When you first think about the world of billionaire businessmen and luxury lifestyles, the richest people in Indonesia don’t tell to be top of the list. But despite its humble appearance, the country is home to a group of powerful billionaires the likes of whom you’d expect to find relaxing in a super yacht off Ibiza or entertaining in a luxury Monaco penthouse.
With the release of this year’s Forbes Indonesia Rich List, Billionaires has explored the lavish lifestyles of the country’s wealthiest people, and the journey they took to reach their place in the world’s elite.
The Secret Life of Indonesia’s Mega-rich
When discussing Asia’s rich list its difficult to believe that Indonesia would have a great deal to contribute. With two thirds of the country living perilously close to the poverty line on just $2 a day, it seems almost impossible for a billionaire elite to co-exist nearby. Nonetheless, not only does such a group exist, but it thrives, creating a billionaire haven to rival that of Singapore or Hong Kong.
From shopping sprees to VIP events, the richest people in Indonesia enjoy the finer things in life in a similar way to their counterparts across the water in mainland Asia. However, in this country of two halves, the traditional symbols of wealth have become far more of a status symbol here than elsewhere in the world.
Luxury cars are a particular favourite amongst the Indonesian super rich, who have only been allowed to import completely built cars since 1997. Due to the country’s small size, many of the most expensive car brands only allot a small number of their most prestigious cars to Indonesia, leaving the mega wealthy to battle it out for what has become the ultimate symbol of wealth.
Ferrari, which produces its cars in limited quantities, only allows eight of its cars to be ordered to the islands each year, all of which are instantly snapped up by the elite. Lamborghini has also seen Indonesian demand soar, with the country becoming its third largest market in the Asia-Pacific since it opened its doors in Jakarta in 2009.
“I think in a big city like this, maintaining the image of a good lifestyle is really important for young professionals,” said Johnson Yaptonaga, the owner of the Lamborghini showroom. “And owning an expensive car has become a trend for this group. Once you’re in this community, you have to keep up with this lifestyle.”
The Reign of the Designer
This relatively new-found wealth and desire for status amongst those at the top of the Indonesian rich list has also lead to significant growth within a now thriving designer shopping industry. Once only a small part of the country’s economy, luxury designer shopping malls are now the place to be, and be seen as the rich battle to prove their worth.
Once outnumbered by their Singaporean counterparts, the wealthy women of Indonesia have become the driving force behind this growth; the number of female millionaires now totals 20,000 with a total worth of $93 billion between them. Some of the most influential people in the country, the millionaire women of Indonesia have changed the face of wealth, creating a new ultra-rich subculture based around the expectation of luxury living.
Representing some of the richest families in the country, these businesswomen and socialites are regular members of ‘arisans’, Indonesian ladies clubs that combine saving money with socialising.
A unique part of the super-rich community, these clubs present the perfect opportunity for women to flaunt their wealth, with each of them paying up to $8,000 per month for membership. Well-dressed and well-heeled, these women live for trends and carry the most expensive handbags available.
With a love for Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, these ultra-wealthy socialites hold events, attend their club meetings and shop in the most prestigious shops in the capital as they fight to demonstrate the vast wealth of their families.
The Rise of Rich List
The growth of the Indonesian luxury market is just a small reflection of the vast billions currently circulating around the country’s rich list. Each of the families represented by the wealthiest women of Jakarta are featured on the Forbe’s list of Indonesia’s 50 Richest, making up a total worth of $102 billion as of 2014.
The list is headed up by entrepreneur brothers Budi and Michael Hartono, who have added more than $1 billion to their $16.5 billion fortune in the last year thanks to the rising stock price of their group’s most valuable asset, Bank Central Asia. Making their fortune in banking and tobacco, these businessmen super-rich owners of the Djarum Group, controlling the Indonesian cigarette market with the third largest cigarette company in the world.
Other big names on Forbe’s list included Susilo Wonowidjojo and Anthoni Salim. In the same market as the Djarum Group, Susilo Wonowidjojo and his family have a total worth of $8 billion thanks to their clove cigarette company Gudang Garam.
Now one of the largest cigarette companies in Indonesia, the group produces billions of sticks every year and has even moved into the city’s growing luxury leisure market with its purchase of one of the top five badminton clubs in the country. Just behind Wonowidjojo are Anthoni Salim and his family, who run the influential Salim Group and have a total worth of $5.9 billion. With fingers in pies across the country, the group makes its many millions in telecoms, retail, property and banking.
However, it’s best known venture is that of Indofood, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of instant noodles and a major player in the worldwide food industry. With a combined wealth of over $30 billion, these families represent just three places in the Forbe’s list of Indonesia’s richest, each of whom is battling to elevate the country to its almost inevitable destiny as the future of Asian wealth and a significant contributor to the world’s super-rich elite.
By Lynne Thorley
By Lynne Thorley