Jesslyne Widjaja
Category: Next Gen By : Ardian Wibisono and Ulisari Eslita Read : 8083 Date : Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 10:50:39




Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

At just 31, Jesslyne Widjaja has been trusted to hold crucial roles at the world’s largest plantation company, the Singapore based Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), which she joined in 2011. Jesslyne is the daughter of Franky Widjaja, of the noted Widjaja family that owns the Sinar Mas group. As GAR’s executive director, her first role was in business development, where she helped to transform GAR into a global plantation company. Forbes Indonesia had a rare opportunity to talk recently with Jesslyne at her Jakarta office in Sinar Mas Plaza—she commutes back and forth from Singapore to run the business. She discussed her role in the business, family succession, and the group’s interest in digital businesses through Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV). Below is an edited excerpt of the interview:

Why did you decide to join the family business?

I joined GAR at the end of 2011. Before I was working in consulting and investment banking after taking my MBA in New York. At the time, many of my cousins had already moved back and joined the business, and my father asked me to come back to help him. However, I also wanted to come back for two reasons. When I was working with my clients, my role was not as broad as I wanted, and I’d like to shape the direction of a company. That’s something I can do in the family business. Second, I think I’ve always wanted to work with my dad. He is an inspirational leader. Before I joined, he made me go to one of our plantations and see whether this is the company I would like to work for. I see the business  helps the people around it—with schools and clinics around our plantation. I see the bigger social impact in having a successful business.

What have been your roles at the firm?

I focused on business development. When I joined, we were known as the largest Indonesian plantation player and were starting to go regional. Our profitability was very reliant on the CPO price. So to control our own destiny, we needed to build the downstream capability. Since I joined, we’ve created many joint ventures, such as oleochemicals and energy. We have entered new markets and added refinery capacity. We are also in shipping and logistics. We set up offices overseas in the U.S. and E.U. We built refineries in India and China, and storage in Pakistan. We have leapfrogged from four years ago, from being Indonesia’s largest plantation player, to now being a fully integrated global agribusiness firm.

Now I head up some of the corporate functions, doing many corporate transformation projects around efficiency and so on. I look after the major corporate functions, like finance, sustainability, talent management, as well as big procurement. My focus is on the strategic direction of the business and finance, how we can become more profitable and better utilize our resources.

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