As of December 2014, Forbes magazine ranked Sukanto Tanoto and Susilo Wonowidjojo among Indonesia’s ten richest men. The founder and CEO of the $15 billion RGE Group, Mr. Tanoto is the self-made entrepreneur who turned a struggling family business into one of the world’s largest suppliers of agricultural and forestry products, with processing plants and operations in China, Brazil, and Southeast Asia. Mr. Wonowidjojo heads Gudang Garam, Indonesia’s oldest manufacturer of cigarettes, and one of its most widely known brands. The two men share an ethic of hard work and a commitment to ensure that the businesses started by their families continue to succeed and expand.
Susilo Wonowidjojo took over the direction of Gudang Garam from his elder brother, who had inherited control of the company from their father, Surya Wonowidjojo. Susilo Wonowidjojo is the third son in the family.
In 1958, Surya Wonowidjojo started a small family industry on 1,000 square meters of land he had purchased two years before in Kediri, East Java. He began by producing clove cigarettes under the brand name Inghwie, a product that turned into Gudang Garam in 1960. Business was so good that the elder Wonowidjojo expanded into an additional branch in Gurah, a town southeast of Kediri.
The late 1960s saw further expansion, as Gudang Garam opened new production areas it called Unit 1 and Unit 2. By the early 1970s, the firm had become an official limited corporation and was receiving government support that assisted it in further plans for expansion. In 1990, the company listed shares on both the Jakarta and Surabaya stock exchanges. Over the years, the company’s innovations have included a new, milder clove cigarette and the design of a new machine for producing clove cigarettes.
Under the leadership of Susilo Wonowidjojo, Gudang Garam expanded to more than 200 acres of land spread over Kediri and in the region of Pasuruan. Susilo Wonowidjojo has additionally expanded operations into the palm oil business, with subsidiary Matahari Kahuripan Group now overseeing close to 2 million hectares of concession farmland. This expansion parallels Sukanto Tanoto’s development of Asian Agri into one of Asia’s largest palm oil manufacturers.