Dr. Kartika Dianningsih Antono, AIM Master in Management 1989 graduate, built her career in traditionally male-dominated fields. She started in information technology as a programmer at PT Nusa Cipta Rancana in 1981 and then as Management Information System (MIS) Manager at PT Indomobil Utama and PT Indohero in 1984. After obtaining her Master in Management degree at AIM with a Dean’s List award, she progressed to the automobile industry of Indomobil Group as Assistant to Managing Director for Business Development in 1990. She is currently the Managing Director of PT Multistrada Agro International and its subsidiary companies, which is in the industry of agroforestry.
With her Triple A Award, she has broken new ground as the first female Triple A Winner from Indonesia.
Breathing New Life into Business
It was the Indomobil Group that was responsible for bringing Dr. Kartika to AIM. At AIM, Dr. Kartika was an accomplished student who not only learned the best business practices, but also important, life-changing lessons. Dr. Kartika credits AIM Professor Roillo Golles – her supervisor for her walkabout project – as a source of confidence and inspiration in difficult business challenges.
Professor Roillo Golles firmly believed in Dr. Kartika’s abilities, and so he put her to the test. During Dr. Kartika’s Master in Management Studies walkabout project, Professor Golles assigned Dr. Kartika to manage and revive a company in critical condition – a test she passed with flying colors.
With her new accomplishments under her belt, Dr. Kartika resuscitated companies on the verge of collapse, once as a student at AIM and the other as Assistant to Managing Director of PT Central Sumahi Motor (CSM).
She shares that she owes the confidence and optimism to take on business challenges like these because of AIM Professor Roillo Golles. During her Master in Management studies, Prof. Golles, her supervisor for her walkabout project, let her manage a company that was in critical condition. With her as COO, during that brief stint in Manila, she was able to turn the company around.
This would not be the first time Dr. Kartika would save a critically ill business. Three years later, she replicated her success with CSM, a used car and car rental business. Dr. Kartika proposed to the board to focus on Indorent, the car rental side of the business, for three years. The rental cars would then become inventory later for Mazda Circle, the used car sales arm of CSM. She believed this strategy would not only be profitable, but it would also lower the risk of having an inventory of substandard used cars. By the time Dr. Kartika left Indorent, what started out as a meager inventory of 50 vehicles became a steadfast fleet of 5,000. Thanks to Dr. Kartika’s efforts, Indorent is now the second largest car rental company in Indonesia.
Turning Adversaries into Allies
For the third chapter of her career, Dr. Kartika ventured into forestry. When she started at Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) in 2009, a business group in forestry and production of pulp and paper, Dr. Kartika had to contend with stubborn resistance from the company’s shareholders. By leveraging the lessons she learned from AIM and the practical application of business plans during her time at CSM, Dr. Kartika was able to gain the support of multiple stakeholders from the government, NGOs, and communities.
In spite of her expertise and her proven track record, managing APRIL was still an uphill battle. Many stakeholders were dismissive and aloof, with some being actively belligerent as Dr. Kartika introduced new processes. But through direct, clear, and patient communication, even the loudest detractors were appeased. While other companies would have used consultants to deal with this time-consuming process, Dr. Kartika insisted on directly interacting with APRIL’s stakeholders to generate long-term support from them and other parties.
Dr. Kartika left APRIL in 2010 and started a forestry business from the ground up under the Salim Group. She personally went to field surveys to find a land bank for PT Multistrada Arah Sarana Tbk. (MASA) to support its backward integration to secure raw material in producing eleven million tires annually. In early 2011, with the support of MASA, she assisted the shareholders in incorporating PT Multistrada Agro International (MAI), where she manages the agro forestry business until today. MAI owns licenses to operate 127,025 hectares of land bank.
The most challenging task that Dr. Kartika had, and has to do on a regular basis, is managing social issues within the area. As logging is the most lucrative way for people in the area to earn money, Dr. Kartika and MAI had to take firm but fair steps in educating the community on ethical logging and illegal loggers and log brokers.
MAI now manages 220,000 hectares of land bank for agroforestry businesses in West and East Kalimantan, as well as Central Sulawesi, planting rubber, stevia, cacao, coffee, coconut, spices, and several hard woods including gaharu, acacia, and teak. Dr. Kartika firmly believes that social capital is the key factor for a sustainable and successful agroforestry business. Thus, she focuses on community development on top of plantation development of agroforestry.
Paying It Forward
Dr. Kartika is actively involved in community development not only for the success of MAI, but also to truly empower underserved communities. She wants to develop entrepreneurial skills of underprivileged people so that they can lift themselves out of their status. She conducts motivational training for young women in villages in the surrounding forestry and encourages them to attain higher education and start their own businesses. And she supports various projects in education, sports, and art for community welfare.
Dr. Kartika is a visionary leader who is able to juggle people and profit no matter what industry she is in. While she has worn many hats and borne many titles throughout her life, her efforts and expertise have turned them into what should have been apparent from the very beginning – a crown.
Dr. Kartika Dianningsih Antono, MM 1989 was conferred the AIM Alumni Achievement Award or Triple A in 2019. The Triple A Award is the highest recognition given by the Asian Institute of Management to its outstanding alumni.
By Jennifer Jalandoni, BMP 2013
Watch LEAD Talks with Dr. Kartika Antono