The journey to get to where she is has been a long and arduous one. Knowing all along that she would one day be handed the reins of the family business started by her grandfather, Shinta Kamdani had to do everything in her power and more to prove to herself and her parents that she had what it took to lead the company.

Despite being born into a family of entrepreneurs, the third generation heir of the family business started her illustrious career at the very bottom. And proved to them she did. Today, Shinta is the CEO of Sintesa Group, a conglomerate of 17 distinct companies, unified under one banner by Shinta herself.

The family business started as a rubber plantation in 1919 established by Shinta’s grandfather, Oey Kim Tjiang. It then shifted its focus to trading in 1959 when her father, Johnny Widjaja, took over. At that point, it was only a matter of time before Shinta would be handed over the reins. Shinta remembered the times during her primary school years when she would help out at her father’s office, even if it was in the smallest capacity. It was when she was 13 that Shinta got her first experience of trading: selling books door-to-door. Through the successes and failures of the experience, Shinta was determined to push on and gather as much knowledge and experience as possible. No school vacation since then had gone by without Shinta doing some form of work. The trend continued on to her university days, where she would intern at various companies during term breaks.

Having garnered experience at various companies, Shinta immediately began her career at the family business, as a promotion and marketing staff at one of the subsidiaries focusing on consumer products. Despite being the owner’s daughter, she did not receive any form of special treatments. It took years of hard work and putting in plenty of extra effort before she got her first promotion. Shinta was extremely proud of this promotion as years of hard work had finally paid off. No one could take it away from her as she had done it all by her own two hands.

The biggest breakthrough for Shinta came a few years later when she proposed the concept of unifying the numerous independently operating companies under one holding company. Her time in the company had made her able to view its operations from a different perspective, thus identifying the areas which needed improvement. She had finally risen through the ranks and made it into a leadership role.

Today, Sintesa Group is led by a professional management team, with Shinta as its leader. As CEO, Shinta states that the three most important roles for her as CEO are to provide a vision for the future, and to serve and empower the employees. Shinta understands very well that under the new structure, the people working for, and with the company, are the most important components for success.

She learned from a young age to always put her feet on the ground and never to take things for granted. “You have to appreciate the little things. It is important to know that at any time, all our material possessions could be taken away. Always remember who you are, and where you came from,” said Shinta. Passion and discipline are the other two guiding principles that have gotten Shinta to where she is today. It is of utmost importance to love what you do, and to have the self-discipline to always give a hundred per cent. “I may not be the best at something, but I will always give it my best,” said Shinta.

Being in Shinta’s position comes with its own set of challenges and pressure. When she is met with particularly difficult challenges, Shinta likes to take time off alone. It is during this personal time free from distractions that she is able to find solutions, even to the toughest trials. When asked what it is specifically that she does during this time, Shinta had a succinct answer that needed no further explanation: “I dance.”

Outside of the family’s business, Shinta cares a great deal about the environment and the future of entrepreneurs in Indonesia. Shinta is an ardent supporter of the country’s thriving startup scene, and is always looking to help young and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their goals. She is the founder ANGIN, GEPI, and IBCSD, and is the Vice-Chair of WWF Indonesia. ANGIN has become Indonesia’s largest network of angel investors, with a focus on funding and mentoring startups in Indonesia, while GEPI connects local entrepreneurs with global developments and investment prospects. The IBCSD is an association of companies committed to promoting sustainable development through sustainable economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.

Success can be difficult to define and is different from one individual to the other. With her multitude of responsibilities, Shinta sees success as being able to achieve a balancing act, and to have all aspects of her life exist in harmony. With so much on her plate, Shinta believes that the best way to find balance is to bring others along and share in the success. “An individual can only do so much, but together we can do so much more,” said Shinta.

While there is so much more that Shinta can share, it would be impossible to fit them all within these pages. In closing, Shinta emphasised once again the significance of never giving up, and to never be afraid of failure.

“In all that I do, if I never give up, if I continue fighting, then I will definitely make it. It pays to be daring, and to never give up. I have failed many times, and it is only because I choose to keep fighting that I am where I am today.”

This story appears in the January 2018 issue of Indonesia Tatler, for the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstands, or subscribe here.

[Text by: Kevin Sjahrial; Photographer: Heri N. Heryanto]