Abidin: Assembling enterprise in Batam

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam

Set your dreams as high as the stars in the sky -- but also try to keep a firm grip on reality.

That has been the philosophy long followed by entrepreneur Abidin, the president director of electronics assembly company PT Sat Nusapersada, the biggest business of its type in Batam.

The company, which plans to launch on the stock exchange, claims an asset base of Rp 500 billion (US$54 million).

This electronic assembly company on Batam island is believed to be the first company in Indonesia that has moved into the field of electronic assembly and which will soon go public.

Abidin was born in Moro island, one of the small islands in Karimun regency, the province of Riau Islands, 45 years ago. His formal education did not go beyond junior high school. His elementary education was completed in Moro island. In 1975 he and his parents moved to Batam. And in Batam he finally finished his junior high school education.

Later on economic problems limited his chance to study at senior technical school level, which had always been his dream. So Abidin had to bury his wishes, though that did not mean he lost his interest in electronics.

"I've long thought human beings will eventually become totally dependent on electronics. From getting up in the morning, to going to bed at night, human beings are dependent on electronic technology, and my feeling is that it will be impossible for them to be separated," said Abidin, talking to The Jakarta Post in Batam on one occasion.

He took on various jobs after finishing his junior high school education, including working as a passport agent in Batam, a job that made him well known. Actually he took on the job of passport agent for people planning to travel overseas some years ago.

Abidin then worked in the electronic assembly company PT Hi Tech Agratekron till he gained the position of general manager. He then moved to another electronic assembly company that is also in Batam, namely PT Singamip where he was employed as production manager. Foreign investors owned both these companies.

With a wealth of self-confidence and experience Abidin decided that he could set up his own electronic assembly company. His financial capital was only $S40,000 (Rp 2.5 billion). This money was his own -- he did not have to borrow from a bank.

His new electronic assembly company was named PT Sat Nusapersada; it started work in 1990 with no more than 22 employees. After winning job orders to assemble electronic parts from a number of world-class companies, his business began to run smoothly.

Step-by-step the number of staff increased to the point where PT Sat Nusapersada at one stage employed 14,000 workers. Now the export target for the company this year is goods worth Rp 1.6 trillion (US$174 million), which he believed would definitely be achieved.

"The electronic industry keeps developing. We are a company that assembles electronic components, so we are continually following these developments.

"The number of workers that we employ needs to be set at a level for maximum efficiency. We are constantly introducing many improvements to ensure we are working at an optimal level, improving production and decreasing costs," he said.

In the decade, 1990 to 2000, one production line designed to assemble certain components needed 52 workers. In 2006 the production line doing the same job and producing the same quantity of parts required only 14 workers.

The job of the other 38 workers has changed with the company developing its own machines. One of these is now used to stamp numbers on electronic components; the machine to do this job, and which has replaced a worker, was designed by the worker himself.

The company's policy of substituting a human being's job with a machine has drastically decreased the number of staff employed. In 2000 the total number of workers had reached 14,000.

So as the company develops the number of workers decreases. This is because the business has built and bought machines that carry out many processes that were once handled manually. So there are now only about 4,000 workers in the company.

"Indonesian people, if given a chance, can reach the goals that have been achieved by other nations. We aren't here just as tailors to stitch together electronic products. But we also follow through to think of innovative ways to improve the assembly process," said Abidin who is known for his tendency to speak out frankly and for his humor.

PT Sat Nusapersada now has 16 famous electronic companies among its clients, including Sony, Kenwood, Epson, Philips, Sanyo, Japan Servo, TEAC and Thomson; most parts come from Japan.

At last count more than 80 electronic components were being assembled by PT Sat Nusapersada. Some go into finished products such as car audio systems, power supply units, multi-media systems, TV tuners and fan exhausts. Other parts are built to be used in different electronic products.

So far three vice presidents (Megawati Soekarnoputri, Hamzah Haz and Jusuf Kalla) have visited his factory as a form of respect for this company's achievements.

After doing so much pioneering work in the business of electronic assembly, and a career that has brought him so much success, Abidin follows his hobby of caring for his koi and arwana fish (also known as dragon fish). He is also involved in organizations in the area.

Apart from being the head of the Indonesian Employer's Association (Apindo) in Riau Islands province, he is also involved in the social activities of the local Chinese community.

Abidin is reluctant to generate publicity about his family or talk about them to others, though he frequently attends many public events in Batam. He usually travels alone, except for private bodyguards, but he didn't want to explain the reason.

Now his obsession is to develop his company as a one-stop service for his clients, and not just to assemble electronic equipment. He also wants to supply the materials that are needed for the components.

"Later on our partnership won't just provide design and assembly services, but it will also work on the products until they are finished. The materials, the equipment, the software and hardware will all be here," Abidin said.

Abidin is well known for his personal discipline. He often walks around his factory, which covers three hectares of grounds. When he finds any plastic or rubbish he never hesitates to pick it up.

"Discipline and looking after other people are the main points in life. If we are successful in these areas we will also be successful in the future," Abidin said.
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