The next big thing in business
Albertus Weldison Nonto
Raja Sapta Oktohari heads the largest young entrepreneurs’ association in Indonesia: HIPMI. With his innovative and creative approach to doing business, Albert Weldison Nonto reports that the ripple that is Okto’s name is quickly becoming a wave.
Raja Sapta Oktohari of OSO Group won the chairmanship of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (HIPMI) after a year-long election campaign that focused on mobilizing supporters throughout Indonesia.
He strove to win the attention of influential figures such as Aburizal Bakrie’s son Anindya and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro. At the HIPMI national congress in Makassar in October, Okto pushed aside strong candidates including Erik Hidayat, the son of Industry Minister MS Hidayat, and Priamanaya Djan, son of Public Housing Minister Djan Faridz.
Because Okto prefers to work behind the scenes rather than court public attention, his successful career trajectory to date remains largely unknown. Not even forays into the high-profile worlds of sport and showbiz have been enough to change this fact.
But Okto’s discreet yet powerful relationships with elite business and political personalities in Indonesia are beginning to boost his reputation in a big way. It was those networks that helped his ticket for the HIPMI chairmanship over the line. Now, not only does Okto have friends from rich and powerful families but he has been made a kingmaker in his own right.
His business pedigree is strong. Father Osman Sapta Odang runs a conventional business enterprise focused on plantations, mining, hospitality, financial services and airlines under the OSO Group. While Okto is involved in the company’s day-to-day operations, he, like many of his peers, dares to challenge himself with creative endeavors as well.
During the past two years Okto has organized a number of international boxing events in Indonesia, including presenting a bout between world champion Chris John and contender Daud Jordan, and motor sport fixtures that attract spectators and, importantly, sponsors. It is one of the 36-year-old’s goals to boost the standing of Indonesian sport internationally.
Meanwhile, the staging of Justin Bieber and Janet Jackson pop music spectaculars in Jakarta recently was the product of his showbiz flagship Mahkota Promotion.
“In the entertainment industry, you rely on your creativity and innovative prowess,” says Okto. “These factors are the essence of modern business.”
Many HIPMI members are convinced of Okto’s business acumen and vision. One of the organization’s members, Fahrio Aviero, says Okto’s strong leadership is likely to usher HIPMI into a new, more contemporary direction.
“He chooses to get involved in interesting business opportunities that most people don’t think of and makes them a success,” Fahrio says.
The government’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI) is another area where HIPMI wants to play a role.
“We will play our part in the economic plan, just as our members do in the construction, agribusiness, tourism and hospitality sectors,” Okto says.
Embracing a consultative leadership style, the new HIPMI chairman has suggested a power-sharing arrangement with rivals Erik and Priamanaya. Okto also puts his trust in Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa’s son Reza to assist him in his current HIPMI cabinet.
One source at the organization says that President Yudhoyono has even given Okto the nod as a potential future leader. The source told GlobeAsia that when Okto met the president some time before the HIPMI national congress this year, SBY was impressed by Okto’s many and varied credentials.
The ties that bind
Along with siblings Raja Sapta Ervian and Mirani Isnaniati, Okto manages the family business’ daily activities, while patriarch Osman Sapta Odang oversees the company’s macro strategies and maintains business relationships.
“I have been put in charge of managing and running the group’s sprawling business for now,” Okto confirms.
OSO Group’s property portfolio includes the operation of Kalimantan’s Grand Mahkota Hotel and The Stones in Kuta, Bali, which opened last year. In airlines and transportation, it runs Enggang Air Service, a chartered airline flying the latest Brazilian Embraer private jets, and is responsible for a ground handling business at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport.
Then there are OSO Group’s mining and agribusiness interests, spread throughout the country, and a diversified portfolio in the finance sector.
Okto’s broad business relationships are still intrinsically linked to his father. In the estimation of some Indonesian thinkers, Osman Sapta Odang is highly regarded not least because of the influence he commands. Increasingly, though, his son Okto is making his own way.
Climbing the ladder
Like many other organizations with close, informal relationships with government and ruling political parties, HIPMI provides a path for young, ambitious entrepreneurs to reach powerful positions in society. There have been times when the organization has even been used by political parties for mass mobilization of voters before a general election.
It is a fact that HIPMI is a training ground for business and political leaders in Indonesia. Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie once headed the organization, as did former Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) representative Sandiaga Uno, Haryadi Sukamdani of Sahid Group and ambassador to Japan Muhammad Lutfi.
With 6,000 HIPMI members throughout the country, becoming chairman has considerably slashed the number of rungs on Okto’s ladder to success and put him in esteemed company.
Sources say that when he met SBY, Okto urged the president to consider his HIPMI predecessor Erwin Aksa for a cabinet position in the then upcoming reshuffle. His advice, as it turned out, was not heeded.
According to business commentator Samuel Tan, the HIPMI chairmanship does not guarantee a prosperous life in business or politics. Its value is more of a networking opportunity.
“You can only build your network there,” says Samuel. “Then you have to get back to business and engage in your own organization to make it competitive at every level.”
Since its outset, only a few major businessmen have sprung from HIPMI’s ranks. Former Vice President Jusuf Kalla once told the club’s members to prove themselves as sound businessmen first, before asking for protection and incentives from government.
“HIPMI members have to be real entrepreneurs first,” he said. “The organization should prove that all its members are capable of becoming Indonesia’s next movers and shakers, rather than making their modus operandi climbing political and business ladders.” GA