We went up-close and personal with Rina Ciputra as she shared the secrets of her and the Ciputra group’s success over three decades and counting.
The Ciputra group has stood the test of time and is now one of the most enviable entities dominating the real estate and hotel business, as well as art, culture and many other industries. What do you think is the most important quality needed in leading one of the country’s biggest conglomerates and why?
This can be summarised in three words: Integrity, Professionalism and Entrepreneurship.
- Integrity means you have to be honest to yourself, to your family and the company you are working at. Furthermore, honest to your partner and clients.
- Professionalism we understand from a technical point of view, but it must also be profitable and competitive at the same time. You also need to keep working hard and be disciplined. These are the underlying criteria, but most important is to be competitive, maintain high standards and keep working hard.
- Entrepreneurship means you have to be creative at all levels of the organisation. My father believed you had to act as entrepreneurial as possible, take risks, not give up easily and have a macro point of view. But it also means you can be a social entrepreneur and create business like Artpreneur, or you can be a government entrepreneur and have an impact on society and the people and interact with other countries. But if I am to choose any of these its being creative. We are now 37 years old as a company and I do hope we can continue the legacy of my father.
Would you mind sharing one or two of the group’s most significant and lasting achievements so far?
We are number one in the real estate business with over 140 real estate projects in 40 cities. But the secret to being the number one developer is that we have partners and over 50% of our projects belong to them. I am very proud that we have over 200 partners in development projects.
The starting point was just 40 hectares of land near the airport in 1981. I had just graduated from university in the USA and my father had decided we must build up our own business, so I started and managed it for six years then my brothers and sister came on board and my husband, a total of six family members.
But it is not easy to think which is the most successful project, because we believe that a finished project becomes history! Then the next one becomes your new baby. It’s the process that makes you happy, that’s what stays with you. A project could be a great success, but you can’t keep thinking about it when it’s finished—the one in front of us is the most important. That’s what gets us up in the morning, the next challenge!
What was the vision of your father as the founder and did he achieve it?
My father was someone who could grasp very quickly what was actually needed in real estate, what kind of township is needed. He could say “this is the size”, “this is the right place”, “this is the neighbourhood”, “this is the economic sector”, “this is right for this industry or attraction”.
He said that when you want to do something you have to find the uniqueness of the project. Here, for example, is the Artpreneur Centre which is attached to the Ciputra World Mega Superblock. He wanted something unique, and he loved art, so he wanted a museum for his collection—something very few people had seen—before it was too late.
Other malls use skating rinks or aquariums, but he wanted to show what he had collected, and so we created 3 floors of space for the arts. Two of the floors are functional and can be rented out. I was involved with the project from the start and brought in a group of architects to create the space. We wanted to build not an auditorium but a real theatre, one with as good acoustics as that of the Sydney Opera House.
My father had his heart in the project because he loved art and wanted to give back to society after his 55 years career. So this is the CSR of the Ciputra Group. We however run it on a commercial basis so as to achieve financial sustainability. He wanted it as a platform for young entertainers to show their talents and young business people to show their expertise.
Are the next generation following the same philosophy or making changes according to current conditions?
I have been working for almost 40 years and my husband joined me 30 years ago, and to a certain extent we do follow the philosophy of the company very closely. But on the other hand, my father allowed us to be flexible, to adapt to the changes, to adjust to time and the place. We could not have survived for 37 years without the foundation and the soul, but we do change things, for example changing from a ten floor to an eight floor building, and even cancelling if necessary rather than failing, even if it costs more.
Personally, how do you define ‘success’?
Success is only a success if you share it with other people. As a developer, I would say the project is a success if the inhabitants are happy, if parents are happy with the schools, if people are happy with their places of worship. Our projects should be safe. For example, none of our projects has ever been flooded. This is success. If other people perceive us as successful and we can be honest with ourselves and say ‘I gained my success through fairness’, then that’s good, there’s no point in having success that’s not win-win.
Going forward, what big things are the Ciputra group planning for the near future?
I am very involved with Ciputra Artpreneur Centre and I want it to be a place where local people can see a good performance and to think of it when they think of orchestras, or good theatre, or music. I hope that by coming to the theatre they will be able to take something home to inspire them to work harder or to be more disciplined, to learn life lessons. I want them to go home and say “I’m happy and proud to be Indonesian” because the show was produced in Indonesia by Indonesians.
Next, we want to work with home grown theatre companies to help them gain more exposure overseas. There are good scripts and good actors who work hard but can’t get through the glass ceiling. We have shows that are good but they can’t get around the world. We need to help to change this.
Fifty years ago, parents only wanted their children to have formal degrees: accountants, lawyers, doctors. Now, the creative industries are open and we need to support those who are talented to step up on the world stage.
What advice would you give to anyone out there trying to achieve success in today’s increasingly competitive business world?
I would like to say, you have to earn success through hard work, through your own sweat, you have to go through the whole process. There are no shortcuts. This is not like buying shares where you can just be lucky. You have to have the skills, work hard get the knowledge and have discipline. That’s the only way.
Honesty. Transparency. Working as professionally as possible. Then be creative and innovative. That’s my advice.