Dinner parties are usually where new acquaintances are met, and, one night, Susanti Tio gained two friends related to one another; she was a small-scale trader, while they traded iron ore on a bigger scale. A week later, they introduced her to their in-laws, who also worked the ore out of Banjarmasin, the capital of the South Kalimantan province, Dato’ Gouw.
“In the beginning, I offered to work on his behalf rather than for him,” Susanti explains when we sit down to talk. “He agreed, and I began with a small load of ore to trade that proved to be successful, and thus Dato’ entrusted me with more.” From that point onwards, she made even more acquaintances as Susanti oversaw each and every step of the mining and trading while getting to know the people she worked with.
Others took notice of her hard work and began to ask her to trade on their behalf, to the point that she shipped two to three vessels in a week. However, the confidence she had grown since 2006 came to a halt when a prediction came true: that iron ore prices during the Beijing Olympics 2008 would drop by at least 50 per cent. Susanti then moved on to coal under Mitra Bumi Sejahtera, which she had set up a year ago. “I realised that the work is truly not easy,” she said. “Although first I offered to help Dato’ Gouw so he wouldn’t get cheated anymore, I wasn’t actually freed from being cheated on either,” Susanti says.
Such is the reason why she gets involved in different aspects of the operation herself, from going to the mines, to visiting the dock, and so on. Good intentions, however, will always lead to good people, Susanti adds, which is how she has been able to own two mines today. She is now teaching all this know-how and also encouraging her son to understand what’s happening on the field instead of simply leading from behind the desk.
This story appears in the January 2019 issue of Indonesia Tatler. For the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstand, or subscribe here.
[Photographer: Agung Wibowo, Stylist: Adi Surantha, Make-up And Hair: Susy Kleo, Wardrobe: Dior, Accessories: Dior And Private Collection]