Ed Ng, President Director & Group CEO of Gunung Sewu
“I think there is a long learning journey ahead of us, as we always strive to be better than yesterday. This is our ultimate goal. You don’t need to join a start-up or a tech company, as is the trend now, to ‘make a difference’. Sometimes, you can still make the most impact in established companies which see your potential and have the means to grow it.”
Gunung Sewu started small as a trader in staple commodities in Indonesia, and in the past 64 years has expanded to a group of 20 businesses focused on four main pillars: food, insurance, property, and manufacturing.
What drove this growth has always been our desire to transform and to be better than we were yesterday. And because of this determination, we have been growing 20% a year for the last six years and transforming ourselves from a pure production house to a diversified company with 30,000 employees. How did we get here?
Gunung Sewu is a well-known and reputable company with a deep sense of integrity. We have survived this long by placing high importance on doing the right thing. We don’t take shortcuts, and our vision is to strengthen sustainable businesses that empower employees and benefit stakeholders in our society. To us, it’s about making a positive impact.
Secondly, we are bold. For instance, we are currently building an exciting new office for ourselves – something that is set to become one of the best office buildings in Jakarta. It will be the first platinum LEED-rated office in Jakarta, which is a leading international award for environmental-friendly property projects. We’re not a big property player as compared to others in Indonesia, but we want to build something that is truly game-changing. This boldness is filtered through our entire organisation and helps us to grow towards our aspiration.
To us, sustainability is key in our growth agenda. In fact, our young employees insist that we make it as part of our vision statement. As such, sustainability is now very much reflected through our entire organisation.
Our farms, for example, operate on a zero-waste system that is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals. They are closely entwined with the local communities, and benefit them. These are the type of initiatives that are taking us from our past into our future.
Attracting talent by making a difference
With bold projects come the greater likelihood of failure. But at Gunung Sewu, we don’t see failed projects as ‘failures’ – we treat them as lessons learned. We keep a long-term view and benefit from these lessons learnt. What we have realised is that we should not discourage our employees over their mistakes, but teach them how to take calculated risks and how to move forward if their initiatives do not succeed.
We are transforming ourselves as a business, and this comes with transforming our talent. Right now, we don’t have all the talent that we need – this is our single biggest internal challenge! We just don’t have enough people to help us execute the many projects we have in the pipeline.
To attract the right talent, we have made a conscious effort to grow awareness and let Indonesia know about our sustainability agenda. Social recruiting is a key platform for us and we organise events like the Annual Youth Summit on Sustainability. To our delight, we have found that this summit resonates with many young Indonesians who genuinely care about our country. We have found many youths wanting to align with our culture and vision.
The feedback we have received from talent on our approach is extremely positive. They think, “wow, this company truly believes in sustainability,” and they see examples of real sustainability being practiced across all our businesses. In 2016, we facilitated a forum in Indonesia for applicants who are interested to join Gunung Sewu as management trainees. We received around 2600 applications for only 20 positions. We didn’t expect the overwhelming response at all!
Connecting with Indonesia’s young generation
Communicating our transformation to younger employees via channels such as LinkedIn is increasingly important, and recruiting via social media is crucial to us. Although we are new to this space, young talents have responded positively on social networks. We have made the first steps, but we need to understand more about what attracts them to Gunung Sewu and what would motivate them to work with us.
Indonesia’s future lies with a generation of young people that can create a prosperous and innovative society. They need to build confidence and develop skills that enable them to be enterprising and creative. They will need experience in both the world of work and the areas of social action, community contribution, and leadership.
At Gunung Sewu, we provide these opportunities to our employees. We are relentlessly optimistic about young people’s capabilities. We want to support the youth, develop their ideas, and empower them to build a bright future. As a leader, I am excited to see where this transformation will take us and how this young generation will lead the way.