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.
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 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.
Sukanto Tanoto is proud of his history as a self-made entrepreneur. The Indonesian-born son of Chinese immigrant parents, he grew up in modest circumstances helping out in his father’s business. While still a young man, Sukanto Tanoto built on his father’s small company, learned everything he could about business practices and methods, and made shrewd strategic moves that earned him success. Now, Mr. Tanoto is among Indonesia’s richest individuals. He heads the RGE Group of companies, which he has grown over the years to a total worth of approximately $15 billion. By utilizing his philosophy of diversification and practicing wise stewardship of corporate and environmental resources, Mr. Tanoto has managed to weather multiple international business storms.
He concentrates on giving back to the struggling students of today through the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series, held in collaboration with the Magister Management Program within the economics faculty at Universitas Indonesia – Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series 2014. The series brings successful entrepreneurs to present public lectures to a wide audience of students and would-be businesspeople. Through these talks, aspiring young entrepreneurs can begin to understand the entrepreneurial mindset, gain practical advice on starting and running their own businesses, and forge connections with notable leaders in a variety of fields. Among the past lecturers in the series is Indonesia’s newly elected president, Joko Widodo.
Currently, the percentage of Indonesia’s population working as entrepreneurs is about 2 percent. Studies point to the fact that, if a nation is to boost its economic growth, that is the bare minimum level of entrepreneurial experience necessary. Sukanto Tanoto believes that starting out young enables an entrepreneur to approach problems and challenges with a fresh outlook, large reserves of energy, and the free time necessary to create truly innovative solutions. By beginning his own entrepreneurial life so young, he believes that he was able to develop positive habits, such as resilience and determination, that fueled his later success.
In order to further the goals of individual students, as well to assist his entire country in alleviating the problem of poverty, Mr. Tanoto is pleased to offer the lecture series and associated educational funding and scholarships.
To watch more about the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series, please click here.
Indonesian businessman Sukanto Tanoto, ranked among the richest individuals in his country, learned from an early age to prioritize hard work, responsibility, and charity. The son of Chinese-born parents who immigrated to Indonesia, Mr. Tanoto started off in business selling plywood products through his RGM company in the early 1970s. Now known as RGE Group, his $15 billion corporate family encompasses oil and natural gas products, as well as pulp and paper, palm oil, and a range of other agribusiness concerns.
Sukanto Tanoto’s father relocated from China’s Fujian Province to Medan, Indonesia, and began operating a small family business that sold the spare parts needed by oil and gas companies. Sukanto Tanoto, the eldest of nine children, was born the year his father went into business in Indonesia. From an early age, he assisted his father in the shop. By the time he turned 17, the young Sukanto Tanoto had to drop out of school to take over the business due to his father’s illness. Even so, the value of a good academic and practical education has been one of the driving forces of Mr. Tanoto’s life. He has continued on a journey of lifelong self-education in business and other fields. He has additionally taken high-level courses at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Building on his father’s experiences, the young Sukanto Tanoto developed an eye for detecting lucrative streams of income. From a staff of four, including himself, he grew the family’s spare parts business into a company with capital of $1 million inside of three years. His smart business sense led his company to take advantage of the growing demands on Indonesia’s oil industry during the global energy crisis of the early ‘70s. By his mid-20s, he had earned in excess of $10 million and controlled an international corporation.
Not content to confine his interests to a single commodity so dependent on the whims of the market, Mr. Tanoto went on to expand into timber products and palm oil production, often against conventional business wisdom in Indonesia. Although an old saying describes immigrant Chinese families’ limited business activities with the “three knives” metaphor—knives of the kitchen, tailor, and hairdresser—Sukanto Tanoto has developed his own business concerns in several sectors of the economy, and has expanded his generation’s ideas of what immigrant families can accomplish.