Hendy Setiono: Successful Entrepreneur at 23

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Being rich and successful at a young age is everybody’s dream. For Hendy Setiono, however, it is no dream. At the age of 23, Hendy owns and leads a very successful company that he established three and a half years ago. The young executive, who takes his laptop with him wherever he goes, is the owner of Kebab Turki Baba Rafi (Baba Rafi Turkish Kebab), a franchise-based Middle Eastern fast food business. Today Kebab Turki Baba Rafi has over 100 outlets in Indonesia (either owned by Hendy or by franchisees).

The idea of starting this business struck Hendy while in Qatar with his parents. “I often bought kebab there. One day I asked myself why not introduced this delicious food to Indonesians,” said Hendy, explaining that his father is an engineer who works for an oil company in Qatar.

Hendy made a business plan. “Something I always remember from seminars featuring Mr. Tung Desem Waringin, which I often attend, is that we must have the courage to start a business even if it is only small, in line with our capability,” he said.

So, in mid-2003 he hired one person and opened his first kebab outlet — a cart — on the roadside of Jl. Semolowaru, Surabaya. The out was named Kebab Turki (Turkey Kebab) not Kebab Qatar. “In Qatar it is kebab from Turkey that is famous and delectable.”

The name Baba Rafi? Well, Rafi is the name of Hendy’s first child. The word baba is Arabic for “father”. “So Baba Rafi means Rafi’s father. I didn’t call it Kebab Pak Hendy because that doesn’t have a nice ring to it,” said the elder of two siblings, who not only started his business at a very young age but also married at an age considered too young for the average Indonesian. He already has three children.

Recalling the early days of his business, Hendy said that one day his sole employee fell ill and so he had to man the cart himself. “Thank God, there was heavy rain that day. And I only earned a small amount of money as I closed earlier than usual! So small were the earnings that day that they was not enough to pay for a seafood dish at another restaurant,” he reminisced.

His story is part of the ups and downs that he went through in the early days of his kebab business. “In the early days, employee turnover was very high. Some of our franchisees did not comply with the agreement signed and started their own system so that we eventually canceled our contract with them,” he said.

However, owing to perseverance and consultation with Tung Desem and Purdi E. Chandra, a franchise expert and owner of the Primagama educational institution, as well as thanks to discussions with friends at the Entrepreneur University and on the Tangan Di Atas mailing list, Hendy went on to open six more outlets in the first year.

Today, Kebab Turki Baba Rafi can be found on almost every major island in Indonesia, with some 110 outlets and 250 employees. But he has yet to open an outlet in Jakarta, usually the yardstick for every businessman. “Jakarta is my last target. I’ll be opening an outlet in Jakarta in March,” he said, arguing that it is not easy to conquer Jakarta.

Nevertheless, Hendy said that over 30 investors had expressed interest in being franchisees of Kebab Turki in Jakarta. Will Hendy be satisfied after opening an outlet in Jakarta? “I also aim to open an outlet in Malaysia and Thailand this year,” he said confidently.

Does that sound a little too ambitious? Perhaps do not. Hendy has been named one of Asia’s successful businessmen under 25 years of age by Business Week. Following an interview with a television station in an Asian country, many expressed interest in a franchise in his kebab business. “I have even received e-mail from people living in countries I have never heard of, such as Malta,” he said candidly.

However, Hendy said that, “Indonesia is too vast an area for a business opportunity to be left untapped.” He cited the successful franchise businesses of Indomaret and Alfamart, which have thousands of outlets all over the country. “If they can do it, I’m sure I can too,” he said, full of confidence.

Some quarters question whether Hendy is too young to expand his business or whether it is too soon for him to expand. “I don’t think so, because all I have achieved so far was planned, it didn’t just happen,” said Hendy, who did not finish university.

On the other hand, he does not think of himself as highly successful and does not want others to see him as such. “If someone thinks they are successful, they won’t develop further. I’ll consider myself really successful when other people are inspired to be as successful as me.”

On his future plans, Hendy said he would like to retire young by delegating responsibility to a trusted team. What would he do? “Travel the world and look for other business opportunities,” he said, adding that as a businessman he would never stop looking for fresh business opportunities, tapping them and achieving success.

His secret to success, he said, is ATM, an acronym for Amati, Tiru, Modifikasi (observe, imitate, modify). The way he developed his kebab business follows this concept — he started his kebab business after observing kebab sales in Qatar. Hendy then imitated the dish and modified it to suit Indonesian tastes.

Therefore, Hendy will never stop looking for business opportunities. In fact he has already started another business, a drive-thru/take away coffee outlet called Coffee Tofi. Today, there are 10 Coffee Tofi outlets in Surabaya. “This is coffee of the same caliber as Starbucks at an affordable price,” he said. Perhaps such success is what happens when someone starts off at a young age. (Arif T. Syam)

The Jakarta Post, March 21, 2007