SINDHI BUSINESS TYCOONS IN INDONESIA
Dhamoo Punjabi – Unparalleled in the world of Celluloid
Films – the world of celluloid is a fantasy which some find inseparable from their daily life. Every frame of a film is reality for them. For many young people, movies have a huge influence on their lives. The world viewed as a running movie, makes their imagination scale heights of fantasy. No wonder from his early childhood days, Dhamoo Punjab of MD Entertainment in Jakarta, Indonesia, regardless of what vocation or work he was involved in, kept his mind focussed on only one thing – how to become a part of the film world.
Dhamoo was born on 10th November 1940 in Surabaya, Indonesia. Dhamoo’s father, Bhai Jethmal, passed away when Dhamoo was only sixteen. This placed responsibilities on him at a young age. Dealing in the family business of carpets and textiles, Dhamoo added a line of motorcycles made in Italy.
In spite of marketing these items, Dhamoo was mesmerized by the magic of cinema. The film line remained his number one priority. He soon became a distributor of Indian and foreign films. Finally in 1959, he made Jakarta his home to seek better opportunities. Although he pursued his garment export business and supply of goods to diplomats by mail order, cinema was his passion and he kept dreaming of developing a film line. For the past 30 years, Dhamoo’s life has been woven with the filmi-duniya. In fact, his entire family and relatives are active in the production line.
During the year 2002, due to reorganization within family members who were jointly involved in teh entertainment business, Dhamoo established his own production company, with his son Manoj, called MD Entertainment. The main area of activity became production of TV serials on local channels. This was followed by full length films. Dhamoo’s MD Entertainment is currently engaged in the distribution of Hindi as well as English films. However the core activity remains production of T. V. Serials which run into 2000 hours a year. MD Entertainment has to its credit twelve full length feature films. Dhamoo’s serials are run on popular channels such as SCTV and Indosiar during prime time between 5 to 10 p.m.
Dhamoo’s biggest hit has been “Ayat Ayat Cinta”. Teh film bagged a prestigious award equivalent to a Guinness record Dhamoo organized a special preview of the movie for which he had invited the President of Indonesia together with 85 diplomats representing all countries around the globe, stationed in Jakarta.
Perhaps, the greatest asset of MD Entertainment is Dhamoo’s son Manoj. His in-depth and thorough knowledge of the movie industry, presentation, choice of subject as well as public acceptance is not by fluke but a well calculated measure of his ability to distinguish the likes and dislikes of moviegoers. He turns a simple theme into a meaningful presentation with his vivid imagination and touch of artistry. His success in such a short span of time is indeed phenomenal.
Production of movies for entertainment, acceptable to audiences without creating any controversy, is the main objective of a producer and his team. This being the cas, it is seldom that masterpeieces are created which penetrate the minds of people providing them food for thought. It takes determination and social responsibility to venture into such a subject which can be moral boosting and at the same time focused on the real values of the community. Dhamoo and Manoj Punjabi’s latest movie ‘Ayat Ayat Cinta’ – a love story that is instilling religious pride has become a blockbuster hit overnight. 3.8 million movie fans flocked to cinemas to watch ‘Ayat Ayat Cinta’ (verses of love) projecting Islam as a tolerant and peaceful religion. The highlight of this most successful movie was its viewing by the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Almost wiping his tears, the President hailed it as a touching movie. Medias and critics have acclaimed ‘Ayat Ayat Cinta’ as a great movie of our generation.
Living elegantly is an art. Spending lavishly does not bring elegance. It is a frame of mind which aspires for creation of comfort with tranquil surroundings. Dhamoo and Manoj live in a house, which reflects the personalities of people in the entertainment industry. The vast open space with greenery created an airy ambience allowing visibility between different parts of the house. Presence of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi in appropriate places add a touch of divine grace to the residence. The choice of paintings and family photographs elegantly decorating the walls, project a feeling of family bond. The lavish use of glass walls throughout the interior as well as exterior of the house gives an impression of transparency of its owners.
A person builds relationship with friends, relatives, business and social contacts around him with a hope that at times of happiness or sorrow, he can depend on their pariticipation in sharing the milestones in his life.
The eventful occasion of Dhamoo and Sunita’s 40th wedding anniversary celebrations proved one point – his popularity among well wishers is unparalleled. The Shangri-La Hotel Ballroom was overcrowded with well wishers and friends to meet and greet the charming couple who have retained their youthful look in spite of 40 years of marriage.
Under the watchful eye of Bollywood entertainment, the local talent was rounded up to stage in a once-in-a-lifetime presentation which enthralled one and all. It took six months to prepare and rehearse the stage show which has become a memorable event. Dhamoo’s brief speech on the occasion was emotional, touching everybody’s heart.
H. M. MAHTANI
Even though he has lived in Indonesia since the age of 12, and is today one of the top-ranking industrialists there, Hariram Mahtani (Haru to friends) considers himself an Indian at heart. Even more surprisingly, since he studied in Karachi till the sixth grade, he learnt how to read and write in Sindhi. His one regret, thought is that he was not encouraged to pursue higher education. “My father somehow felt that higher education given to children amounts to losing them because they may then not join the family business.” His father already had a thriving textile business in Indonesia, and believed his son’s destiny lay there.
His father also believed he could control his son’s life in every other way. At 24, Haru was instructed to wed. It was to be an arranged marriage, and for this purpose he was brought to Mumbai for the first time. “I was like a lion out of a cage, he recalls with a smile. “The city was new and fascinating. I got so carried away after spending a few days in Mumbai that I plucked the courage to tell my father that I was not interested in getting married. I wanted to make something out of my life on my own steam first. My father was aghast. Being the only male child in the family, I was a prized guinea in every way! My parents completely controlled my life. I was not allowed to stay out late, so up until that time I could never see a late night movie. I had to leave halfway in order to be back home on time! They were so shocked to hear what I had to say that they agreed to stay back in Mumbai with me for two more years till I wore out my whim of wanting to make it on my own.”
“Finally they tired. My father told me we were to pack up and go back to Indonesia, as he saw no future for me here. I told him I wanted to stay on. He got angry and upset. Anyway, he gave me Rs. 7,000 and an Ambassador car and left me to my own devises. I started staying in a small room at Apollo Hotel behind Regal Cinema. I invested most of the money my father had given me in a real estate venture with some friends. Consequently, I had virtually nothing for my expenses and many a time I would not have enough cash for three meals a day. So I would skip meals. I had it very rough for five years, but I challenged my father that one day soon he would be proud to be known as my father (instead of I being known as his son) and I was determined to prove as much.”
This phase taught him a lot, as it was meant to be his window to destiny he was born to manifest. “I used to often travel by bus and see the billboards of big companies like Tata and Birlas, advertising their products. And I always dreamt that one day I would have an empire of my own!”
As hsi business picked up, so did his ambition. A few years later, in 1966, he told his parents he was ready for marriage finally! He had bought a flat at Altamout Road, but the rest of his money was blocked up in the business. Hence, he could not afford a honeymoon. An aunt felt sorry and prodded his father to give him Rs. 2,500 sot that the newlyweds could enjoy some privacy and a short holiday!
As his personal life settled, his career underwent another churn. “The real estate business in India started undergoing a slump. I decided it was time to go back to Indonesia, although I did not settle in my father’s town I went to Jakarta.”
The Political scenario was in his favour. Suharto had overthrown Sukarno via a coup, and the Indian Government gave Suharto 100 million loan in Indian goods. The Indonesians did not know what to do with it. “So one government official approached me and said help us to promote these goods,” he recalls. “They comprised paper, chemical, steel, bicycle parts and so on. I decided to pitch in and started importing shiploads of goods out of India. This went on from 1968 to 1972. By this time I had become a celebrity in India because all the big business houses started taking notice and asking, who is this Mahtani who is importing so much into Indonesia!”
In 1972 his dream came true. “I still recall the day,” he reminisces. “I was sitting in my office and three gentlemen were sitting in three separate cabins waiting to see me. They were Aditya Birla, L. M. Thapar and Mr. Singhania. I thanked God! All three had come to me with proposals to set up plants in Indonesia because they saw huge potential. In 1972 I set up a spinning plant in partnership with Mr. Birla. In 1974 I set up a paper plant in partnership with Mr. Thapar, and finally, an engineering plant with Mr. Singhania.”
He met Biju Patnaik, an Indian minister who had been supportive of the Indonesian struggle for independence. The government , keen to show appreciation for his work for Indonesia, awarded him several projects which were handed to Haru to run. There was a cement project in Padan, investment by Hindustan Machine Tools in Surabaya, and contracts for writing and printing paper used for elections. Shiploads of cement were exported to India.
In the meantime Haru opened a garment factory of his own. All went well until a fire at his warehouse sent $12 million of his products up in smoke. Insurance companies in Hong Kong and Singapore paid up, but the insurer in Indonesia proved less reliable.
After fighting for three years, he finally received 50% of the value of destroyed goods. The mistake had occurred because the insurer had failed to reinsure the risk, but whatever the reason, Haru had to undergo bypass surgery a year later as a result of stress.
Finally, there was some good news. Ironically, it came as it was the turn of other people to find their businesses facing collapse. “The financial crisis of 1977 saw the rupiah drop in value from Rp. 2,000 to Rp. 16,000 per dollar overnight. This made a fortune of my ferment factory,” says Haru. “We received Rp 16,000 for every dollar and the money we made helped us to survive that period and even to expand our operation to Cambodia.”
Haru also owns trading companies, one of which exports solely to Dubai and bring him an income of about $25 million a year. Another company is a supplier to PT. Krakatau Steel, also doing quite well. Yet another company markets forestry-based products as an agent for Perhutani.
Haru’s appreciation of workers who have stood by him is demonstrated at these companies, where his long-time employees have become his partners.
In 1991, Haru started a joint venture with Maersk Line, a Danish multinational company in India, specializing in transport of cargo to different parts of the world. He is on the Board of Directors of Maersk Line, both in India as well as in Indonesia.
Haru still personally oversees the many different ventures owned and operated by him. His flagship company PT. Wearwel International is a major producer and exporter of garments from Indonesia catering to some of the world famous brands. PT. Wearwel International was the first garment company in Indonesia to get ISO 9002. Haru, today, has a workforce of 2,500 in his tow factories in Jakarta. He manufactures and exports garments that are branded by Levi’s, Polo, Hollister, H & M, Dressbarn and many others.
Haru has recently started a new project in North Sulawesi in the area of cultivation of seaweed. The project is scheduled to be in operation by July 2010.
Recently, the Priyadarshini Academy felicitated him as NRI of the year a fitting honour indeed. He is living his dream! Yes, his parents did come to Jakarta to live with him and his father was known by his son’s fame! Today he has four children of his own. “I often thought of retiring at 70, but my children should be ready to take over,” he confesses.
Meanwhile, he has a host of activities to occupy his attention. In 1977 he founded the Economics Association of India & Indonesian order to promote business between the two countries. He has also been a Founder Member of the India Club in Jakarta.
A devotee of the Anandpur order, he was instrumental in establishing a ` 14 crore Hindu temple dedicated to Anandpur, which he calls ‘The most modern temple in South East Asia.’
Born in Surabaya, Indonesia in 1954 Jivat Hardasmal Khiani started his career in 1970, assisting his father in the family retail shop for five years, until he decided to move to Jakarta to work at his uncle’s company importing furnishings and carpets. As the years went by, he was asked by his uncle to establish a tufting carpet manufacturing facility in Surabaya, in 1982, which he ran till the year 1987.
In 1987, he joined as President Director of a local bank that belonged to the same group which owned the two aforementioned businesses. The bank was in its infancy stage at the start of Khiani’s stint, and it was under his guidance that at the end of his eight years stay, the bank had grown to six branches and upgraded to a full fledged ‘Foreign Exchange Bank’. He left the bank in 1995 as the President Commissioner and started his own import business, dealing in furnishings, floor coverings and sundries.
In the year 2000, he was appointed as President Director of a foreign investment company called PT Universal Carpet & Rugs, located in Gunung Putri, Bogor, Indonesia right from its inception at project stage. The rationale of ‘import substitution’ into Indonesia was the background which established Universal where is past experience in establishing a carpet company was a golden asset.
With Western European technology at its helm and machinery from world leaders in their respective fields, Universal Carpet started manufacturing PP BCF ‘Rugs and Carpets’ in 2001 with state of art facilities. The start was humble, with only 5 looms over an area of 30,000 square meters initially, yet today Universal boasts of 27 looms at an area of 85,000 meters, placing Universal as the market leader in Indonesia. Along with this distinction, Universal is also the largest manufacturer of PP BCF ‘Wilton’ rugs in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand, and ranks among the top five manufacturers in the world of this product range.
As Universal has grown, it has expanded its exports base to 27 countries, with the ISO 9001-2000 certification awarded to the company in 2004, which has further been upgraded to ISO 9001-2008.
Along with several business achievements, Universal has also won the prestigious Primaniyarta Award in Global Brand Category from the President of Indonesia in 2008.
The company has also embarked on an expansion to Universal Unit II, a new facility nearby the existing Universal Unit I, initially installing 10 looms. This new facility would be on 60,000 squar meters of land and is expected to be operating by the third quarter of 2010. With a total of 37 looms to its name by the end of the year, Universal Carpet and Rugs reckons to be a global leader in its category.
Currently, employing more than 600 workers and 12 expatriates Universal is poised to attain new vistas and cross further milestones under Khiani’s guiding force which has harnessed a team of hardcore professional technocrats all these years into a well knit squad of achievers.