Furniture business propels Jokowi's path to prominence
Hasyim Widhiarto and Kusumari Ayuningtyas
The Jakarta Post
The production facilities at furniture company PT Rakabu Sejahtra are among the largest of the manufacturing plants in the 12-hectare industrial complex in Kalijambe, a district in the Central Java city of Sragen.
Operating two large warehouses to dry wood and six others to house manufacturing and packing processes, the company is among the businesses owned by presidential hopeful Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
Established in 2009, as a joint venture between PT Rakabu, Jokowi's furniture flagship that serves local markets, and PT Toba Sejahtra, a Jakarta-based firm founded by retired Army general and senior Golkar Party politician Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
Rakabu Sejahtra produces wooden door frames, decks and flooring for the export market.
But years before the company existed, Jokowi had already made his name through Rakabu, which was set up in the 1980s.
Rakabu contributed to Jokowi's rise to prominence in the industry, and later helped pave the way for his career in politics.
With Rakabu's success, Jokowi's business peers entrusted him in 2002 to chair a local branch of the Indonesian Furniture Entrepreneurs Association (Asmindo) in Surakarta, Central Java.
The position in the lobby group is deemed prestigious as Central Java is a hub for furniture and timber-processing businesses, producing the finest products for the global market.
It was due to the encouragement from his fellow Asmindo businessmen that Jokowi mustered the courage to pursue his political ambitions in 2004 and contest the Surakarta mayoral election.
Jokowi's victory in the election eventually catapulted him where he is now.
As a consequence, over the past couple of years, Jokowi has withdrawn entirely from his businesses, raising questions as to who is responsible for keeping Rakabu afloat.
The Jakarta Post paid a visit to Rakabu Sejahtra on June 20 ' when its several hundred workers had been given the day off.
'The management has given employees the day off to attend Pak Jokowi's campaign rally in Surakarta today,' a security guard said, referring to the non-active Jakarta
Two security guards in black uniforms allowed the Post reporters to tour the facility, but they prohibited them from taking any pictures or asking questions.
According to the company's timber legality verification certificate, issued by PT Mutuagung Lestari in 2012, Jokowi's brothers-in-law, Hari Mulyono and Arif Budi Sulistyo, serve as Rakabu Sejahtra president director and operations director, respectively.
Jokowi's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, also sits as a commissioner along with retired Army general Agus Widjojo.
In a recent interview, Gibran confirmed that he was still a member of Rakabu Sejahtra's board of commissioners but had never been actively involved in its management due to his focus on developing his own catering business in Surakarta, which is located 30 kilometers southwest of Sragen.
Gibran also said his father had relinquished direct involvement in the management of the furniture business following his entry into politics.
'My father has entrusted the management of the family companies to my uncles,' Gibran said.
Born in Surakarta on June 21, 1961, Jokowi is the eldest of four siblings and the only son of Javanese native Noto Miharjo and his wife, Sujiatmi.
Notomihardjo's father, Wiryomiharjo, was the lurah (subdistrict head) of Kragan village in Karanganyar, Central Java, while Sujiatmi's father, Wirorejo, like his son-in-law, worked as a carpenter.
Before establishing Rakabu in the late 1980s, Jokowi, who graduated from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) Forestry School in 1985, spent two years working at state-owned paper producer PT Kertas Kraft Aceh.
Shortly after marrying, Jokowi returned to Surakarta to work briefly for Roda Jati, a furniture company owned by his mother's elder brother, Miyono.
Miyono, who became one of Jokowi's early business mentors, said he still maintained a close relationship with his nephew, even after Jokowi decided to establish his own company, which was launched with initial capital of Rp 65 million (US$5,421) from his mother.
'We are still collaborating to develop our respective companies,' Miyono said.
Previously, Jokowi had said that Rakabu had at one time operated nine factories, but he decided to sell three of them after becoming Surakarta mayor in 2005.
Aside from his furniture business, Jokowi also earns money from renting out his Graha Saba Buwana meeting hall, one of the biggest indoor event venues in Surakarta.
'The hall was a present for me from my husband so that I can keep myself busy apart from my duties as head of the local PKK [Family Welfare Movement],' Jokowi's wife, Iriana, said.
The 2000-capacity Javanese-style hall was named after Iriana's nickname: Bu Ana.
One of the venue's employees, however, said Iriana had rarely visited the building since Jokowi won the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012.
While no figures are available to indicate Jokowi's business assets, the sum may not be vast.
Jokowi's official wealth report, submitted to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in 2012, revealed his total wealth at Rp 27.2 billion and $9,876, up from the Rp 18.4 billion reported in 2010.
Jokowi said the rise was mostly down to the increase in the value of his properties, but he denied reports that the capital he used to form the joint venture with Luhut had not been declared to the KPK.
Luhut, who supported Jokowi's nomination, also rejected such speculation, saying that his business partnership with Jokowi was purely based on meeting their mutual needs.
'He [Jokowi] needed more wood for his production, while my company has timber plantations,' he said.
- Bagus BT Saragih contributed to this article.
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