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".
In early December 2014, the Tanoto Foundation’s Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series once again united young people interested in business careers with some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Susi Pudjiastuti recently became Indonesia’s first cabinet-level minster to have never finished high school. The new Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries left her formal education as a teen and started her own seafood and fisheries business, now a multi-million-dollar concern. Her company, based in West Java, transports its products throughout the region surrounding Indonesia on its own fleet of airplanes called Susi Air.
Irwan Hidayat heads PT Sido Muncul, a family herbal medicine business that he took public in 2013. After modernizing operations in the early 1970s, Mr. Hidayat established research centers at several colleges in order to prove the efficacy of his company’s products. Today, Sido Muncul’s herbal medicines have gained widespread acceptance throughout Indonesian society. Thanks to his company’s success, Mr. Hidayat’s net worth stood at $660 million at the end of 2014. Forbes magazine currently lists him as one of Indonesia’s 50 richest individuals.
Sukanto Tanoto, ranked among Indonesia’s top ten on the Forbes list, heads the RGE Group, which he grew from a small family-owned business into a $15 billion international natural resources manufacturing powerhouse. Through the Tanoto Foundation, he, his wife, and their grown children give back to their country by funding a wide variety of social service initiatives, early-childhood learning projects, and scholarships and educational programs for young adults. Mr. Tanoto had to leave school early due to family economic difficulties. Thus, the Entrepreneurship Series’ mission of inspiring today’s young people to work hard, take strategic risks, and believe in their abilities is particularly meaningful to him.
At the December 2014 event, held in Jakarta, Susi Pudjiastuti and Irwan Hidayat related the struggles and challenges they themselves had to overcome as new entrepreneurs. The series receives additional support from the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Economics.
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.
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.
On the final post for Jusuf Kalla’s statements made during the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series on 30 April 2013, he touched on the importance of having the right attitude during the start up and growth stage of a venture. In fact, attitude is one of the most important determining factors to the success of a business.
In any start up, the process has to be gradual and step by step; and hardships will definitely pay a visit during this process. RGE, owned by Sukanto Tanoto, and all the companies under the group, faced many difficulties and hardships throughout the growth stage of the venture. These difficulties vary from internal to external situations and come in different sizes. Nevertheless, having a high resilience enabled the company to always bounce back stronger after every crisis it faced.
Jusuf Kalla also mentioned the importance of innovation. Taking a glance at the businesses present in the market, many of them started because people were not comfortable in a certain situation, thus, were forced to think out of the box to innovate and improve. For example, the number of retail stores such as Seven Eleven, Alfamart or Indomart in Indonesia has grown significantly because people do not enjoy going to wet market anymore. They would rather go to stores that are clean and comfortable.
He also pointed out that given the better access to information and the availability of technology at your fingertips nowadays, it is relatively easier for young people nowadays to innovate. The point is to have courage to be an innovator and not a follower. Most of the innovations seem impossible at the beginning however, many of them were proven to be possible.
It is however, not wise to rely on intuition when making a decision. Even though it is true that a good intuition comes with a great deal of experience, Jusuf Kalla advised that we still need to carry out our actions based on calculated risks. This is because as an entrepreneur, absorbing the risks comes as a package together with the results we reap. In order to do an accurate calculation of risk, we need information as the basis. RGE has also invested heavily on Research and Development to continuously improve on their processes and products. Besides this, there is also a bottom-up continuous improvement activities that enable employees to spearhead innovations and process improvements.
Jusuf Kalla’s statements suggest that he will ensure the availability of necessary technology and internet access in the nation in order to support and provide the massive amount of information required in a growing economy.
Following from the previous post, Jusuf Kalla also mentioned about the importance of building a good relationship between the business and the communities they operate in. Businesses can run smoothly and successfully only when it provides benefits to the communities. This is a two-way relationship because the communities they operate in have to respond positively to the daily operations of the business. What Jusuf Kalla shared is aligned with RGE’s 3Cs: a business must be good for the Country, Community and Company. RGE was founded by Sukanto Tanoto and as the Chairman of the group, he has a philosophy that he strongly believes in: once your business reaches a certain size, you cannot just take care of your company, but must also take care of the community.
Jusuf Kalla mentioned that a business has to determine the type of relationship they want to establish with the communities right from the start of their operations. He also mentioned that some companies have already done so, for example the companies under RGE, have been actively involving the community in their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. More than the companies, Sukanto Tanoto also founded the Tanoto Foundation with his wife, Tinah Bingei Tanoto, in order to specialize in the area of charity and philanthropy. Eventually a business depends on people to buy their products and services. It is therefore important to develop the people and community that the business serves in.
In the recent Indonesia Presidential Elections 2014, Jusuf Kalla ran for the Vice-President position and was paired with Jokowi, who ran for the Presidency title. The pair won the elections eventually and given Jusuf Kalla’s statements mentioned during the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series 2013, we can safely say that he will continue to encourage businesses to be more active in community outreach and support programs, as well as emphasise the importance of business and community partnership to strengthen and improve both the corporations and community in the long run.
Jusuf Kalla attended the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series on 30 April 2013 at University of Indonesia. Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series is a joint effort by Tanoto Foundation and University of Indonesia to prove that young people in Indonesia have the capabilities and potential to be a successful entrepreneur. Tanoto Foundation was founded by Sukanto Tanoto, an entrepeneur from Indonesia, Medan. His son, Anderson Tanoto was present at the event together with Jusuf Kalla.
More than just a hindsight, statements made by Jusuf Kalla during the event has many strong relevance to the current leadership that he holds, as a Vice-President of the world’s 10th largest economy by share of world GDP in 2011. Details can be found here.
On Entrepreneurship, Jusuf Kalla mentioned that even though the government manages, provides the facilities, and develops the infrastructure, entrepreneurs are the ones who build the country. Without entrepreneurs, the country will not run. This is in line with Sukanto Tanoto’s belief in running his business – it is important not to rely on special privileges from the government and use it as your main success factor. A business has to own a strong competitive advantage in order to outlast and outrun competitions in the long run.
Jusuf Kalla also mentioned that Entrepreneurship is an attitude that requires adjustments to a particular situation. Similar to Nike’s slogan, it is about ‘Just Do It’, because more often than not, when we think too much, it is not going to happen. JK’s emphasis on “Just do it”, flexibility and result orientation is aligned with RGE’s “Think, Act, Learn” and “Achieve results through systems”. Sukanto Tanoto believes that these 3 principles are the basic foundation of building a strong enterprise.
Lastly, JK mentioned that entrepreneurship is a combination of several key characteristics; one of the most important ones is to be logical. However, that does not mean that formal education is not important. As emphasized by Tanoto Foundation’s active involvement in the education sector, Sukanto Tanoto and all business under RGE are strong advocates of education.
With these understandings in mind, we can see that Jusuf Kalla knows the Importance of entrepreneurship as the foundation of the country’s economy and he knows that there needs to be a practical and tangible support provided to build the entrepreneurs landscape in the country through practical experience and education.