The passing away of Sudono Salim, or Liem Sioe Liong, marks the end of an era for one of Indonesia’s pioneering business owners. A giant among the country’s business community, Liem helped found the Salim Group and built it into a formidable enterprise with operations in more than 40 countries.
Born in China, Liem came to Indonesia in the mid-1930s to join his brother in Medan. He had a nose for business but worked hard to build his company over the next half-century. More importantly, his endeavors also contributed to building our nation and Liem’s legacy is the development of the country’s industrial sector.
In many ways, he was the country’s first industrialist and he knew what the country required in the early days of President Suharto’s government. His entrepreneurial skills and business know-how helped build the country’s cement industry, its banking sector and its food sector. In the early days of the republic, there were no plantations, agricultural development or building materials for the construction of schools, hospitals and roads. Liem developed many of these industries and in so doing, helped the economy grow and created hundreds of thousands of jobs for his fellow countrymen.
He may have enjoyed some favorable treatment under the New Order regime as a close confidante of Suharto, but that should not take away from the important role he played in the country. Liem was also an early contributor to education. He founded the Prasetya Mulya Foundation, which later founded the Prasetya Mulya Business School.
As noted by lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, Liem was a patriot and a nationalist. He was loyal to Indonesia, even after the traumatic events of May 1998 when his home was ransacked and his business empire diminished. His legacy of hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and loyalty will live on.