Tandean Rustandy challenges business norms of Indonesia by ensuring his factories improve the lives of his employees and the surrounding community.
Tandean Rustandy’s personal business philosophy is, “When you go into business, don’t just go into it for the money. Think about how you can serve people. If you are selfish, you are just like a machine; if you work trying to serve, it comes from your heart. I believe that each of us has a responsibility—to the future, to our young people, and to the people who made us a success today.”
Rustandy’s business, one of the most successful in Indonesia, is not in a glamorous industry: PT Arwana is a ceramic tile business focused on the low end of the market in a country where the average annual income is approximately 3,500 USD.
Due to his innovation and leadership, Rustandy’s business has received numerous awards from organizations in Indonesia and across Asia. Rustandy has adapted cutting-edge technology from Italy and the high end of the market to allow for flexibility in his design and manufacturing process. His creative approaches to human resource management allow him to develop and retain talent in the context of challenging unionized labor rules. Additionally, his environmentally sustainable practices are uncommon in the industry and in Indonesia.
Ever since he established his business in 1993, Rustandy has been firm about setting high standards for ethics and accountability. Rustandy provides benefits that other firms in Indonesia typically do not provide, such as education, health care, and child care, thus compelling other companies in the community to follow suit to attract employees. He also refuses to export to countries with GDPs higher than Indonesia’s because he doesn’t want the world to profit from the country’s low-cost labor. With approximately 3,000 employees, PT Arwana is thriving in no small part because Rustandy is committed to developing his business in ways that enable him to make a difference, not just a profit.
Rustandy’s passion for responsibility to others is not limited to his employees; he also carefully considers his impact on the community and society in his business decisions. Each of his five factory locations was selected for its potential to help the poor by creating jobs in areas where there are fewer economic opportunities. He also uses his site selection process to negotiate with the government to make infrastructure investments such as roads and electricty that will help the towns he is moving into. Rustandy institutes practices that help the greater community, such as building mosques, renovating one community member’s house each year, and giving away imperfect tiles to individuals in the community who then create their own resale businesses.
Rustandy inspires the future generation of business leaders by regularly hosting undergraduate and MBA students from the Leeds School at his factories across Indonesia. He shows them how he uses his business to create economic and social value to positively impact the lives of employees and community members, while also remaining environmentally sustainable. Students see first-hand his commitment to the environment, humane human resource practices, and sustainability in his pristine facilities in a way that challenges common worldwide perceptions of factories in Southeast Asia.
Rustandy speaks frequently at student- and community-facing events at the Leeds School of Business. Without exception, those who hear him speak are inspired by his life story and unwavering commitment to help others through his business.