Top 10 Most Inspiring and Successful Business People in Indonesia

by | Oct 26, 2015 | Rankings | 0 comments

It is often mistaken by many that Indonesia has nothing to offer other than sunny beaches and cultural experiences. However, being the world’s fourth most populous country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, it is not surprising that Indonesia has world class inspiring and successful business people. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia takes a look at its list of this nation’s top 10 most inspiring and successful business people (presented in random order) and their achievements. 

Robert Budi & Michael Bambang Hartono

These two Chinese Indonesian brothers have definitely made their mark in Indonesia. With their late father’s tobacco business, Djarum (the world’s third largest maker of clove cigarettes), and their decade-old investment in one of Indonesia’s biggest banks, Bank Central Asia, the brothers are worth billions combined. In addition, the brother’s controlling stake in telecom outfit, Sarana Menara Nusantara, has partly played a big role in their fortunes. In addition to controlling the telecom outfit, they also have stakes in palm oil plantations as well as in Grand Indonesia (the largest shopping mall in the country).

Edwin Soeryadjaya

Edwin Soeryadjaya, also known as Tjia Han Pun, suffered many setbacks in life on his road to business success. He is the son of late William Soeryadjaya, a former billionaire who founded automotive group PT Astra International before losing control over the business in 1993. However, Edwin Soeryadjaya did not let all these setbacks dampen his spirit. A few years later, he re-emerged and began making a name for himself in Indonesia and abroad; establishing Saratoga Capital and co-founding Indonesia’s second-biggest producer of power-station coal, Adaro Energy. His innovation, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit continues to motivate the nation’s next generation of entrepreneurs as well as to successfully diversify his business portfolio which includes mining, shipping, energy resources and agriculture.

Chairul Tanjung

Chairul Tanjung graduated from University of Indonesia with a bachelor degree in dentistry. However, he got to an early start in business by selling study guides while in school. His first venture was a medical and dental equipment trading business he started in 1983. In 1987, he established CT Corporation (formerly known as Para Group). Through his conglomerate, he invested heavily in the media industry and retail businesses. Apart from being a successful businessman, he is also a humanitarian. He chairs the Indonesia National Kidney Foundation and is a board member of the Indonesian Committee for Humanitarian Programs.

Djoko Susanto

Djoko Susanto, also known as Kwok Kwie Fo is a successful businessman and entrepreneur in Indonesia. Having to drop out of school because of the Indonesian government’s ban on students with Chinese names, he started managing his parent’s grocery stall at the age of 17. Soon, he started peddling cigarettes and opening more stalls before attracting the attention of clove cigarette tycoon, Putera Sampoerna. They then collaborated and opened similar stalls before opening a discount supermarket chain. When Putera Sampoerna sold the business, Djoko Susanto went on to develop the retail business portion of it into Alfa Supermarket which is now running more than 5,500 stores under several brands.

Boenjamin Setiawan

Boenjamin Setiawan, also known as Dr. Boen, is the founder of Kalbe Farma. Started off in a modest garage in Tanjung Priok, Kalbe had been through rough times during the 1998 financial crisis. Boenjamin Setiawan sold off all his businesses except for Kalbe which later became the largest pharmaceutical company in the country. In its 47th year of operation, Kalbe is expanding from its core franchise into areas related to health care and wellness. The recent transformation can be seen when Kalbe acquired local firm, Hale International and later set up a joint venture company with Milko Beverage Industry.

Eka Tjipta Widjaja

This businessman did not inherit his fortune like some of the billionaires of today. On the contrary, he was a Chinese immigrant who fled from Fujian to Indonesia with his family when he was 9 and got started selling biscuits when he was just a teenager. He formed Sinar Mas Group in 1962 which became one of the largest conglomerates in the country and created the Eka Tjipta Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that focuses on education, poverty and renewable energy that goes toward helping Indonesia to sustain itself. At the age of 90, Eka Tjipta Widjajahas long retired from the limelight and handed his business over to his children.

Sukanto Tanoto

Sukanto Tanoto started working in the family business selling spare parts to the oil and construction industries when he was 17. Eventually, he took over the family business and expanded it by building gas pipeline for multinational companies. He earned his first break during 1972 oil crisis. Soon enough, he established Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) in 1973 to enter into the plywood business, transforming Indonesia from an exporter of raw materials (logs) to a value-added processor. Today, RGE is a global group of resources-based companies, with manufacturing operations in Indonesia, China and Brazil, and sales worldwide.


Ciputra Development and Ciputra Group which were founded and owned by Ciputra are now among the leading companies in Indonesia. Having lost his father at a tender age as well as growing up through a lot of hardships, Ciputra has come to realise the importance of education. He has since spent millions in building his own university and creating an army of trainers to teach the skills of entrepreneurship. Ciputra did not just stop there for he has taken on a new task. He wants to turn as many Indonesia’s migrant workers overseas as possible into entrepreneurs and that would require them to be equipped with English language skills and also skills in computers and finance.

Sri Prakash Lohia

Sri Prakash Lohia was born in India but he came to Indonesia in 1976, at the age of 21, with his father and started their business, Indorama Synthetics, manufacturing spun yarns. The business flourished when Indorama Synthetics diversified into manufacturing polyester fibres in 1991 and then to manufacturing polyester bottle-grade (PET) resin in 1995.  One of his other company, Indorama Ventures manufactures polyester and yarn and became one of the world’s biggest polyester companies. His principal holding company, Indorama Corporation is a multinational organisation with products being shipped to over 90 countries across the globe.

Putera Sampoerna

Many were shocked when Putera Sampoerna, the heir of the Sampoerna cigarette empire, sold his family business in 2005. However, he and his family were quick to build a new business empire named Sampoerna Strategic which is an investment company involving in businesses such as telecommunications (PT Sampoerna Telekomunikasi Indonesia), agriculture (PT Sampoerna Agro Tbk), forestry (Samko Timber Limited) and micro-financing (Sahabat). Bank Sahabat Sampoerna is the family’s most recent venture into the micro-financing industry. In addition, the Sampoerna family is deeply involved in their Putera Sampoerna Foundation which focuses on improving education in Indonesia.

Issue 2/2013