Irwan Hidayat recently spoke to a group of Indonesian young would-be entrepreneurs in an installment of the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series. The series, founded by RGE Group CEO Sukanto Tanoto, invites some of his highly successful entrepreneurial peers to speak about their own challenges and to offer practical advice and inspiration.
Mr. Hidayat heads PT Sido Muncul, which started as a family business at first but now markets traditional herbal health care products worldwide. Since taking the business public in 2013, Mr. Hidayat has earned widespread recognition for his achievements and a place on the Forbes magazine ranking of Indonesia’s 50 wealthiest people.
Sido Muncul traces its origins back to the 1940s, when Irwan Hidayat’s grandmother began selling jamu, traditional herbal remedies, in the town of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java. She created a product called Tolak Angin, now Indonesia’s fastest-selling treatment for the common cold, and moved the family to Semarang in 1949. Early in the 1950s, Sido Muncul became an official family business and set up its own manufacturing plant.
Irwan Hidayat is the son of the founder’s daughter Desy Sulistio and her Chinese-born husband, Jahja Hidajat. When Mr. Hidayat’s grandmother retired, his parents began overseeing the business. Jahja Hidajat passed away in the mid-1990s, and a decade later Desy Sulistio handed over control of operations to her children. Mr. Hidayat, as the eldest, accepted the job of president-director right before he took Sido Muncul public. The company, whose name means “a dream come true” in the Javanese language, has become so successful that Forbes lists Irwan Hidayat’s net worth at $660 million.
Irwan Hidayat’s success in guiding a small, family business to international recognition echoes Sukanto Tanoto’s entrepreneurial journey. Mr. Tanoto’s RGE Group, based on a business founded by his immigrant father, is now worth $15 billion. Mr. Hidayat and his family’s contributions to charity also parallel those of Mr. Tanoto, whose Tanoto Foundation supports the Entrepreneurship Series and a variety of other nonprofit efforts in education, social services, and infrastructure. Among other initiatives, Mr. Hidayat’s company has made it possible for people in difficult circumstances to travel to their home villages to celebrate the Muslim feast of Eid-ul-fitr, and has funded tens of thousands of surgical procedures to correct cataracts.