Shanti L. Poesposoetjipto: Going to Good Governance

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Although her father is the owner of the company, Shanti Lasminingsih Poesposoetjipto did not automatically get a top position in her father’s company. A 1974 graduate of electronic engineering specializing in compoter science from Germany’s Technische Universitat Munchen, she had to apply for the position of manager at her father’s company, NVPD Soedarpo Corporation which is highly selective in recruiting managerial personnel.

“Dad always hires professionals for top positions. It was true that I was once a CEO in dad’s company, but it was not for long because another professional was recruited to replace me,” said Shanti, who was Soedarpo Corporation’s president director between July 1994 and June 1996. She also held the same position, albeit for less than a year, at PT Praweda Ciptakarsa Informatika, a subsidiary of Soedarpo Corporation in information technology.

Between 1974 and 1997, Shanti learned everything about the shipping business at Samudera Indonesia and built her career in various information technology projects. Currently, Shanti, the eldest of three daughters of Soedarpo Corporation owner Soedarpo Sastrosatomo, is the acting executive director at the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia institution, whose mission is to reform the government by fighting corruption and encouraging decentralization.

Shanti is a member of the supervisory boards of Samudra Indonesia and several other companies outside the Soedarpo Corporation such as PT Timah Tbk and RaboBank International Indonesia. She is also active in various national and international organizations such as Yayasan Sejati, German-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EKONID) and the Indonesian Telecommunications Society.

When the pharmaceutical division and the EDP division of Soedarpo Corporation suffered a blow during the monetary crisis in 1997, Shanti took part in putting things right in these two divisions.

In those days the information technology industry also underwent changes and the Internet came into being but the business was no longer profitable so fresh capital was needed.

As the hardware and service businesses were going through uncertainty, it would be a losing business for Soedarpo to continue selling personal computers. Shanti was confronted with two choices: to close down their information technology company or set up a business partnership. Eventually it was agreed upon to sell 70 percent of the shares that the Soedarpo family controlled to Danareksa. In the end the Soedarpo family controlled only 15 percent of the shares.

“This means that the information technology company owed a debt to the parent company (Soedarpo Corporation) and then the company itself drew a loan from banks,” Shanti said.

The proceeds from the sale of the shares were spent on the repayment of the loan to the company and also on purchasing the information technology company through Ngrumat Bondo Utomo (NBU, a family company acting as the parent company for Samudera Indonesia Group, Asuransi Bintang, Loewe and Soedarpo Informatika Group.

Following this business spinoff, the monetary crisis swept the entire country. Owing to a miscalculation, in which only loans in rupiah were repaid, the company had to swallow a bitter pill because its remaining loans in U.S. dollars soared in value. However, the winds of change led to the transformation of the information technology division into PT Praweda Ciptakarsa Informatika. This newly established company was in for great fortune and developed rapidly between 1997 and 2002.

“It was established at the time of the general election. It was also the same time of the haj pilgrimage and a clearing system was applied. So we could rake in a lot of money,” said Shanti, who has been a member of Praweda’s supervisory board and at the same time the caretaker from its inception.

It would be very difficult to bring together various traits of character and different types of corporate environment. All of Soedarpo’s information technology businesses have been merged into Praweda, leading to the emergence of all sorts of problems such as company politicking, in which some employees refused to be open about their jobs, and immature human resources.

“In such a situation, it is very important to ensure that everybody adheres to good governance,” said Shanti, who held regular meetings, in which every party concerned submitted reports and accounted for what they had done in a clear and transparent manner, and who also strove to draw the attention of every employee to the substance of their job.

“We also gave no room for gossiping,” said Shanti, a mountain climbing fan who took this process as a natural evolution.

Robert Heller in Managing Change says that there will always be resistance to changes but we can prevent it by anticipating and understanding other people’s objections.

Retirement seems to be a word alien to the woman, who was born in 1948. Shanti quickly agreed when Erna Witoelar, a prominent NGO activist and former Cabinet minister, asked her to join the Partnership Governance Reform in Indonesia along with Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, former president director of PT Timah and now a high-ranking official of the Commission on Eradication of Corruption, and Heru Prasetyo, former CEO of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).

The initial concept of this institution, namely cooperation involving the government, the community and the private sector to ensure that there is openness, accountability, etc. appeals to her. The founders of this institution also tried to apply good management by recruiting their leaders professionally.

For this purpose, they used the services of a head hunter. Under this recruitment system, HS Dillon was named the institution’s executive director between 2003 and 2005. While he has yet to be replaced, Shanti has been named acting executive director of the institution, which since 2000 has managed some 260 projects at a cost of some US$50 million.

Just as she took care of the newly established Praweda, Shanti is slowly re-ordering the working methods of her staffers. Today the employees not only do their job but they must share their experiences with fellow employees.

“I am just trying to open their eyes and broaden their minds,” Shanti, who received various awards including the Women Inspire Award 2002 for Information Technology from Singapore’s Singaswiss Event Services Pte. Ltd., said modestly.

Shanti said she was only facilitating things, just like she did in the companies under the flagship of Soedarpo Corporation. “I’m simply making sure that when Dad is no longer with us, the psychological impact will not be too great,” she noted. (Lily G. Nababan)

The Jakarta Post, May 10, 2006
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