Tahir: Undeterred Indonesian Tycoon
The saying goes that we must try and try until we succeed. Indonesian businessman Tahir whether he knew this saying just kept on trying one business failure after another until he finally hit pay dirt. Undeterred by his many failures he looks to each new day as a new chance for more opportunities.
He came from a poor Chinese family who leased three wheeled rickshaws that his father assembled and his mother painted. This was in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. One day the becha drivers stopped paying the daily rent. When his parents tried to collect the drivers threw stones at them injuring his mother.
They stopped the rickshaw business and Tahir’s father worked as a manager at his elder sister’s textile shop while Tahir’s mother sold jewelry to housewives. Their income improved and Tahir and his sister were able to go to school. Tahir would change course and take up medicine in Kauhsiung, Taiwan.
Feeling homesick he decided to quit school. Tahir went back to Surabaya and started buying and selling imported goods for the next three years. It didn’t go well and his father convinced him to go back to school and he took his undergraduate studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.
Tahir married after graduating and opened a food business in 1975. His small shop sold all kinds of foods such as canned goods, in retail and wholesale. This business failed and Tahir was forced to look for another business.
He ventured into the automobile business and was awarded exclusive dealership for Suzuki automobiles from the main dealer, the Salim Group. Due to the bankruptcy of a dealer in another city the Salim group revoked the exclusive dealership and gave it to smaller dealers in Jakarta who had a lower overhead cost. Tahir decided to close his show room. What he didn’t realize was that the people who bought their car on credit were supposed to make their payments through him. They stopped paying making him lose US$15 million when his net worth was only US$500,000.
He became bankrupt in 1988. His billionaire father-in-law Mochtar Riady came to the rescue giving him a job as the general manager of his garment-export factory. Tahir later started another business eventually establishing multibillion dollar Mayapada Group.
Many failures eventually lead to great success.