Eka Sari Lorena Soerbakti
    Category: Inspiring Women 2014 By : Gloria Haraito Read : 9868 Date : Monday, March 10, 2014 - 07:14:04

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    The transportation industry is a macho world—most drivers and mechanics are men. Thus Eka Sari Lorena Soerbakti, stands out as a woman, who is both a leading entrepreneur in this sector and the head of one of its most important trade groups, the National Road Transport Operators Association (Organda). The only other woman who holds a similar profile is Noni Purnomo of Blue Bird.

    On the business side, Eka holds titles in a number of her family business, known as the Lorena group. She is vice president director of PT Lorena Karina, managing director of PT Eka Sari Lorena (ESL Express) and managing director of PT Eka Sari Lorena Logistics (ESL Logistics). Each company has a specific focus. ESL Express has 500 buses serving over 60 destinations, making it the third largest bus operator in the country by fleet size. Total assets were Rp 2 trillion.

    Although her father Gusti Terkelin Soerbakti, the founder of Lorena group, still is active in the group, Eka now has many key roles. Through her management, Lorena has expanded from four to 12 companies in the group over the last two decades. Its business spreads over passenger transport, courier and logistics, supply chain, warehousing, freight forwarding, busway, cargo and rental cars.

    Two companies where one can see her impact are ESL Express and ESL Logistics. “I am the founder of these businesses,” says Eka who joined the company at 23 as a marketing staff. She also has an MBA at the University of San Francisco in 1994 and a MSc from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island in 1995. Transportation is more than just a business for Eka, the mother of two. She was familiar with the company since childhood—starting from when she was two years old, her father used to take her on visits to the bus company. Like Noni of Blue Bird, she grew up with the business. When she was a marketing staff, she would ride the Lorena buses from Sumatra to Madura and stop at each restaurant along the way to build cooperation.

    She also knows the value of networking. Her book “Ayo Lawan Kema-cetan” (Let’s Fight Congestion) tells a story of when Eka met a thug who had be causing trouble for Lorena in Merak. Instead of arguing with him, Eka smiled at him. “Nice tattoo, where did you get it?” she asked him. The thug laughed and they became friends. After that, Eka no longer had problems with her buses in Merak. “We have to touch people’s hearts,” says Eka.

    Eka does market research the direct way: by riding the buses. She takes intercity buses and other public transportation at twice a year, during which she tries to chat with the drivers. She also asks for feedback on her Twitter account, @LorenaEka1.

    The most obvious problem? The terrible condition of public transportation, due in part, she says, between the mismatch between the cost of operating it and the low ticket prices. “The ticket price is regulated by the government, but the costs are not. So don’t be surprised if public transport is not good,” she says.