SD Darmono: Have Conviction and Seize the Opportunity

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The experience of talking with him is so rich that it is like entering a time tunnel to the future. For him time is like a boundless horizon. He talks eloquently about his various visions and missions in both business and life.

His name is Setyono Djuandi Darmono, or Pak Dar. That he is a visionary is reflected by his remarkable achievements. The most spectacular to date is Jababeka City in Cikarang (Bekasi), West Java, 35 kilometers east of Jakarta.

Previously, Cikarang was vacant land serving only as a water catchment. Today, however, Jababeka is home to some 1,300 small and big factories. No fewer than 25 countries have invested here. In addition, around 10,000 expatriates work there. “It has now become an international area,” Darmono said.

Innumerable houses, shops, star-rated hotels and upper-class recreational parks have been built in the area. In short, Jababeka is a new city complete with facilities and a 650,000 population. And Darmono, who celebrated his 57th birthday on April 26, still nurtures a dream to build other cities like Jababeka. Similar projects under construction are in Cilegon, Banten; Magelang, Central Java; and Yogyakarta. Preparations are also under way for similar projects in other regions. “I will not stop establishing more Jababekas in this country for as long as I live,” he stressed.

Indeed, Darmono’s enthusiasm is rarely found in other people. However, at first, Darmono, who was born in Yogyakarta and grew up in Magelang, never dreamed of accomplishing all this. When he was young he had just a simple ambition. “I had no ambition for any position but only wished to have a job and to please my parents,” he reminisced.

Making a career in the property sector did not cross his mind until 1980. The idea came to him when he lived in England for three years working for ICI Dyingstuff, a textile dye manufacturer. There he became interested in the property business after discovering that several of his customers who owned textile mills were interested in doing business in the property sector. At that time Indonesia’s property sector was booming.

So upon his return to Indonesia, Darmono along with colleagues Hadi Rahardja and Adam Kurniawan, started a property business in 1982. His first property project, Bumi Bintaro Permai, a residential area in Bintaro, was successful. Uniquely, none of the founders of this company were experts or had any prior experience in the property business. Darmono had experience only in marketing, while Hadi Rahardja had experience in textiles. “The core of all businesses is management. If we can control management, we can work in any area,” he said. Therefore, his principle is like this: “Management is how to manage people and how to delegate work to other people, then the result will be better than when you do it by yourself!”

Darmono and his colleagues moved even faster than before. They changed their concept as they wanted to create a property business that yielded bigger results, faster. Darmono came up with the idea called “The Winning Concept”, which means establishing a property area that will create a demand for other property projects.

Luckily this concept came at an opportune time as in 1988 the Indonesian government, which previously did not allow the private sector to build and develop industrial estates, encouraged private businessmen to do so. “That is why we built the Jawa Barat (West Java) – Bekasi industrial estate,” he said, explaining that the construction of this industrial estate began in 1989.

One thing that always inspires him is that “If you intend to make something, don’t make it mediocre. It must be the best of the best.”

So it is no surprise that the Jababeka industrial estate has more facilities and infrastructure than other such estate in this country. “I don’t want factory owners to have difficulty in obtaining clean water or disposing of their industrial waste or getting a power supply,” he said about the early days of the construction of Jababeka City. Jababeka has a fine system for waste treatment and disposal, well-regulated roads and its own power plant.

Why did Darmono decide to build an industrial estate? Because he realized the multiplier effect of an estate. A recipient of the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurship award, he said, “Factories create employment opportunities and various demands.

“Factory employees, from the top to the lowest levels, need places to live in areas close to their factories. Then there is a demand for education, shops or shop-houses as well as places for recreation and sports, like a golf course. There is also a demand for hotels, hospitals and so forth. In short, factories will continue to generate demand after demand.”

Talking about vision, Darmono applies various religious concepts — Islam and Confucius. First, he is inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s concept of time. “Prophet Muhammad said that if you get up in the morning, assume that you will live another 1,000 years but before you go to sleep, assume that you will die in your sleep,” he said. “Adhering to this concept we can always work hard and will always remember God”.

Second, said Darmono, who is married to Rosilawati Dewi, is a story from Confucius’ teachings. “Once there was an old man who wanted to remove the mountain in front of his house as he believed it was an obstacle to his success,” he said.

Although many people, including his own wife, opposed this old man’s idea, he was firm in his belief. Then he began to cut down the trees and dig the earth in the mountain, disregarding his advanced age. “Did the old man succeed in removing the mountain? Perhaps he did not, but what he did bring about was the techniques of tree felling, earth removal and many other things so that one day someone will be able to remove the mountain.”

So, Darmono said, the most important thing in life is to have a forward-looking vision. See opportunities and have the conviction that they are good and then never feel afraid to tap them.

One of his visions that will soon be turned into reality is the Revitalization of Borobudur, a project the commencement of which will be announced on June 2. The idea to revitalize Borobudur struck him when he upgraded the golf course of the Military Academy in Magelang. This upgraded golf course has enjoyed rapid progress and has lead to encouragement in various fields in the surrounding areas.

Starting from his success with the upgrading of the golf course, Darmono plans to turn the Borobodur area into a new Jababeka City through the Tidar Heritage Foundation, which he and some friends have established. “The Borobudur area is actually an inter-faith and inter-cultural area where all live in harmony,” he noted.

According to Darmono, various disasters that have hit Indonesia are mostly due to moral degradation in the country. Therefore, the revitalization of Borobudur will have culture, religion and natural revitalization as its point of departure. “Property is actually a land business and land is part of nature. So, if you want to be successful in the property business, you must love nature and then nature will love you in return,” he stated, hoping that the revitalization of Borobudur will inspire other people to return to our noble culture and always revere God.

When will this project be completed? “Just like the old man in the story, I don’t know when this project will be completed. The most important thing for me is that this vision is right and I have started it,” he said.

And when does Darmono intend to retire? “I will retire only from a job that burdens me, like the present CEO position. Later I can be just a commissioner or an advisor. Other than that, I will never retire,” he said.

When asked about when he becomes too old to do anything, Darmono said: “I will pray to God that I be accepted into the hereafter just like what Prophet Muhammad said,” he said calmly.

Simple, plain and firm — these are Darmono’s main attributes. “We were born with nothing, so when we die why must we take anything with us?” (Arif T. Syam)

The Jakarta Post, May 09, 2007
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