January 27, 2014 5:00 pm JST

Tanjung gets back to his roots for success

SADACHIKA WATANABE, Nikkei staff writer

JAKARTA -- One thing sets apart Chairul Tanjung as a tycoon in Indonesia: He's an ethnic Indonesian.

     Chinese-owned conglomerates have long dominated the Indonesian economy. CT, founded by Tanjung, is an exception to the rule. While conglomerates led by ethnic Chinese are the most influential players in the property and natural resources businesses, CT's chairman has steered his company into entertainment, retail and financial services.

     There are growing signs of inertia in financial markets and macroeconomic weakness in Indonesia. The population, however, has retained a propensity to consume. CT owns a number of television stations, such as Trans 7, which boasts of the second largest audience share in the country. They have broadcast a string of popular programs. The media operations have helped Bank Mega and other group companies.

     Tanjung was born into a poor family. He "has steadily cultivated the consumer business from a grassroots perspective," noted an executive at a Japanese general trading company. The executive said this was the key factor behind his success.

     In 2013, CT Corp. acquired full ownership in Carrefour Indonesia from French retail giant Carrefour. CT may expand its supermarket chain in 2014. If the group does expand operations further, the key is how it can capture a more of the consumer market. CT has traditionally been strong in retail aimed at wealthy consumers, offering the luxury Italian fashion brand Armani and the Baskin-Robbins ice cream of the U.S., among others.

     CT Corp.'s overall group annual sales amount to 30 trillion rupiah ($2.46 billion), according to an estimate by Danareksa Securitas, a Jakarta-based brokerage. CT in 2013 informed a full-fledged partnership with Tokyo-based general trader Marubeni Corp., the first such tie-up with a Japanese business. The company may look for more Japanese business partners in 2014.