Hengky Setiawan cuts an imposing and tall figure that makes his presence impossible to be missed. Upon meeting him, his charisma, charm and confidence are immediately apparent, and he is clearly well respected by all of his employees. Hengky greets us with firm handshakes before giving us a tour of his office on the 16th floor of the Telesindo building in the Gajahmada area of Central Jakarta.
A spacious area sporting a modern-cum-classic interior, little signs of Hengky’s stewardship of the company are apparent, such as rooster figurines matching the Chinese zodiac sign that he was born under. On the sixth floor is a gallery where Hengky has installed his collections of antique Mercedes cars, antique Vespa motorbikes, antique bicycles, old gramophones and more.
As the founder and president commissioner of Tiphone Mobile Indonesia, Hengky’s name is very familiar in the telecoms industry even though his company could be considered one of the youngest players in a big field. He built his empire from scratch, starting out as a courier when he was still a college student. He then began selling second-hand mobile phones while studying at the Universitas Tarumanegara Jakarta until the company was founded 18 years ago, and Hengky turned pro.
“It all started from a dream,” he tells us. “I come from an ordinary family, unlike my friends in the Tarumanegara area who were mostly from wealthy families. I remember that at the time it was sort of a trend and to own a mobile phone and it gave the owner prestige. Some of my friends owned the bulky Nokia Cityman at that time, but as my parents couldn’t afford to buy me one, I tried to think of a way,” he adds.
“I was working as a part-time courier for my father’s friend, so I presented him with a business plan and asked him to lend me some money to buy second-hand phones,” Hengky says. “Eventually, I managed to buy one and immediately started to make it look better by polishing up its appearance. I then sold it again for more money than I paid for it. With the money that I made, I bought the next one, fixed it, and sold it again, and so on and so on. After I returned the money that I owed, I bought a piece for myself, and armed with my interest and experience in the business I started to create a bigger operation and then started my own company.”
Hard work is not a foreign concept for Hengky. He learned at an early age that hard work and determination are the two things that will bring him closer to his dreams. His first working experience was when he was only 7. At the time, he wanted to get a toy boat just like his neighbours, but he didn’t have enough pocket money to buy one. So he offered to paint some furniture for a friend to earn the cash needed to buy that first treasured toy. Today, Tiphone Mobile Indonesia has reached Rp 20 trillion in revenue from selling prepaid vouchers and mobile handsets. It couldn’t be more contrasting.
He’s also turning other interests into business ideas. “I am currently exploring a new hobby, which I have actually turned into a new business. We are building a luxury resort in the Thousand Islands, starting with the H-Island, which has been running for the last two years. Together with my partner Tan Kian, we’re also building the new Ritz-Carlton resort at Lancang Island, which is only 45 minutes away from Pantai Mutiara in Jakarta by boat,” he says.
As a Buddhist, Hengky believes that what goes around comes around. He trusts that his hard work will pay off at the end of the day.
“I have five rules of life that I always follow. The first one is courage. Without courage, I will not go anywhere. The second one is commitment. We all have to be committed to the things that we do. Without commitment, we cannot deliver the best quality product or services. We should never disappoint our clients. The third one is focus. We should focus on one thing at a time until the project is completed. The fourth is innovation. Without innovation, we cannot compete with others. We have to be flexible and follow the market to see where the trends are going, especially in technology and telecommunication. And the last one is passion. We have to work from our hearts. Without passion, we won’t be successful in anything that we do,” says Hengky who is rich in Buddhist wisdom and philosophy.
“Everybody has their own chances and opportunities. It is important to have hunches and the courage to act on them to take a chance while it last. We only have one chance to make a decision and your attitude will define your future. We should never stop learning from those who are more knowledgeable and more senior than us. From them we can learn a lot and gain experiences. Books are also a source of knowledge that we should never ignore. Read a lot and broaden your network,” he adds.
Straightforward, firm and direct, Hengky tells us that he doesn’t like to have too much bureaucracy in his company. He prefers a direct and open management style to lead and to follow. A family man at heart, Hengky is also a loving husband with four sons to raise. For him, success having a happy family and to get together with his wife and sons at home every day. And on the rare occasions he’s not with his family, Hengky can be found enjoying the exclusive Ferrari club and Harley-Davidson club.
“Success means nothing if your family is not together. In my view, family is what matters most. Without a happy family, money and power mean nothing,” he says. “I think that raising four boys is more difficult than raising four girls, because we have to teach them responsibility and discipline from a very early age. With discipline and hard work, success will follow,” he concludes.”