Indonesian female entrepreneur brigade leads from the front


Indonesia’s surge to become a future world economic powerhouse continues, with reports from advisory firm PWC claiming that the island nation is set to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2050. With such tremendous scope of growth, the most noticeable of the changes that the nation has witnessed is women reclaiming their space in the professional and entrepreneurial world.

According to a 2016 World Bank report on female entrepreneurs in Indonesia, “Among a population of 20-30 million women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, data estimates that approximately 15 percent can be classified as ‘growth-oriented’ entrepreneurs who are capable of expanding their firms.” The study further states that female entrepreneurs hold a remarkable 36 percent overall entrepreneurship prevalence rate against the national average of 38 percent.

We take a look at the women entrepreneurs who are leading their business higher up on the success chart.

Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, Sintesa Group

When Shinta took over the reins of the family-run business in 1999, the company was still reeling from the effects of the Asian financial crisis. Eighteen years later, Sintesa Group, with Shinta as the CEO, has become a conglomerate with 17 subsidiaries dealing in consumer products, real estate, industrial, and energy sectors. Headquartered in Jakarta, Sintesa Group employs more than 6,000 workers and is looking to be one of the major players in the country’s booming renewable energy sector. 

The 49-year-old Harvard graduate has donned many hats over the years. She has served as an advisor to the Indonesian Vice-President and was also part of 13 Indonesian delegates to meet former US President Barack Obama in 2015. Regularly featured in Forbes Asia’s 50 Powerful Businesswomen (2012, 2013, and 2016), she has also picked up laurels such as Asia’s Leading Businesswoman of the Year Award from the Women in Leadership Forum (2013) and Women Entrepreneur of the Year from the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (2014).

Wendy Sui Cheng Yap, Nippon Indosari

Wendy Yap is the Co-Founder, President, and Director of Nippon Indosari, one of Asia’s largest producers and distributors of Japanese-style bread, selling under the brand name Sari Roti. Founded in 1995, the company has 10 factories in Indonesia and set up shop in the Philippines in 2016. 

Wendy’s foray into the world of entrepreneurship started early on. Immediately after graduation, her father handed over the control of his real estate to Wendy, who was just 20 years old at the time. In a career spanning four decades, Wendy has had experience in the food industry, real estate, and natural resources business. She has appeared multiple times in the Forbes’ List of Asia’s Powerful Businesswomen.  

Nabilah Alsagoff, Doku

Nabilah truly is a beacon for women in the field of information technology in Indonesia. This woman in tech is the Co-Founder of Doku, considered to be the largest payment gateway in Indonesia. According to Nabilah, the idea behind Doku was formulated after the 2002 terror attack on a Bali nightclub. The portal was created in a bid to support the recovery of Bali and also tourists stuck on the island, by means of directing resources from the international community and providing easy accessibility for hotel bookings.

Nabilah, who graduated with a BA in English and Comparative Literature from Murdoch University in Perth, has been a vocal champion for more women in the STEM and IT industry.

Hanifa Ambadar, Female Daily Network

What started off as a blog where readers and friends could connect has over the years grown into a full-fledged lifestyle media brand, Female Daily Network. Hanifa started blogging as early as 1999, and as readership grew, she started Female Daily as a blog in 2005. By 2007 it became a forum for women from across Indonesia to discuss fashion. In 2009, her website was judged as Indonesia’s Best Blog for Women, and by 2014 it raised $1 million in series A funding from a group of investors led by Ideosource.

Diajeng Lestari, HIJUP

As the Founder and CEO of HIJUP, Diajeng has brought Islamic fashion into the limelight. A graduate in Social and Political Science from the University of Indonesia, Diajeng was listed in “Islamica 500” as one of the prominent business leaders shaping the Islamic economy and markets.

HIJUP was started in 2011 and has over 6,00,000 monthly visitors for a line of products including hijabs, women’s apparel and footwear, beauty products, and even men’s wear.

Imelda Sundoro, Sun Motor

Imelda has been a multitasker when it comes to entrepreneurship. She began her entrepreneurial journey by trying her hands at multiple things including the likes of food trading, selling records, and the garment business, to name a few.

She tasted success with Sun Motors, a used-vehicle buying and selling business she started with late husband Sundoro Hosea in 1974. Today, the 74-year-old is one of the front-runners in the auto distribution industry in Indonesia, and is also a leading hotel owner, owning nine Accor Hotels across the island nation.

Irawati Setiady, PT Kalbe Farma

As the President and Director of 51-year-old pharmaceutical Kalbe Farma, Irawati Setiady heads over 17,000 employees. Many consider her as a key figure in changing Kalbe’s course from creating only generic drugs to being a market leader as a high–tech pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Irawati has a Master’s of Science Degree from the Faculty of Food Science, Cornell University Ithaca, New York.

With more female entrepreneurs coming into the fray as industry leaders and emerging as role models whose success young Indonesian women can emulate, the scheme of things for female entrepreneurs looks to be steadfast.

If you think we’ve missed a name or other honourable mentions of emerging Indonesian female entrepreneurs, please feel free to suggest them in the comments below.


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