Hardjanto Widjaja: Banking on Building Green

HARDJANTO is indeed living the life he planned years ago. He was bold enough to leave a secure banking career, because he felt it was already time to start his own business. But why did he switch to the property business?

A career spanning 12 years at Bank Central Asia did not change Hardjanto Widjaja’s initial plan. He is today the managing director of PT Paramita Bangun Cipta Sarana. Early on in his career at BCA he was asked by his mentor how long he would work for BCA.  “And I replied that maybe at the age of 35 I will consider whether I will stay on at BCA or move somewhere else,” said Hardjanto. And indeed he kept his word.

Hardjanto, born in Palembang 41 years ago fulfilled his dream. “My original plan was that at 35 I would look for a new business opportunity,” he added.

However, he missed the target slightly as became a professional and not an entrepreneur, and it was in the property business and not banking. He left his position at BCA as branch deputy head at Mangga Dua Branch Office and leaped into the property world.

The property business in fact was not a total change for Hardjanto, because during his career at BCA he often made a business analysis for clients related to various fields, such as mining, trading, plantations and property. “This is understandable because the BCA branch I worked for dealt with businesspeople from Asemka and Pluit areas in North Jakarta.” So, when he decided to leave his work at the bank one of his friends invited him to get involved in the property business and he readily agreed.

In 2005, Hardjanto, armed with an economics degree from Tarumanegara University and 12 years experience in the banking world, became operational director of a property company that is currently developing the first green mall in Indonesia, Pulomas X’Venture Mall.

His first project was the construction of 100 townhouses at Pantai Mutiara, Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta. Meanwhile, the concept of the mall already existed since 2005 and was intended to complement and attract business for the horse racing course at Pulomas.

However his career path was not entirely smooth as the company’s management faced a number of problems both internally as well as from macro economy factors.

In 2008 the company’s financial difficulties caused the postponement of several projects. But Hardjanto remained loyal. His office, located in the race course area, was not in a luxurious multi-storied, air conditioned building. He stayed on although the number of staff was reduced from dozens to a mere eight employees.  “The eight persons were those who had worked with us for a long time since the start of the project and I applied a ‘family relationship’ style of management from the beginning,” recalled Hardjanto. “I decided to stay on because I was extremely curious as to why this project could not continue,” said the father of two with a smile.

For him the situation in 2008 was not the most difficult he has faced. “The chaotic situation of 1998 was far more difficult,” he said. At that time he was head of BCA branch at Kapuk Muara. Hardjanto purposely chose a small branch, because he wanted it to grow under his leadership. And he succeeded.

The assets of Kapuk Muara branch, which were only Rp 50 billion at first skyrocketed to become about Rp 300 billion in five years by April 1998 when the riots broke out in Jakarta. “The situation was extremely difficult at the time due to various pressures, such as the safety of my own house and those of the employees as well as the safety of all of us, the threat of a rush on the bank and having to convince customers that BCA will not go bankrupt and so on,” explained Hardjanto.

He also had to disobey his superiors who asked him to open the bank on the second day of the riots, because he was worried about the safety of his employees. This is why in facing all sorts of problems in the property business he has always held on to his conviction that God does not give tests that are beyond his capacity.

After reducing the number of his employees he started using consultants for a number of sectors in order to be more effective and to get the work completed faster, for example public relations to promote the new concept of his projects. “If I had stayed on the bank I would have remained an employee,” he said, “it was a risky work anyway, because one can lose control with stacks of money every day … strong self control is needed, you know,” he continued.

“I always try to get to know my employees by chatting with them or having lunch with them from time to time,” said Hardjanto, who does not like to wear a suit, which was compulsory at the bank. It is not surprising that he now feels free as he does not have to wear a suit to the office and can work more creatively with his smaller but more compact team. (Lily Glorida Nababan)

The Jakarta Post, October 29, 2011

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