working in the family business.
In fact, before I even started working there, I didn’t want to work in the business just because I had that chip on my shoulder, so to speak, and didn’t want to go into it. But then I realized that a job at Waterbomb is essentially making people happy, like you said. And I started enjoying it, getting into it. When I started working at 13, I did jobs in every department. So I understood the dynamics and all the layers that came across with working at a park. And then I started getting ideas in my mind. And then,
Chris Edwards (02:24.238)
when I started getting ideas and I’m like, well, how would I implement these ideas? And then that organically built into, I guess, my, you know, a thought that, hey, I think this is it because I went through an entire journey of what do you want to do when you grow up? And yeah, I did other jobs and then it came around full circle. Huh, it’s so cool.
And I can totally relate to that feeling of like you wouldn’t initially want to go into the family business because you know, you want your own identity and there’s nothing worse than people assuming like you’re going to follow your father’s footsteps. And I can imagine it’s changed a lot since you joined the business and you’ve won some. Yeah. Maybe you can share with me what are some of the changes and growth that you’re most proud of at Waterbom.
When I first started, they were about just from the easiest one, the lowest hanging fruit, I guess you’d say, is it started with when I came in, there was about 14, 13 slides and now we’re north of 26 slides. So that is one thing. We just extended the park. So that, and then of course, sustainability that is now in full force as well. So it’s great to see, you know, these changes and being able to be an agent of change.
in doing so and like I said in the last question, it’s the chip on my shoulder because I had to really go out and prove that this was just not gonna be a given or handed to me and my father felt the same way too, which is why he was insisting that if I ever came late or I had to try and do every single jobs that I would face the same sort of consequences as anybody else.
And were there challenging moments there? I want to talk about the sustainability piece, but I’m just intrigued. I imagine initially people would be a little bit like, well, it’s easy for Sayan, he’s the boss’s son. Yeah. Yeah. Did you have some moments like that? All the time. Still today. Still today. I mean, more when I was younger. And then also the optics of like for the staff and the other members of the team, you know.
Chris Edwards (04:40.462)
I really had to, it was good for me for character building, that’s for sure. And to try to block out all that noise. And so that people, you know, eventually understand that I wouldn’t succeed anyway, regardless of if you’re the boss’s son or not, if I didn’t have the drive, the passion and the love for what I was doing, right? That’s for sure. And in fact, I still wouldn’t be here today if that was the case. So yeah, I’m grateful for that in a way because that has molded and shaped, you know, the path of my
career, so to speak. That’s a really positive spin on a, I suppose, unnecessary evil when you get gifted an opportunity like we have. But yeah, I’d love to talk more about Water Bomb. I know we interviewed you on Honeycomber’s Local Legends recently, and you’ve won a lot of massive accolades for the park. And we asked you what your biggest accomplishment was, and you said it’s the culture. And I thought that was pretty, pretty damn cool.
So can you talk to me about that? Share with me what you mean.
Well, the accolades and all of these awards wouldn’t come without the fabric of Waterbomb. And the fabric of Waterbomb, one of the strongest fabric, is culture. Culture binds us together. Culture moves us in the same direction. Culture creates a world of its own. Culture sets a tone and a density. It sets values and so forth. So being able to instill a culture and being able to use that and carry that.
is the key to success because the key to success is essentially not just the products. Anyone can buy fiberglass and put it on a plot of land. It’s all the things that go beyond that and it starts with the people, right? And we are on a ship together heading the same direction and I have to guide that ship, right? But everyone has their part and without culture, it’d be lost in the middle of the ocean metaphorically speaking.
And Sayan, what have you done to guide that path? What have you done to create the culture?
It starts with communication. It starts with setting a bar, setting an example, empowering the team and linking, having some sort of connection with what exists in Bali. So for instance, we push on sustainability and sustainability actually is embedded in a philosophy called Trihita Karana, where there’s harmony among the environment. people and spirituality, whatever the individual believes in. That was a bridge for people to understand, okay, this is what Waterbom is. It’s not just an object or a product, it’s something beyond. And having frequent communications, you know, movie sessions, getting together, communicating, treating each other like family to some degree, the good and the ugly times, and then standing up for each other is a huge part of culture.
for instance, during the pandemic was a prime example of that, is that, hey, we’re in it together and that solidified the bond, right? And then there’s an expectation and a standard that happens in culture, right? And that seeps in slowly and organically or naturally.
Sorry, how do you say it? Try Hito? Hito Karana. Yeah. Hito Karana. And that’s a Balinese philosophy.
Yes, it is. They were going to use it in APAC because it’s a very simple philosophy, but essentially it’s about harmony. And a lot of governments, countries, private sectors could use that as a platform because essentially that’s so important for us to coexist and to thrive. And so how did you learn about this philosophy and how did you embed it into Waterbomb? Things just fell to place really. But…
We were getting these awards when I first started and the three hit that I don’t have to give out awards yearly. And then I was like, okay, we’re great. We want a gold and great. We won, you know, an emerald and, and, and whatever award system they had. But I said, what actually are we winning? And then I got into it and I’m like, Oh, wow. And it’s very local. It’s and I was like, Oh, this is actually quite special and it can resonate. And it’s actually something that.
already exist in the park but hasn’t been communicated or put on a platform. And then I pieced them together. And then, like I said, it resonated with the community at Waterbomb, with the team. And I just took that and drove with it because it’s simple but beautiful.
Yeah, I love that. I love that. And it’s very insightful and clever to actually have…
Chris Edwards (09:24.27)
a Balinese philosophy at the center point of your business, as opposed to, you know, I suppose a more Western approach or a more, I imagine most of your staff are Balinese, right? So you’re talking to them in their language and you’re leaning in on the beautiful Balinese culture that exists, right? But you’re highlighting how important it is that harmony piece. It’s very clever. Yeah, very smart. So tell me,
I’d like to learn more about the sustainability aspect. So was there a moment that you had where you were like, hang on a second, we can’t keep operating the same way?
Yeah, it’s a personality thing, number one. And when, you know, my father started this company, he decided to not cut a tree.
In fact, the land that we were on right now was just a coconut grove, right? And then, so the slides were custom made around the trees. And so I remember him, you know, at home talking about it and then using the first changing from chlorine to salt chlorination, which was a little bit less harsh and so forth. And on top of that, my whole…
growing up in Bali was nature based. I mean, in the playing in the rivers or surfing in the oceans or, you know, having sand fights or climbing mountains, whatever it was, it was like, and I really was in love with with that, you know, and there’s no doubt, you know, despite admittingly wanting to go to a movie theater once in a while and getting a new pair of Jordans. So I’m a nature boy, true and true nature boy. So those two components ended up.
connecting and that’s becomes me so to speak and then towards the 2002 2008 I started seeing changes in Bali and I was very sensitive to the change a lot Now it’s completely drastic and I’m like hmm How can we use this platform? That we’re in and be like a water park that is sustainable to keep Bali at least live, you know in symbiosis or in
in some level of consciousness by operating a business, but doing it with the environment in mind. And like the Trijit Akarana Award, we’re getting these certified award for being like gold standard or whatever it was for environment. But I felt guilty because I felt that it was essentially a certificate in a plaque. And I was like, no, there’s no substance to it. Let’s go.
Let’s do it. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s fall. Let’s make a mistake. So then I started looking at all the data and all of it, like all our water data, our energy data, our waste data. And I’m, I was guided through it. I engaged with specialists and then I was able to see everything transparently like, wow, this is the amount of water we’re using. This is the amount of energy we’re using and so forth. And I’m like, okay, let’s set benchmarks. We’re going to do this and we’re going to reduce this. And then like,almost like a business plan whereby you invest accordingly to the business and the projections of the business to operate as sustainable as you can. So that’s just in a nutshell, what was done.
Yeah, cool. And do you feel like your visitors care about your sustainability activities or do you feel like…
They’re on holidays, they’re coming to a water park and it’s more for yourself and your staff and your team to feel good about what you’re doing. Or do you feel like the, I’m really interested because I feel like we are going through a great awakening of sustainability, but yeah, I’m interested to know what are you saying? Yeah, we have to be very honest with ourselves. People come here to go slime. That is the primary motivator to go to Waterbomb.
Going sliding in a business that is a bit more conscious is a bonus. It’s brand cred. I know what it is. But yeah, it’s more for us as well. And the idea is, even if there’s one person comes in and realizes it, that’s a win for us. The idea is that other businesses down the road or across the ocean see it as a, hey, if water parks can do this, we can do it too. So to be motivators.
It’s not just to pat ourselves on the back and say, hey, we’re superheroes. No, we got to use the platform. I mean, now we’re we’ve got these accolades, like you said earlier, like, OK, so how can we pay it forward, not just hold the gold medal?
Maybe I’ve got some listeners who’ve not been to Waterbom. I probably should have done this at the outset. But how many visitors do you have to the park on a regular basis?
I mean, it peaks.
during certain seasons, but if we were to average it out throughout the year, it’d be a little bit over a thousand people a day. A thousand people a day.
So it’s quite a large audience, really, like 30 ,000 people a month. It’s quite wild. And it is the biggest water park that’s been there, the longest, and it’s a bit of an institution and a rite of passage for kids and for parents.for Bali holidaymakers. I also imagine that during your time in Bali, you would have seen, and my business in Bali has been there for 13 years, we’ve seen enormous change. I’m sure you would have seen even greater change living there. And I’m curious, how do you feel about like, I suppose the rapid growth and yeah, I suppose there’s just been so many tourists since COVID, like it’s really.
exploded a little bit. Are you feeling that in your business?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. This is a sensitive topic for me, I have to be honest with you. That’s what I see in what’s happening in Bali. I mean, like that drives me more on the sustainability front, by the way, which once again, if I have to twist it, I mean, like now it’s pushing me more to be an agent of change because I can. But yeah, since COVID,
As some parts of Bali, I don’t even recognize, to be honest with you. Behind closed doors, I have my own internal rants that happen in my mind, and it’s quite brutal. I’m worried, but I’m optimistic in the long run. I choose to be optimistic in the long run. And I can see that. I suppose I didn’t go to Bali during COVID. I live in Australia, and it would have been…
Chris Edwards (16:14.574)
maybe there was a four year or three year gap and I was just amazed by how rapid the change has been. So, but what’s the answer? Like, you know, how do we make sure that Bali continues to be a great place to visit? And, you know, I think it’s, it is in part leaders like yourself leading the way in sustainability, but you know, the stats around what.
tourists create in terms of rubbish. It’s really scary. What’s the way forward? If you could wave your magic wand, what would be the things you’d like to see? Bali needs a vision and an identity. A simple like, let’s go broad first. What we did on a micro level at the company in terms of what I was saying, company culture, we need to bring that back.
Bali needs its roots back, the island of the gods, what it prioritized before doesn’t mean that people can’t thrive economically and so forth, but it needs a vision. Let’s not be, we don’t necessarily need to be the next whatever Ibiza or Phuket or whatever comparative as it is. Bali needs to still be what made it special in the first place, this magical island that is so.
culturally rich that essentially praises the energies from trees to animals. What is it? And so I think if we start with the vision and then when you really need to get it into the hearts of the people so it doesn’t lose itself for the next generation not to know what Bali once was, right? It starts with that. But then you have to break it down into like little pieces. Then we’re talking about policies. Then you have to talk about how does it implement itself into the laws.
And then it goes down and down and down. It’s so easy just to, it’s not as it’s not just like, Hey, let’s put a recycling plant over here or a desalination plant over here. It starts with like, what is its values, its mission, and that needs to be embedded. And from then you’ll have little elements, like elements piece by piece that you can start fixing. And tell me, coming back to Waterbomb, what have been some of the big lessons that you’ve seen in your sustainability journey that
Chris Edwards (18:33.646)
you could share with other entrepreneurs, you know, that are like, I suppose on the, on the cusp or thinking about how can I make my business more sustainable? What have been some of the learnings that you’ve had? First of all, sustainability is, it’s not a destination, right? It sounds cliche. It’s, it’s a journey and everyone has their own pace and their own journey based on the resources that the business can offer. We have to understand that. But as long as you take steps, whether it’s baby steps or giant leaps,
That’s the first thing. So don’t measure yourself based on the successes or what others are doing. That’s just a general approach to it. Then as you go on this journey and you break down all the components, you can start simply like what we do, waste energy and water. Look into them. From changing your appliances, simply put, from taps to push button taps.
and then measure your results. Look at data. And then don’t fear failure. We highlight when we are below our benchmark, we show that we are still like humans, so to speak. And don’t be discouraged by it. You’re still doing a good thing, right? And keep on growing, but don’t stop. That’s the thing. It’s not like, hey, now we have this, we’re done. No, no, no, no, no. It doesn’t stop because you have innovation coming, you have technology coming.
that’s going to benefit you. Cost of technology and innovation for sustainability is going to come. So you’re buying time at the same time. And it’s quite important. Don’t be discouraged. And also for businesses, we have to understand that not everyone is motivated or has like that, that environmental care naturally in their souls, but you can attach sustainability to your cost savings in your business. And that will motivate one person, a person one way or the other.
is that, hey, you reduce, it makes sense, right? You reduce X amount of energy, you’re spending less on energy costs, right? And you’re not abusing the resource of energy. So they all work hand in hand. Yeah, I think it’s a really good point around reducing the energy costs. So I presume you’ve got solar there as well. Is that something that you guys are doing? Yeah, we have solar. Solar energy, I mean, it helps.
Chris Edwards (20:57.198)
We are on an island, so we do get a lot of sunlight. I just wish it could absorb more energy, given the amount of space it uses. That’s my only, if I have to nitpick something solar. Solar energy needs to be matched with other energy policies, right? From the air conditioning types that you use to making sure people don’t turn on the lights in the midday when you, well, mostly water parks who are outdoors, but for the office space, these kind of things. I’m buying time with solar energy so that…
Hopefully there’s a new solar technology that absorbs more energy. Yeah. So for your costs, it’s energy and water. They’re probably some of the biggest costs in your business. Yes. Energy and water is definitely one of the biggest. Waste, we do have, you know, waste, but it’s not nothing compared to that. But the thing with our water right now is that they’re also a hand in hand because our water moves, right? It moves.
up the tower, down the slides, into the rivers, and in cycles. So it’s a double -edged sword because the water that’s actually, you’re using energy to move the water, but you need the water to be moved so that it can be a closed -circuit system, so you can reuse the water. So that’s 22, really. So now we’re trying to find, for instance, more efficient pumps and drives to push the water, make sure that there’s no leak, because it leaks so that…
when the water we use is like trying to be like as minimal waste as possible except for evaporation and other forms. But yeah, symbiosis. Yeah, cool. And what besides reusing water and using solar, what are some other initiatives that have really moved the needle? Maybe some practical things that you’ve done that you could share that will help people think about what their own businesses. Data was a huge thing. So being having water meters.
helps just to, it’s more of a preventative approach because, you know, with pools, there are leaks, there are certain things. Obviously check all your appliances, and there are energy appliances from your toilets you use, your taps, your showers, all of these things are basic components that you can use in your own business or even your own homes, right? And then composting, you can do that as well. So.
Chris Edwards (23:18.19)
You start with that, but then if you get into it, then you go into a wormhole and there’s a lot of information out there that can help. Yeah, I think the measurements very, very interesting. It’s a very good point. And yeah, like starting with the data is a really smart place to start. I wanted to ask you just to kind of wrap up. What would you like entrepreneurs around Southeast Asia to be really thinking about? Like if you had a message for them.
from what you’ve learned running Water Bomb and your sustainability journey, what would you like people to kind of apply in their own businesses? Wow, applying their own businesses. It’s more about, once again, celebrating somehow the challenges and not being discouraged by them, simply that, you know, that. And having desire and having a vision and not being discouraged by the naysayers out there.
I mean, we’re a water park and I was able to pledge to be net zero by 2033, a water park. So it is possible. You just have to kind of shut your ears off to the people that try to doubt basically. Oh, I love that. I love that. Shut the doubters out. I feel like the message is really to believe anything’s possible if you’re passionate about it. I think that’s a really…
lovely note to end on. I’ll ask you one last thing just to round out. What are you most proud of? And you know, you did say culture when Honeycomb has asked you, but I want to throw it to you. If there’s an, if there’s this one other thing, what are you proud of? Well, you know, the, the easy one is the system where, where the sustainability accomplishments, but it’s also watching your team grow. I really like seeing like, for instance, our, our, our eco champion right now.
He started off as, you know, the guy moving the tubes. And there is like, for me, that’s a mirror of success is just empowering others and getting them on board. That’s like, that’s a super win that you are able to trust someone to carry their baton and being able to help them or take them there. That’s a super win. Oh, I love that. Sam, it’s been absolutely a delight.
Chris Edwards (25:44.43)
to jump into water bomb for half an hour and to learn about what you’re doing and to hear your vision. You are like a true leader on the island of the gods. And I’m really grateful for your time. I appreciate that very much. Well, pleasure doing this interview as well. What a wonderful conversation that was with Sayan.
I wanted to share my key outtakes from that chat. I think the first one really is the power of culture. And I think Sayan,
has been really, really clever to really, I suppose, harness the local Balinese culture and put it at the center of his business and leadership style. I also really loved what he said about the power of having a clear vision and believing passionately about your vision and mission and really shutting the doubters out and not being discouraged by the naysayers. But yeah, really being driven with a clear mission. And he brought that into,
Really my big question, which he really struggled with, which is a challenging question, which is about the future of Bali. And I liked his answer was that actually as a community and a society, we actually really need a vision of where we’re going. And that is what Bali needs and is really struggling with at the minute.
And then finally, I thought it was really great to hear him talk about his sustainability journey and for anyone who’s thinking about what they can do in their own sustainability journey. And that is to start with the data. So collecting data on your impact. Thanks so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. And if you found this episode helpful or enlightening or really engaging, please share it.
share it with a friend or share it on your socials, pop it on LinkedIn, tell me what you thought. I’d love to know if it really, what I’m hoping is it inspires you and makes you think about your business and really helps you to create a business that is a good business for not just you, but also for the people around you and for the planet. Finally, if you’re interested in joining a community of conscious entrepreneurs, please come and check out Launchpad.
Chris Edwards (28:02.638)
have a look at www .thelaunchpad .group. And finally, before I close out, I just want to acknowledge that this interview was recorded in Bali and also in Byron Bay on the traditional owners land of the Iraq well people of the Bundjalung nation. And I pay my respects to elders past, present and future. And I extend my respects to all traditional cultures. Thanks again for tuning into Good Business.
My name is Chris Edwards and I hope that this interview leaves you as inspired as I am to start or to grow your own good business.