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.
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.