His contribution to Indonesia’s livestock industry is simply unparalleled and will always be remembered. All of that came from decades of labor, ingenuity, and his unorthodox way of life. Let us meet the master, Bob Sadino.
Hardships are what test our mettle whether we are in for this game of life or not. That’s pretty much what happened during the turbulent years in the life of Bob Sadino in the early 1970s.
Despite being the sole inheritor of his father’s fortune, he decided to spend it all for several years traveling the world and working in Europe. He then returned to Indonesia to start his family life. However, needs required him to sell one of two cars in order to buy a property in Kemang and to make use of the other one to survive.
These struggling years forced him to make ends meet through several odd jobs. He went from renting out his own car and being an illegal driver for it, but soon the car broke down and he had no money for the repairs. True to his survival instincts, he continued the struggle with a hundred rupiahs a day job as a construction worker.
During those times, he noticed a rare opportunity that no one had ever thought of back then. He discovered that both the eggs and chicken that people consumed everyday were way smaller than what he had seen back in Europe. Suddenly he came up with an idea to contact his relative abroad and asked to be sent several layer DOCs (day old chicks) so that he could start his own chicken farm here.
Focusing on this newly started business, initially he collected as many as two or three kilograms of eggs everyday and sold them fresh around the neighborhood – knocking from door-to-door like a salesman. Of course it wasn’t easy but he managed to build a good network customers who trusted him.
His Spartan and frugal lifestyle helped propel him to success. While he was keeping his consumptive way of life at bay, he instead put the extra money he was making to further expand his business and increase his capital. Thus his business became bigger and bigger. People started to ask him to provide other produce like chicken, meat, vegetables and also rice. With his forte in livestock and farming, Bob Sadino successfully fulfilled these demands and set up a permanent place. That’s when the legendary Kem Chicks was born and stands still after so many years.
Bob was a university dropout, so textbooks had never been his favorite read and he prefers to instead face the up-to-date situation. He specifically said that books are just like moldy bread because the research materials might came from years ago and compiled altogether until it’s too late. Instead, he prefers to read imported magazines and latest journals about the products of his business.
Because of that, he pioneered the introduction of foreign variety of fruits and vegetables to Indonesian soil and thanks to his intensive care for the farmers’ welfare and farming knowledge, he also led the initiative to export the local produce abroad. That’s also how he started Kem Foods and Kem Farms as well.
Now, if we’re talking about Bob Sadino, that means we should never forget about his antics especially in regard of his unorthodox approach on many aspects of his life. And of course, what article on Bob would not mention his really short jean shorts that he wears everywhere. We mean, literally everywhere!
One time he was rejected to enter the People’s Representative Council for a meeting because of his carefree attire, which he didn’t even bother to protest and he left abruptly. However after that, he received an unexpected VIP guest coming to his farm. The guest was none other than that time’s Indonesian president, Soeharto.
Bob Sadino took the president, the first lady, and the official entourage for a tour around his farm in his usual jean shorts. The president was specifically interested about his adaptation of hydroponic farming method, which was something new to Indonesia back then. On another occasion, he even had meetings with other high-ranking officials such as Megawati and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, all with his signature attire.
Nowadays, the 81-year-old mogul chooses to be near his faithful wife wherever he goes and to relax after all the hard work he has done for so many years. He said specifically about that, “The most enjoyable time for me is to be able to dine together with my wife”.
Apart from enjoying breakfast and lunch at Kem Chicks Kemang alongside the family or friends, Bob also shares his time to teach entrepreneurship for aspiring students or attending meetings and seminars.
What we found out also about this spirited magnate is the fact that he’s a foodie after all, proven by his special fondness with anything related to noodles. He frequents some of his favorite restaurants and hawkers around Kebayoran or has his usual fix of Chinese-style noodles delivered straight to his home.
In the end, money was never his priority but the effort that Bob put into the business, plus the learning he acquired are what in the end mattered most.. During his many speeches, Bob Sadino always tells everyone that being goblok or stupid is the key to success. By bravely opening the business without thinking too much and putting the maximum effort into it, in turn out that the not so wise people who started the business will just end up employing the clever people. Well, if it worked for Bob, maybe we should try it out.
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE June 2014 edition
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Photos by: Bob Sadino’s personal collection