Sukanto Tanoto – In an interview with Sukanto Tanoto, he was asked ‘What does it take to be successful in pioneering: create something out of nothing and what kind of people we need to lead this kind of business?" His reply was "people who take calculated risks".
Sukanto Tanoto became one of Indonesia’s most successful executives through his hard work, ability to seize and make the most of business opportunities, and dedication to lifelong education. Mr. Tanoto heads RGE Group, a $15 billion corporate family that includes agricultural, forestry-based, and energy development companies. A former student at the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Tanoto additionally heads the nonprofit Tanoto Foundation, which works to deliver university scholarships, teacher training, entrepreneurship workshops, and other services with the goal of empowering Indonesia’s underserved citizens and making the country more economically competitive.
Mr. Tanoto understands the value of public-private partnerships in fostering innovation and strategic risk-taking among new entrepreneurs. That is the reason for his foundation’s sponsorship of regular lectures through its Entrepreneurship Series. The series hosts distinguished businesspersons who share their knowledge and experiences with the emerging generation of independent business leaders in Indonesia.
The series thus aims to assist the rapidly developing country with the goals expressed in the recent National Entrepreneurship Movement launched by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In 2014, Yudhoyono went on record saying that, as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in possession of abundant natural resources and untapped potential, Indonesia is poised to offer numerous opportunities to entrepreneurs, who can in turn give back to the country by contributing to its ongoing development.
In a recent article in Forbes magazine, United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wrote of her address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Morocco, and made points that are particularly applicable to entrepreneurship in growing economies such as Indonesia’s. She believes in the power of peer-to-peer networking and mutual information-sharing among entrepreneurs, as well as in the necessity of government structures that support, rather than impede, the formation of new businesses. Among Pritzker’s ingredients for a thriving entrepreneurial culture are strong public-private-academic partnerships, a level playing field, and access to sufficient capital for everyone. In addition, she believes that governments must enact strong laws that protect intellectual property rights and make it easier for businesses to form and dissolve as needed.
Sateri Holdings Limited, one of the world’s leading producers of wood pulp cellulose and viscose staple fiber, recently earned a fourth consecutive award for its business practices from the prestigious business publication Capital Weekly. The magazine, based in Hong Kong, regularly presents its Listed Enterprise Excellence Award to companies operating in its administrative region. In 2014, only 18 companies out of a total of 1,500 met the publication’s criteria for success in general business strategy, dedication to corporate social responsibility, and best practices in corporate governance and investor relations. Sateri is one of the companies operated under the $15 billion RGE Group, founded by Sukanto Tanoto, one of Indonesia’s most prominent businessmen.
The Capital Weekly award only recognizes companies performing at the top of their game. For example, in 2010, international sports apparel manufacturer China Dongxiang (Group) Co., Ltd., received the award, as did NVC Lighting Holding Ltd., also one of the world’s leaders in its field. In 2012, the Hong Kong-based utility Towngas earned its second consecutive Capital Weekly award in acknowledgement of its 150 years of providing a reliable and safe source of energy for the region. In 2013, Luk Fook Holdings (International) Limited, which maintains more than 1,300 retail shops worldwide, was among the companies so honored.
This year, Sateri shared the Capital Weekly acknowledgement with several notable corporations, such as e Lighting Group Holdings Limited, a leading Hong Kong-based designer and seller of furniture and lighting products established in 2003.
At the time of the award, Sateri had recently announced a move toward a more focused business strategy by selling off its viscose staple fiber operations. The company will concentrate on its dissolving wood pulp business, particularly the high-value specialty grade market. Because of the very high purity of its product, and its widespread demand in a variety of industrial applications, the dissolving wood pulp division promises to deliver the best return on investment to shareholders. In addition, because of the multiple difficulties associated with entering this tightly focused market, Sateri is well positioned to increase its dominance of the industry.
At the end of November 2014, the Indonesian government’s Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture and its Corporate Forum for Community Development presented the year’s Indonesia CSR Awards in a ceremony in Jakarta. Among the companies honored, out of a field of close to 40, were the RGE Group companies Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper, Asian Agri, and Toba Pulp Lestari. Founded by current CEO Sukanto Tanoto, a self-made entrepreneur, philanthropist, and one of Indonesia’s richest individuals, the $15 billion RGE family maintains a global corporate presence in pulp and paper milling, energy production and delivery, forestry operations, and palm oil production.
The CSR Awards each year provide the chance for Indonesia’s public sector to recognize successful community-building efforts by the private sector. In addition, the awards serve as a source of inspiration and examples of how effective corporate social responsibility programs operate.
In awarding a gold medal to Asian Agri for its Economic Empowerment program, the judges of the CSR Awards recognized the company’s partnership program between its PT Inti Indosawit Subur palm oil operation and the Amanah group of independent growers located in Ukui in Riau Province. The awards committee focused on the success of the partnership in implementing stated goals, and on the positive economic impact it had produced for members of local communities. Asian Agri’s officer in charge of corporate social responsibility, Benjamin R. Hutagalung, delivered a pre-awards ceremony presentation that offered details on the program.
Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), a division of the RGE company Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), earned a silver medal for its work supporting a local loan and savings program in Teluk Binjai, Riau. Meanwhile, Toba Pulp Lestari’s two silver medals recognized its construction of a center to further early childhood education in Kabupaten Toba Samosir in North Sumatra, and its support for an evergreen nursery within the Taman Eden 100 conservation area.
When the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) held its 14th World Congress in early October 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Yusuf Samsudin of Indonesia presented his paper describing the connections between public policy, political decision-making, and forest science. Samsudin, a recent graduate of the forestry program at Lambung Mangkurat University in South Kalimantan Province, discussed issues related to biodiversity and climate change from an international perspective. He incorporated information on the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, detailing the need for close cooperation between these bodies.
The IUFRO congress centered on the theme of how research helps sustain forests and the wellbeing of communities worldwide. The event drew close to 2,500 participants who represented a total of 100 nations, more than one-quarter of which are located in Asia and the Pacific Rim. Yusuf Samsudin’s presentation was one of well over 1,000 delivered at the congress, which featured five plenary sessions and nearly 200 poster and technical presentations.
Samsudin is one of a number of scholars throughout Indonesia whose studies and work on the international stage have been sustained through the support of the Tanoto Foundation. A project established by Indonesian-born self-made entrepreneurSukanto Tanoto and his family, the foundation aims to increase Indonesian students’ access to higher education opportunities, and to develop the country’s infrastructure and social service networks.
After his graduation from Lambung Mangkurat University, Samsudin pursued an internship with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; his tasks included his presentation at the IUFRO congress. He plans to continue his focus on sustainability issues in Indonesian and global forestry practices. He is scheduled to attend the Interlaken +10 conference in February 2015 in Switzerland. That event represents a country-led initiative to further the work of the UN Forum on Forests.
Since 2012, the Tanoto Foundation has worked through its corporate partner Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) to develop sustainable agriculture projects to benefit the people of Riau Province. Currently, the foundation supports a demonstration farmland plot that it hopes will become a source of community empowerment.
RAPP, one of the companies under the flagship of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), maintains large-scale pulp milling operations in Riau. By supporting the cultivation of a two-hectare plot of peat land in Sering Village as a pilot program, RAPP has demonstrated its ongoing concern for the wellbeing of the communities in which it does business.
In addition, RAPP has furthered its community involvement through a partnership with Bogor Agricultural University’s research projects on tropical horticulture. The collaboration focuses on best practices in the cultivation of peat lands, like those so plentiful throughout Riau Province.
So far, the demonstration plot has cultivated, on a trial basis, honeydew melons, tomatoes, bananas, chilies, and other produce. Over the long term, RAPP plans for the project to provide economic empowerment and self-sufficiency for the residents of the village. Sering has the potential to become a central hub for the harvest of a variety of produce.
APRIL and RAPP make up one of the major lines of business within the $15 billion RGE Group headed by Sukanto Tanoto, whose personal and professional dedication to fostering healthy communities is exemplified in his family foundation. The Tanoto Foundation is committed to alleviating the stresses of poverty in Indonesia by supporting higher education scholarships, entrepreneurship training, and a range of social service and local infrastructure development projects. Furthermore, APRIL, through its corporate focus on wise management of the forests and woodlands that drive its profits, works to further the adoption of environmentally sustainable business practices throughout its industry.
Students from Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology recently won the Indonesia Aerial Robotics Contest (IARC) of 2014. Every year, the country’s Ministry of National Education and Culture sponsors the contest, which is the oldest collegiate aerial robot design competition in the world. The Aksantara team received first prize in the fixed wing category, as well as the best design award and the best presentation award for a university. Among the team’s supporters was the Tanoto Foundation, the nonprofit organization created by Indonesia’s Sukanto Tanoto, a self-made entrepreneur who concentrates on funding educational initiatives and other programs that can help lift underserved communities out of poverty. The Tanoto Foundation currently partners with more than two dozen Indonesian universities to award scholarships and to sustain other educational enhancement programs.
Led by aeronautics and astronautics student Rivaldy Varianto, the Aksantara group initially consisted of a small team of like-minded students that later expanded to welcome others studying in different areas of the institute. The team members built on what they had learned during the previous year’s competition to come back stronger in 2014. Speaking for the team, Varianto described the students’ hopes that their work can assist Indonesia in building its research and development capacity. Ultimately, they would like to see their country take a leading role in supplying global markets with advanced aerial robotic technologies.
Aerial technology, such as that produced through the IARC, can play a vital role in a nation’s disaster response and natural resource management capabilities by monitoring hazards such as forest fires. Sukanto Tanoto’s $15 billion RGE Group of corporations includes Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), a wood pulp producer that aims to pioneer new, more effective methods for fire tracking throughout its agricultural concessions.
Through competitions such as the IARC, Indonesian higher education students can begin to assume their places as technologically sophisticated innovators in an increasingly competitive world.
In November 2014, Indonesian palm oil production company Asian Agri announced its certification at the ISCC PLUS level for the crude palm oil produced at all its mills. The event distinguishes Asian Agri as the largest producer of crude palm oil operating in Indonesia under such certification. The company had previously obtained ISCC certification for its palm kernel processing operations. The independent testing and verification organization SGS Germany provided the certification.
The ISCC (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) program grants verification of a company’s compliance with relevant environmental best practices regarding sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011, the ISCC system achieved recognition from the European Commission as one of the first certification programs to comply with the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive of 2009.
The ISCC’s global system can be applied to multiple types of biomass products, and it provides a single framework that simplifies international commerce for a variety of businesses. Furthermore, the ISCC program looks at supply chains in their entirety, examining the process at every point from farm or field to end-user. This makes traceability up and down a supply chain far easier. To date, the ISCC has issued close to 5,000 certificates to forward-looking companies such as Asian Agri.
Through the ISCC PLUS certificate, Asian Agri demonstrates its ongoing commitment to economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The new certification will allow Asian Agri to increase its presence within the global marketplace, and to serve as an example for other palm oil production companies in maintaining environmentally sound operations. For this reason, Asian Agri also stands poised to assume a leading role in advertising the Indonesian palm oil industry as a significant player in the global sustainable economy.
Asian Agri, which works with some 29,000 smallholders families, is one component of the $15 billion RGE Group of corporations under the direction of founder and CEO Sukanto Tanoto of Indonesia. With operations established in 1979, Asian Agri now oversees 160,000 hectares of production land.
In late 2014, the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series once again hosted businesspeople who have distinguished themselves by their success in Indonesia. A project funded by the nonprofit Tanoto Foundation in partnership with the economics faculty at Universitas Indonesia, the lecture series has previously drawn luminary speakers such as Indonesia’s recently elected president, Joko Widodo. As part of the Tanoto Foundation’s goals of supporting individual entrepreneurial development and public education programs, the series strives to offer students practical knowledge based on the experiences of well-known businesspeople.
Niluh Putu Ary Pertami, the designer and creative director behind the luxury footwear brand Niluh Djelantik, joined Garuda Food CEO Sudhamek AWS to take turns at the podium. Niluh, whose brand is now available in fashionable European retail outlets, gained her love for style early in life. During her youth on the island of Bali, her family was not wealthy, and her mother routinely bought Niluh’s school uniforms and shoes several sizes too big, in order to economize the cost over several years’ growth. However, her mother also encouraged her ambitions, and sent Niluh to study business in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta. There, the young entrepreneur learned organizational and professional skills through both study and practical, on-the-job training.
Her lecture to the Tanoto group of student entrepreneurs focused on her experience as the head of a brand that it took her a decade to launch from one small local manufacturing shop onto the international stage. She believes in seizing opportunities as they arise and dedicating constant attention to improvement and innovation.
Sukanto Tanoto’s RGE Group of corporations, through its founder’s vision and dedication, has earned a significant share of the world’s business in energy development, palm oil and wood pulp production, and other manufacturing industries. Mr. Tanoto’s personal and professional focus on constant analysis, development, and innovation echoes the themes in Niluh’s address to the students. Through the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series, he hopes to continue to assist emerging young business leaders with their efforts to drive economic and social growth in Indonesia.
The Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series, funded by the Tanoto Foundation in collaboration with the economics faculty of Universitas Indonesia, aims to be a strong weapon in the fight against poverty in the Southeast Asian nation by providing education and support for student entrepreneurs. This lecture series engages distinguished entrepreneurs as guest speakers to address the practical needs of today’s students and emerging business professionals. Through the generosity of Indonesian-born entrepreneurSukanto Tanoto, the series has hosted guests that include current Indonesian president Joko Widodo.
The most recent lecture series, held in Jakarta in October 2014, featured presentations from two well-regarded names in Southeast Asian business: Sudhamek AWS, the chief executive officer of Garuda Food, and Niluh Putu Ary Pertami, creative director of the Indonesian shoe brand Niluh Djelantik. The two successful businesspeople shared their secrets and their insights with the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series’ graduate program students and recipients of Tanoto Foundation educational scholarships.
Sudhamek AWS offered information based on his experiences heading one of the region’s best-known food brands. Given the fact that Indonesia’s infrastructure still needs to make substantial progress before it can facilitate consistent delivery of goods and services, he has faced major obstacles in implementing his corporate strategy. Nevertheless, he believes that dedication to hard work and constant learning are necessary keys to success. Sudhamek praised the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series as a means for business leaders to share their own early struggles in a way that will make the road easier for those who follow.
Sukanto Tanoto himself serves as an illustration of Sudhamek’s ideas. As a self-made entrepreneur who has pursued a lifelong course of formal and self-directed education, Mr. Tanoto places great value on learning. Through the Tanoto Foundation and its Entrepreneurship Series, he hopes to share the insights he and other leaders have gained, in order to support the efforts of everyone who has the potential to assist the economic growth of Indonesia.