The Orange Tree Philosophy
    Category: Riches from Resources By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 2132 Date : Tuesday, May 05, 2015 - 09:46:24

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Abdul Rasyid A.S., owner of plantation company Citra Borneo Indah, likes to show guests his orange trees next to his villas on top of a rocky hill overlooking his vast palm oil plantation, about an hour’s drive from Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan. Rasyid says it was considered impossible to plant trees on the rocky hill, but with hard work everything is possible.

    He created a dripping system so the orange trees are well watered and put a rock barrier so the soil wouldn’t be washed away by rain. The proof is in the trees that are a lush green and heavy with many oranges. “They taste very sweet, unlike any other,” Rasyid, now 55, says in his first interview with media, done during a half-day visit to his estate, including a tour in a Hummer H2 that he drives himself.

    The orange trees symbolize Rasyid’s philosophy of hard work that led him to become one of the richest men in the country, with an estimated net worth of $805 million in late 2014. Since then the stock of his plantation company PT Sawit Sumbermas Sarana has risen sharply, meaning Rasyid is now worth well over $1 billion.

    Not bad for a kampung boy who didn’t finish junior high school. Rasyid was born in a village called Seruyan in deep Kalimantan, which was so remote that it took a week-long boat ride down the Arut river to reach Pangkalan Bun, the nearest town. His family were humble farmers. Looking for a better life, at 14 Rasyid moved to Pangkalan Bun and started working for logging companies as a porter carrying rattan and ironwood. While working in the Korean firm Korindo, many of the sawmill operators suddenly quit and moved to another company, getting the young Rasyid a sudden and dramatic promotion to become an operator. “My salary went from just Rp 1,000 a day to Rp 300,000—a huge amount at the time,” Rasyid says. He saved as much as he could for three years and then quit, putting his savings into a grocery store in Pangkalan Bun.

    To get further ahead, he opened his store earlier and closed it later than nearby stores. Then opportunity struck again. The local regent liked to join his wife shopping and asked Rasyid why he opened his store so early. “Right across from my store was a store owned by Iwan Sunito’s father—Iwan is the owner of the Australian property developer Crown Group. His store was bigger than mine, so I’d lose to the competition if I didn’t open mine earlier,” Rasyid says he answered.

    Impressed, the regent asked if he’d like to be a contractor on infrastructure projects. “I said I could do it, I had no experience, but I often provided contractors with groceries and building materials that I bought from other stores. So I knew something about how a contractor works,” he says. His first project in 1981 was building schools, and a year later he set up his company CV Tanjung Lingga. Soon he was prospering by building schools, roads and government offices.