Shafie Shamsuddin: Persistence Pays Off

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His involvement in one of the world’s largest hypermarkets from the start of his working life has brought Shafie Shamsuddin remarkable success. Not only is the newly appointed president director of Carrefour Indonesia the first Asian to hold the top position in Indonesia, but he is also the youngest president director within the Carrefour Group worldwide.  

In leading Carrefour Indonesia, his responsibilities include overseeing the operation of 75 stores comprising 61 hypermarkets and 14 supermarkets located in 15 cities on the islands of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi.  

Judging from his long career in the management field, it would not be an overstatement to say that the Singaporean is well prepared for the role.  

The bachelor’s degree in business studies that he earned from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in 1996 was surely his entry ticket to what would later take him to the peak of success at the French company, which is largest hypermarket chain in the world. But how he managed to cope with a setback en route to becoming the number one person in Carrefour Indonesia is a valuable lesson.  

Aware that life and business are very much about struggle, Shafie has always remained persistent in the pursuit of his career goals. Ever since he embarked on his career, he has kept pushing ahead as he believes that in the end persistence always wins.  

Soon after graduating from Nanyang, Shafie started his career in Carrefour Singapore as a management trainee in the operations and purchasing department. “With the hypermarket business still very new in Asia, my stint was not easy. Nevertheless, my three-month training course in France as a management trainee not only gave me a valuable lesson, but also opened my mind to the fact that the hypermarket business had great potential in Asia,” he explained.  

Promoted as department head in Carrefour Singapore in October 1997, Shafie continued along his career path, earning the position of division manager for commercial and merchandising functions at the beginning of 2000. “Supervising five department managers, my task was to run both operations and merchandising. We made purchases of products and sold them to the operations. I also did a lot of traveling on business to China, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.”  

Shafie first moved to Indonesia in early 2002, when he was posted as bazaar merchandise manager for 10 Carrefour hypermarkets in Indonesia. Returning to his homeland the following year, Shafie kept his spirits high despite taking on more responsibilities.  

Holding various posts such as store director in operations, marketing and human resources and managing director in 2003 and 2005, respectively, Shafie further said that his biggest achievement was when he was appointed executive director and managing director of Carrefour Malaysia/Singapore.

“I was the first Asian and non-French speaking among the top 50 leaders out of half a million associates in the Carrefour Group. My duty was to lead more than 5,000 associates with an accountability of generating around 450 million euros in sales,” he recalled, adding that, “We call each of our employees an associate.”  

After more than 15 years of operations, Carrefour Malaysia witnessed Shafie’s leadership skills through the significant increase in the number of stores; from eight in 2006 to 17 stores in 2008.  

After being appointed president director of Carrefour Indonesia in August this year, Shafie is aware that more responsibilities and expectations will follow. Currently, Carrefour Indonesia generates almost 1 billion euros in sales from its 75 stores nationwide. “And with more than 12,000 direct associates and almost 20,000 indirect associates, I need to not only maintain the quality of services the business has already established, but also make some improvements, particularly in building stronger leadership within Carrefour Indonesia,” he remarked.  

With a collegiate type of father role in his leadership style, Shafie reiterated that being the leader of a company took more than just being a role model. “Leadership should consist of elements such as trust, teamwork, honesty and behavior to name a few.”  

Keen on learning about culture and people, Shafie realizes that while talent and experience are important elements when hiring a potential employee, cultural alignment also plays a significant role. “Cultural alignment is the bedrock of getting a corporate cultural fit.”  

He added that assessing the cultural fit between an individual employee and the company should be underscored as it had the potential to bring the company success and profitability, as well as develop the employee’s career.

“To me, a cultural fit within a business organization brings harmony between an individual employee and the organizational values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors,” he remarked, adding that failure to consider these elements could cause unhappiness and loss of morale among employees.  

Shafie also believes that social networks have the potential to give a sense of belonging to all levels of staff, but top management staff should foster such interpersonal bonds.  

As the president director a big multinational company, Shafie’s workload is heavy, but he manages to make time for his family. Married with three children, Shafie has a close relationship with his two sons and one daughter. “My oldest child, Mohd. Faisal, is in Malaysia at business school. My other two children, 10-year-old son Safiuddin and seven-year-old daughter Diyanah, live with us in Jakarta. They both go to the Singapore International School.”  

The 38-year-old Shafie spends most of his weekends with his wife and children. “Swimming, riding bicycles and hanging out at malls are what we usually treasure at weekends.”  

To Shafie, leadership is not only about managing subordinates and getting the work done, but also time management. “However, a leader needs to have a dream that reflects his or her vision and optimism. For me, I would like to see the growing trend of one-stop shopping in Indonesia become a lifestyle that brings comfort.” (Burhan Abe)  

The Jakarta Post, November 04, 2009    

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