Fighting Fire with Film: Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL Uses Innovative Approach to Cultivating a Fire Free Community

Sukanto Tanoto’s Initial Rise Towards Success: A Young New Business Leader

Sukanto Tanoto was still quite young when he was forced to spend less time at school and focus more on helping his family with their business. Prior to his father’s health problems, young Sukanto’s parents continued to encourage his education, despite the local political unrest in the country that caused road blocks and sparked danger for many of the local inhabitants.

Sukanto Tanoto

Taking Over the Family Business

When his father suffered a minor stroke, Sukanto Tanoto stepped up to take a leadership role in the family business, working hard to do the management work that his father previously carried out, handling invoices, receipts and various other types of documents.

By typing, he was able to continue learning Bahasa Indonesian, and he soon realized just how vital your education can be when you’re trying to become successful in the business world. Amidst constantly-growing unrest, however, Chinese schools were forced to close, and the young business leader soon had to decide to dedicate all his efforts towards managing and improving the family business.

The Start of a Successful Business

In 1966, Sukanto Tanoto’s father closed the shop and provided young Sukanto with the remaining stock of parts, so that, soon after, he would be able to open his very own spare parts business. In January of 1967, this dream became reality, as the aspiring entrepreneur used the knowledge and resources he gained by managing his family business to begin his own endeavors in Medan.

At the age of only 17, young Mr. Tanoto started working full time on managing his business with only 4 employees and about $30,000, mainly gained through spare parts inventory.

It was incredibly hard work. Together, the team worked very closely and coordinated each action with precision. For 15 hours a day, they dedicated their entire time to managing all the tasks that needed to be performed at the spare parts store and, despite all the hard work, spirits remained high, since they basically worked together as a family.

Nevertheless, with more and more foreigners arriving in Indonesia, all that work paid off and business was better than ever. Just three years after beginning his first business, Sukanto Tanoto was clearly on the path to success, managing to secure 3 million Singapore dollars in the bank; what with Chinese schools in Indonesia still closed, he provided his brothers with the means to continue their education in Singapore.

New Business Opportunities in Indonesia

As foreigners continued to arrive at the shores of Indonesia, Mr. Tanoto knew that he had to profit from this positive development, and, while continuing to learn the secrets of successfully managing his business, he also started learning English one word at a time, using a simple Chinese-English dictionary.

Again, the young entrepreneur’s foresight paid off, and again he proved that through his continuing drive to learn as much as possible, he could aspire to higher and higher goals. By 1970, he was able to start a new business using solely his own funds, becoming a contractor and supplier for a company known as Pertamina – operating in the petroleum and natural gas industry.

Two years later, Sukanto Tanoto became the proud owner of CV Karya (later renamed KARPEL), and, through his determination and constant study, he managed to make all the right choices to become one of the most competitive suppliers on the market.


A Lifesaving Initiative by RAPP – Efforts to Provide Better Treatment for a Young Girl

Nurul Aisyah was only 7 months old when her mother discovered that something was very wrong with her little girl. Later, it was discovered that she had a rare heart disorder that caused frequent seizures, high fever and severe pain, predicting a grim future for the young girl, unless expensive treatments could be provided as soon as possible.

As news of the little girl’s story has rippled throughout the community, representatives from RAPP (Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper) – the largest provider of paper and pulp in the Sumatra area – have responded by initiating a fund raiser that has brought new hope to the girl’s troubled parents.

Nurul Aisyah – The Struggle of Poverty

The young girl is now almost two years of age, kept under close observation and receiving good assistance in a renowned government hospital. All this would not have been possible without the help of active community members who took interest in learning about the story of Nurul Aisyah and her parents.

The young girl was born in a poor family, with her father barely being able to earn enough to put food on the table. When her parents learned of her debilitating disease, however, food was far from being the first thing on their minds, as they strived to save up as much money as possible for consultations and treatments.

Doctors, however, had bad news for the family, stating that Nurul Aisyah would need professional treatments worth tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, if she was to be given a chance at a normal life. All seemed hopeless for the small family, as the little girl’s father could only occasionally earn a little extra by working for construction contractors and there seemed to be no other avenue towards acquiring the necessary funding to pay for the treatments.

As it sometimes happens, luckily, miracles are not that far away, and it seemed that help was just around the corner for the little girl. News spread about her condition, reaching people in her community who could genuinely do something to help her situation – people such as the employees of RAPP, the main subsidiary of a company named APRIL that operates under the leadership of esteemed entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sukanto Tanoto.

RAPP Initiates Funding Efforts

RAPP was the only large corporation in the area to take an interest in the story of Nurul Aisyah and actually try to do something to help. The company’s employees quickly mobilized themselves to bring the news of the story to as many people in the community as possible.

At first, the fundraising efforts did not yield many results. Although another philanthropic organization and many people in the local community worked together to spread the word, it wasn’t until later that the money really started to flow in. Soon enough, however, Nurul Aisyah’s parents could hardly believe their good fortune when members from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and several other organizations and wealthy individuals in the region submitted donations worth more than 30 million US dollars.

As fundraising efforts continued, RAPP managed to ensure the entire amount was swiftly delivered to the family, and the little girl’s parents thanked them with tears in their eyes for helping their child have renewed hope for a better future.

Now, Nurul Aisyah is one of the few children who, with assistance from RAPP and other people and businesses who truly took an interest and wanted to help, is able to dream about a better life with her parents.

Employees and representatives from RAPP and organizations such as the Tanoto Foundation continue the fight against poverty in Indonesia to this day, in the hope that better opportunities can be provided for the future of children who truly need them – children like

The Early Years of Sukanto Tanoto – Paving the Path to Greatness

Sukanto Tanoto, currently one of the most well-known, richest and respected business leaders in Indonesia, has started out in life in a volatile time, when the country was still fighting for its independence and life for most Indonesians – most especially Chinese immigrants – was extremely hard.

Young Sukanto quickly learned the basic lessons about the value of hard work, the many traits of the people he and his parents would meet on their journey through life and the numerous challenges associated with maintaining a successful business and good grades in school all at the same time.

A Difficult Time for Indonesians

On December the 25th, 1949, a young boy named Sukanto Tanoto was born in Belawan, Indonesia, to parents of Chinese descent who migrated to Indonesia in the early 1900s, from the Fijian province of China known as Putien.

Only 4 years after the end of World War II, this was an extremely difficult time for all Indonesians, with uprisings and guerilla wars spawned from a difficult fight for independence, which the young country obtained shortly after Sukanto Tanoto – the eldest of 7 brothers – was born.

His early childhood was marked by the problems associated with the fact that Sukanto was of Chinese descent, so from the start, he could not be enrolled in a regular public school. Combined with lacking infrastructure and large distances that had to be covered to even reach the school, this had a profound impact on the young boy, who quickly learned that he had to adapt to his surroundings if he hoped to achieve his dreams someday.

Balancing Work and School

If we think life is difficult today, Sukanto Tanoto’s early years should definitely serve as a source of inspiration for how someone can beat the odds, despite so many obstacles and difficulties.

A typical day in the life of Sukanto Tanoto began with an active morning in which he would help his mother at home with his 6 younger brothers, then head out to help his father at a gas station and a small shop. It was tedious work that had to be done by hand, the most difficult of which was pushing heavy barrels of oil and diesel into place – a task that was naturally extremely challenging for a young boy.

While school work was less physically challenging, young Mr. Tanoto also had to endure a bumpy one-and-a-half-hour bus ride to get to school. Undeterred by the lack of comfort and the heat that often accompanied the journey (there was no AC back then), Sukanto Tanoto diligently prepared for his lessons on the bus trip, determined not to waste any of his precious time and to try to profit as much as possible from the education that he was provided.

The Many Lessons of a Difficult Childhood

Young Sukanto Tanoto learned from an early age how valuable hard work, determination and understanding can be when it comes to achieving success in life and being able to help those around him.

Unlike in the case of most children, however, most of his lessons didn’t came from school books – although he certainly learned that it is best to retain as much as that knowledge as possible too – but from working at his parents’ part shop and gas station.

He quickly picked up the basics of how business works and learned from the hard work he put into pushing barrels, cleaning and doing chores, that persistence and discipline are vital for good results.

The most valuable lessons, however, were those learned about the many different types of people who would travel through the transient town and become their clients, learning how to identify customers who were honest or not.

This is how, even at an early age, Sukanto Tanoto learned some of the most important basics of business, as well as its close relation to life as a whole and the importance of a closely connected community.

New Philanthropic Initiatives for Indonesia: The Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy

After the years in which the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDG) designed for helping philanthropic foundations improve conditions in countries like Indonesia were deemed to be somewhat incomplete, a new set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was set in place recently. Philanthropic organizations gathered to find new solutions for poverty, health issues and inadequate education.

The new program, called the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy, has been set in place by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to outline the necessary changes and activities that are planned to be enacted in the years following 2015.

Who Is Behind the Initiative?

The new program is collectively run by the UNDP together with the Foundation Center and a group of other organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, the Tanoto Foundation and the Conrand N. Hilton Foundation, held together through a collaboration committee and fully supported and guided by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Indonesia is among the few countries that were chosen as targets for the new program, due to the fact that many of their inhabitants live well below the national poverty line and many new changes are required before adequate possibilities for a healthier, safer and happier life can be ensured for as much of the population as possible.

The proposal for the new SDGs was first presented after a year of painstaking work performed by a comprehensive group composed of representatives from more than 70 governments.

Established at the end of 2014, they were essentially the first part of a plan that would stretch from 2015 across almost 2 decades up to the 2030s, with goals including:

  • the unfinished MDGs – such as ending poverty and health related problems, improving education and achieving gender equality
  • economic and environmental sustainability
  • the creation and improvement of peaceful societies and initiatives to speed up development.

The foundations operating in the countries in question are expected to have widespread influence and retain the initiative to work on enacting these goals in a manner as straightforward and efficient as possible. In Indonesia, the Tanoto Foundation is among the key players involved in helping provide better resources, opportunities for infrastructural and health care improvements, and educational means for achieving goals such as gender equality and a higher degree of literacy.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda

The deadline of the MDGs is rapidly passing, and with the new goals in place, it seems that the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy has a brand new plan to implement in the following years, named the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This initiative was created to outline the way in which the new SDGs are expected to be implemented and ensure that, through the collaboration of a larger group of stakeholders, the goals are given a better chance of success for the future.

The project will provide the governments in countries like Indonesia, as well as grant holders and the UN system, with more data and a better understanding of the key issues that need to be addressed. According to the UNDP, in Indonesia, the focus will be more on continuing efforts to lower the number of people living below the national poverty line and providing better access to clean water, while also improving the health care system to reduce the number of infant and child deaths and stop the spread of HIV.

Data gathered from surveys placed healthcare, education, food and better security among the top concerns that countries facing high rates of poverty need to address. Through the initiatives set forth by the Partnership Platform for Philanthropy, the required activities for improving these areas are expected to be set in motion as soon as the end of 2015, with a long and extremely active schedule in place for the next 10-15 years.

Recent News

Boao Forum in China 2015: RGE Chairman Sukanto Tanoto attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015 in China from 26 to 29 March. The event was graced by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mr Tanoto was among the few overseas Chinese entrepreneurs invited, and he spoke at a closed door Energy/Resources CEO Round table discussion.

United Nations Development Programme: “Fostering commitment and leadership for philanthropy’s engagements, in the post – 2015 Development Agenda” (13 April 2015). Belinda Tanoto, Sukanto Tanoto’s daughter represented Tanoto Foundation in the event. She shared about how data is needed to ensure well-targeted support in Indonesia. She also outlined the vision of Tanoto Foundation during the session data revolution. You can find more information here:

Asian Agri, under RGE companies owned by Sukanto Tanoto actively supports smallholders programme and partnership in Indonesia. Video here:

Nurul Aisha: Story of how employees of APRIL’s subsidiary in Indonesia get together to help Nurul Aisyah. These articles are in bahasa language, let me know if your write is able to write the content for this.