William Soeryadjaya, founder of Indonesia’s largest automotive company PT Astra International, passed away Friday. He will be remembered as a modest businessman who was a pioneer in the country’s automotive industry, say a number of businessmen.
William, famously known as Om Willem, died Friday night at South Jakarta’s Medistra Hospital where he had been hospitalized. He was 87.
Businessman Aburizal Bakrie said William influenced how people in the country did business. “I sometimes looked up to him from afar, applying his strategies for my businesses,” said Bakrie as quoted by kompas.com on Saturday.
William, he added, was a good example for other businessmen as he started his business from nothing. “One thing he always did was share his profits with other people and often helped others,” Bakrie said, adding that William was a friendly and down-to-earth person.
President director of PT PP London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk Benny Tjoeng, who used to work with Astra, shared similar sentiments.
“Indonesia has lost one of its best citizens. Whenever I met with him, for business or otherwise, my impression was Om Willem really cared about other people and paid attention to his employees,” said Tjoeng. He added that William was a visionary because when he founded Astra, he did not only establish an automotive sector but ran the financial sector by establishing Astra Credit Companies and PT Federal International Finance.
Born in West Java’s Majalengka on Dec. 22, 1922, William was orphaned at 12 and dropped out of school when he was 19.
He sold papers and products such as rice and sugar to make ends meet, but his spirit and determination led him to study leather coating at Leder & Schoenindustrie in the Netherlands.
After running a number of companies, William established PT Astra International in 1957, developing it into a trading company with an automotive business as the core product.
Astra grew to become one of the country’s largest companies, with subsidiary businesses expanding into finance, banking and property.
Besides running his businesses, William himself was known as a public figure who lobbied for
improving Indonesia’s education standards.
As an example of his philanthropic nature, in 1984 William sold his land in Cilandak, South Jakarta, below market value to be affordable enough so that the Prasetya Mulya Institute of Management could be built on the land.
William’s body is lying in state at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital in Central Jakarta and will be cremated on Monday.