In 1948, Sukanto Tanoto’s mother arrived in Indonesia and was reunited with her husband. Sukanto Tanoto was born on 25 December the next year. Life was not easy back then. Sukanto Tanoto’s mother went through difficult times in China and was a survivor, with a strong and no-nonsense character. She was a fast learner and had an excellent memory for details. People say that the eldest son usually grows up to be like his mother, so Sukanto Tanoto probably inherited a lot of her character and toughness. She always emphasized frugality, persistence and perseverance, as well as the importance of making sacrifices for what we want. More than this, she also emphasized Chinese values and traditions in her children’s upbringing.
As a student, Sukanto Tanoto was a quiet, diligent and motivated student who excelled in science and mathematics. He read everything from history to literature and science, but what he enjoyed the most were actually Chinese comics. Whatever free time he had, he would usually spend them on reading. As the eldest son in the family, Sukanto Tanoto would be the first to wake up every morning and would wake each of his younger siblings up for school. He made breakfast and ensured that his brothers were all ready. Then he would embark on his two-hours journey to school. After school, he would continue to take care of his brothers and the cycle continued the next day.
When Sukanto Tanoto was young, he would spend his school holidays helping at the family’s spare parts shop and gas station. He grew up among all the tools and parts, which definitely got him interested in how things work. He helped in almost every area of the operations, from typing letters, preparing invoices, servicing customers and even pumping of gasoline. It was not an easy task because the lack of electricity required manual pumping, which was very physically taxing. While servicing customers, Sukanto Tanoto faced a variety of people. Over the years of accumulated experiences, he learnt how to read and understand the business, society and the real world.