Cover Story / March 2019
Shinta is president director and chief executive of the Sintesa Group, a family business that started off a century ago as a rubber plantation, and which since 1999, has been transformed into a major consolidated holding company with diversified interests in property, energy, industry and consumer goods. She has successfully consolidated the group in recent years by focusing on sectors relevant to a modern economy, while selling or even closing unprofitable units.
According to Shinta, the group grew by 10 percent over the past five years, especially on the back of persisting demand for consumer goods in Indonesia. While some sectors, such as industry, did experience fluctuations, she says there are still plenty of opportunities, especially for subsidiary PT Tira Austenite, which is engaged in the sale of industrial gas and related products. “We keep adapting and responding to the needs of industries that are still growing. We still see growth in the shipping and automotive sectors, which means more business opportunities for us,” she says.
Through intense research and development efforts, Shinta wants to strengthen the group’s position in consumer goods, such as health products and herbal medicines. “There is a lot of room for growth and the opportunities in consumer goods are still big,” she says.
While the group’s retail business – managed by PT Tiga Raksa – remains stable, Shinta sees more opportunities for growth in the energy sector. “There is huge demand for energy and from the business side, the energy business provides us with certainty, as state utility company PT PLN is a standby buyer of the electricity we produce,” she says, adding that despite high production costs, this sector remains profitable. “That’s why we purse energy excellence in this sector,” she says.
Despite a slowdown in Indonesia’s property sector, Shinta still has high expectations for the group’s special property project, an eco-resort in Manado, North Sulawesi, which is being developed to cater to rising demand in the tourism sector. The group also has several properties, including office buildings, in Jakarta.
Shinta’s father, veteran businessman Johnny Widjaja, prepared her from a young age to one day take over the family business, but an independent streak initially took her on a different journey.
She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York in 1989 before completing Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program in 2002. Shinta, who was born in Jakarta in 1967, started working at the age of 13, selling books door to door. She also took some part-time jobs while studying in the United States to earn extra money.
Shinta is well known for her skill in presenting her ideas, whether it be at home or in an international forum on economic and business-related issues, on leadership, business sustainability, entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, social and cultural issues and more.
She currently serves as deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Trade (Kadin), where she is responsible for international relations. This position sees her actively lobbying for improvement in the ease of doing business in Indonesia to attract more international investment.
Shinta is also deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), a role that involves her frequently liaising with the government on a “link and match” policy to better align curricula at schools and universities with the skills and qualifications in demand in the workplace. “I always urge government to create more training for students to get more qualified workers, and adapting the curriculum to the needs of modern industry,” she says.
The mother of four gives the government credit for the progress it has made over the past three years in terms of improving the ease of doing business in Indonesia. She further believes continuous efforts to improve the country’s infrastructure will propel the economy in the future. Shinta is also appreciative of the government’s response to other crucial issues, such as taxation and industry regulations.
As an ardent promotor of economic sustainability, she also serves as president of the Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development. “I believe business organizations must start thinking more about having a positive impact on society and our planet,” she says.
Shinta further serves on the board of advisors of the Indonesian Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment. “I think the issue is not only about women starting businesses, but about access to funding,” she says, adding that other crucial issues that need attention include mentoring and management skills. More than that, she says, “educating men is also important, so they can understand that women have an important role to play in the economy, while men should also play a larger role in taking care of the family.”
Shinta was involved in the launch of Angel Investment Network Indonesia, or Angin, an initiative to assist women by providing them with seed funding to start their own businesses. “I started it with some of my friends and now it has taken off in terms of the number of women who have already receiving funding,” she says. “With technology increasingly replacing humans, women must become entrepreneurs.”
She is the founder of Global Entrepreneurship Program Indonesia, which seeks to promote and support entrepreneurs in the country by providing them with training, financing, and mentorship. “From an economic perspective, at least 2 percent of our population should be entrepreneurs, compared with only 1.7 percent now. This will have a more significant economic and social impact,” Shinta says.
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