Sukanto Tanoto at the Wharton-SMU Dialogue

Wharton SMU dialogue supported by Tanoto Foundation

More than 100 guests comprising alumni of Wharton School and Singapore Management University, academics and industry experts participated in the Wharton-SMU dialogue on 5 March 2018. Featuring a panel discussion on the topic The New World Order: Implications for Asia and Global Trade, the event was also an opportunity to reinforce the close relationship shared among the three partners. The dialogue was telecast on Channel NewsAsia.

The Wharton-Tanoto Initiative

In 2013, Tanoto Foundation established the Wharton-Tanoto Initiative which aims to improve the quality of business education and research on ASEAN with a strong focus on Indonesia through research grants to Wharton faculties. Every year, the Global Faculty Development Program under the Wharton Tanoto Initiative brings selected faculty staff from Indonesian universities to Wharton for mentoring and training on how to get their research published in top tier international journals. The Foundation also provides funding for Wharton faculty staff to travel to ASEAN with a focus on Indonesia to gain in depth first hand exposure to the region.

Sukanto Tanoto is a Member of the Board of Overseers and of the Board for Asia Members in the Wharton School. His three children, Imelda Tanoto, Belinda Tanoto and Anderson Tanoto are all Wharton alumni and have recently been included in this school’s “40 Under 40” list. Anderson sits on the Wharton Executive Board of Asia.

Tanoto Scholarship at SMU

To date, the Tanoto Foundation scholarship at SMU has benefitted a total of 30 students.  The bond-free scholarship covers full tuition fees and provides an allowance for all four years of university education. SMU’s Tanoto scholars collaborate with their counterparts from other institutions in an annual student-led community service project called Project Sukacita. The project allows scholars to volunteer for activities that help raise the standard and quality of life for residents in Kerinci, Riau, Indonesia through several public health awareness and clean-up campaigns.

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The Developing World Needs More Entrepreneurship Training

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.