While many of us may panic at the thought of going through the Jakarta traffic two hours before a flight, Imelda Harsono was a vision of calm and collectedness. Surrounded by ornate, crystal ceiling décor and images of old Chinese junk ships and maps, Imelda breezed through the photo shoot like a professional. The luxurious Li Feng at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Jakarta provided the magnificent setting for the interview.
Imelda Harsono is on a mission to change the world: she is going to be at the forefront of Indonesia’s solar power revolution. In 2015, she founded Samudera Biru, a company with the vision of making sure that the nation’s energy demand is met in an environmentally conscious way. The company intends to achieve this goal by making solar energy accessible to the masses, while adding jobs to the economy.
While it is still a rarity in Indonesia, solar energy has become much more common in countries like the US and Germany where incentives are given to those who make the switch. “Considering how much sunlight Indonesia gets in a year, we should have an abundance of solar energy!” Imelda pointed out.
Before Imelda can turn her vision into reality, there will be myriad challenges that she and her company will have to overcome. Support from the government has been less than favourable for companies with renewable energy projects. Even more crucial to the realisation of her vision is timing and the mindset of the people. The people’s level of solar energy awareness is currently still very low, while big corporations are still set on making as much profit as possible.
“You have to put the purpose above the profits,” said Imelda. “Being focused on the purpose does not mean that you are not making profits. If you focus on working towards the greater good, you will be making profits that are more sustainable.”
Imelda is no stranger to overcoming challenges. She has plied her trade in the largely male-dominated oil and gas industry for 14 years and counting. The experience has taught her to focus on what is best for the company and not to be affected by the judgment of others. She started from the bottom and has made her way up to become a member of the Board of Directors at Samator Group—Indonesia’s leading and largest industrial-gas-producing company.
For those who may find themselves in similarly challenging positions, Imelda says to never be afraid of failure. It is crucial to power through even when times are tough. “When you are at your lowest, you can give up or power through. When you power through and beat your fears, I think that’s what real success is,” said Imelda.
Imelda is in a position in which more than 3,000 people look to her for guidance and leadership. The wellbeing of those under her wing is the greater goal that Imelda is always striving for. It is what keeps her going, even in the most trying of times.
Even with all of her accomplishments in the industry, her most challenging and most rewarding endeavour yet is only beginning: raising her twins. What little time Imelda has outside of work and travel she spends with her twins. Even then, there are times where mother and children cannot be separated. At 11 months old, the twins have already gotten their passports and have travelled to the US. “This has been the most interesting 11 months of my life,” said Imelda.
With the twins in her arms and the future of the nation’s renewable energy source on her back, we can safely say that Imelda’s days are only going to get even more interesting.