Oesman Sapta Odang has money to burn. He lives life on an entirely different level from the rest of the world, a level that includes luxurious cars, private jets, Versace-furnished mansion, and many more. The list of his businesses is too long to mention-mining, commercial properties in Bali, investment, and agribusiness. He seems to have it all, and one thing is for sure: with the wealth he has amassed, he's going to ride even higher. "I never expected that I would become the man I am today. All I know was that I just wanted to have a bright future and a happy family," he says. Oesman's personal turnaround story serves as inspiration. He wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth; he lost his parents at the age of eight and dropped out of school at the age of 14. But his dogged determination to survive and learn so many different skills drove him to the many next successes in his life.
He recalls the old, difficult times when he
had to sell cigarettes at a wharf, or when he had to carry extremely heavy bales of rubber to be shipped to other parts of Kalimantan. He worked hard and befriended local cargo ship crew, who later allowed him to hitch a free ride to Jakarta. "I still remember those times. But I'm very grateful because such experiences have shaped me into a well-rounded person."
As soon as he set foot in the capital, he worked as a grocery monger, mainly selling vegetables and condiments, a job he deemed "a stepping stone to my first success". It was a good business, as grocery trading was still rare in the 1960s. Soon enough, he hit the ground running and became one of the few people in town
who controlled the supply-and-demand chain
of agricultural commodities, mainly coconut and ginger. At the age of 18, Oesman already established himself as a wealthy entrepreneur and was ready to go the full distance.
At 23, he set up a contracting company, building hundreds of low-cost housing units for workers in several cities across the archipelago. During that time, he met a number of senior and influential Indonesian entrepreneurs,
whom he said had inspired him to expand
more of his businesses and taught him to pour investment into fast profit-making sectors, such as plantations and hotel chains in Bali, Batam, Pontianak, Singkawang, and Sukadana. "But I did things one at a time. I kind of understand why there were and still are many entrepreneurs who are dying to get a hold of everything. However, it doesn't work that way in business. You have to be focused on one field and
build it perfectly before you can pursue other opportunities," Oesman explains.
Forbes Indonesia recently listed Oesman
as one of the richest men in the country, with total assets worth US$256 million. The tycoon's latest project is as mind-blowing as his ambition: the development of Tanjung Bunga Makassar, 30-hectare land in Makassar, South Sulawesi, which soon will be transformed into an integrated business district comprising a mall, office complex, hotel, residential area, parks, and a 2 x 2,000 megawatt coal power plant-all worth $735 million.
Oesman may live life to the fullest, but if there
is one thing that he cares about is the fact that the country's systematic bureaucracies stunt progress in the business world, and that it's also constantly grappling with the negative effects of the overexploitation of natural resources. "The amount of natural resources we have is simply amazing, yet exploration should take into account environmental factors. In addition, what's a pity is that we're lacking infrastructure to transform our natural resources into high-quality finished, or semi-finished goods. These two problems require immediate actions by the government."
On a more personal note, Oesman shares with us the key to his success. He says there's nothing more powerful and fruitful than the art of discipline and one's lifetime dedication to work. Without such qualities, one won't be able to go anywhere. "Also, when you start working with others, trying to achieve a better stage
of life, things will definitely get tougher. Clear communication is all you need to go through your hardships. You just can't buy trust, as you must earn it-the hard way."
The virtue of giving back is also compulsory. Oesman believes that the more one succeeds in life, the more he needs to realise his mission to take part in empowering those in needs. "We need these people because they're eventually going to be part of our family," he concludes.
Indeed, with all the inspiring details he shares with us, the millionaire, who built his empire from scratch, deserves a nod for all of his tenacity and hard work. Besides presiding over the OSO group, Oesman also currently serves as Chairman of United National Party, Chairman of Indonesian Farmers Association, and Advisor to the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN).