Heritage Master – Hashim Djojohadikusumo

Heritage Master – Hashim Djojohadikusumo


Indonesian entrepreneur takes time out from running a conglomerate to focus on cultural and wildlife issues.

This has been a year of culture for Hashim Djojohadikusumo. A few months ago, he was re-elected as the president of Percasi, the Indonesian chess federation, and appointed head of the supervisory board of Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta.

 As well as helping to save Indonesia’s Trowulan archaeological site from the construction of a steel factory nearby, he is planning to create conservation areas for the country’s tigers and orangutans. To add to this, he is also the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Heritage Trust.

This may sound like the profile of a specialist in culture and wildlife, but in fact Djojohadikusumo’s day job is thoroughly rooted in the commercial world.

 He is the founder and head of the Arsari Group, an Indonesian conglomerate with interests including paper, palm oil, mining and logistics. Arsari is a fairly recent development for the businessman, and is a consolidation of a number of companies from a family business he has helped to run for many years within Indonesia and beyond.

 Growing up, Djojohadikusumo and his family led a comfortable life. His father, Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, was an economist who served several terms in the Indonesian government as minister for finance and, later, minister for trade.

 But in 1957 when he disagreed with then president Sukarno, the family was forced to leave the country.

 “My father was a rebel,” Djojohadikusumo says. “We had to leave, and we became refugees. We stayed in different places; two years in Hong Kong, three years in Singapore, two years in Kuala Lumpur, two in Switzerland and in London.”

 Having gone to school in Singapore, Djojohadikusumo went to the United States for his undergraduate studies at the Pomona College in California, majoring in politics and economics. After graduating, he worked as an analyst at a bank in France.

 After 11 years overseas, the Djojohadikusumo family was able to return to Indonesia and start anew. Sumitro Djojohadikusumo opened a consulting company called Indo Consult, and he gave his son the post of a director in the business.

 Having successfully worked at the firm his father had founded for many years, Djojohadikusumo made a decision that was to have a huge impact. In 1997 he bought an oil field in Kazakhstan for $88 million, in partnership with Canadian investors.

 But this major purchase came just before the huge Asian financial crisis that hit in the late 1990s. Djojohadikusumo had to give up some of his companies to pay his debts, taking seven years to fully settle them all. This was to be a time of learning some harsh lessons.

 “My father had given me good advice on business matters but I disregarded him,” he recalls. “Had I listened to him, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.”

 Djojohadikusumo’s heavy losses during the crisis disturbed his focus on business. He became more religious and changed his lifestyle to take his mind off his problems.

 It took several years for Djojohadikusumo to rebuild his business empire.

Then, in 2007, he made the biggest deal in his life when he sold his Kazakhstan oil field to the China CITIC group for $1.9 billion. With a renewed focus, he concentrated on developing his other businesses including palm oil, maize and rubber.

 He then consolidated these ventures into one company that he named Arsari — after his three children, Aryo, Sara and Indra — which now has a reported turnover of $1.3 billion.

 Djojohadikusumo decided to settle back in Indonesia to make a fresh start with the Arsari group, and diversified his businesses into mining and energy.

 With his companies settled and running smoothly, Djojohadikusumo decided to devote some of his time to supporting the passions in his life outside of work, many of which are centered on preserving and protecting Indonesia’s heritage.

Hashim owes his love of heritage to his grandfather, who often took care of him and his three siblings when they were children. Margono Djojohadikusumo, who was the founder of Bank Negara Indonesia, made a point of taking his grandchildren to sites like the Borobudur and Prambanan temple compounds and the Imogiri cemetery of royal graves to learn how to appreciate the value of culture and history.

“My siblings and I were brought up to care and love our country, to be patriotic.”

This grounding no doubt helped inspire him in his mission to help save Trowulan from the incursion of a steel mill.

Trowulan is an archaeological site including temples, tombs and a bathing pool, and is the only fully structured city of the Majapahit empire — which dominated the region between about 1300 and 1500 — that can be explored today. Building a steel plant nearby could have destroyed the site, so Hashim petitioned and met local officials to ask them to withdraw the permit.

 His new role at Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta has provided another project that Djojohadikusumo can get his teeth stuck into, as he plans to give the zoo a makeover. Although he was given a budget of $200 million, he says: “I would like to make the zoo the best in the world without spending that much.”

Ragunan is the second largest urban zoo in the world, and Djojohadikusumo has ambitions to create something similar to the popular Night Safari wildlife reserve in Singapore.

“I guess we have the right ingredients: Financing, massive land and the animals.”

He is also arranging for two animal conservations to be created on his own land — a tiger enclosure in West Sumatra and an orangutan base in East Kalimantan.

“The tigers have lost their habitat and this will serve as a refuge for them,” he says. “It will include tigers who have been maimed by snares, and tigers that have been caught for other purposes.”

For the orangutans, he has prepared a concession so they can live in the wild. There is a plan to move 28 orangutans out of the Ragunan Zoo as it is currently overcrowded, and prepare them for eventual release into the wild.

 Hashim extends his care for the environment to his businesses. A few years ago he went into bioethanol production through the plantation of the aren plant, a palm with deep roots that help conserve water. He considers investment in renewable energy to be highly important for the future of Indonesia and the energy industry itself.

Another passion for Djojohadikusumo is chess, an especially surprising enthusiasm as he does not play the game himself. He hopes that during his time as head of the Indonesian Chess Federation that he will be able to lead the organization to become one of the top ten in the world.

“We need to identify younger players at an early age and develop them over five to ten years.”

His passion for chess was ignited in 1972 by the legendary contest between Bobby Fischer from the US and Boris Spassky from Russia.

Djojohadikusumo says that he enjoys everything he is involved in, whether it is business, heritage or chess.

“I don’t play chess but I enjoy associating with the chess players because they are generally a smart lot,” he says. “I like to be with smart people.” (China Daily Asia 6 Dec 2013)

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