Unmoved by politics, Jokowi’s son sticks to business


Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Surakarta

At first glance, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 26, shares all the traits of his father, presidential frontrunner Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Aside from the outwardly jovial and humble appearance, Gibran answers questions in much the same manner as his father — with modesty and brevity.
But when it comes to career path, Gibran has taken a different route, eschewing all political activity to follow the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to run in the family.
But unlike Jokowi, 53, who was a furniture retailer before becoming mayor of Surakarta, Gibran’s business is food.
On one Friday morning in June, Gibran was seen closely supervising his employees as they filled fresh-baked croquettes into red boxes stamped with his trademark Chilli Pari Catering logo.
Gibran said the swan-shaped snack was one of the signature products of Chilli Pari, a business he established after completing his undergraduate study in 2010.
“We are about to send these samples to local companies and hotels,” Gibran said in a recent interview at his company’s spacious kitchen and office on Jl. Pleret Utama in Surakarta.
“Ramadhan is coming soon and we want to inform potential clients that we have a special promotional package for the month.”
Gibran, who emits an idealistic flair for his business, said he found his calling as an entrepreneur at a young age.
The eldest of three siblings, Gibran said he had made a detailed business plan as a university student, though his father, at that time one of Surakarta’s most successful furniture retailers, had been reluctant to support the idea.
After graduating, Gibran took out a bank loan to start up his business.
“I initially wanted to focus on the catering service business only, but later I learned that I had to meet the demands of customers who often prefer having their wedding events handled in one package with the catering,” said Gibran, who spent more than eight years studying in Singapore and Sydney, Australia.
As he learned the ropes of the business, he realized that despite his desire to sell only healthy food products, the customer was always right.
“During my first year in the business, I insisted on not adding any MSG [monosodium glutamate] to my food. Consequently, I received a lot of complaints from costumers, saying the food was tasteless,” he said.
“Today, I let my customers decide whether they want to have MSG or not.”
Despite having three years in the business, Gibran modestly characterized his cooking ability as “basic”.
In that short time, however, Chilli Pari has becoming one of the city’s largest catering and wedding planning businesses. six experienced chefs, 15 permanent staffers and hundreds of other employees, Gibran said Chilli Pari handled catering services for at least 30 events every month. His costumers are both locals and foreigners.
A visit to Gibran’s office provides a glimpse of how the business is run.
A polite and professional marketing team sits behind a large L-shaped desk to greet and assist costumers when they walk in.
Covering the wall behind the desk are large paintings of red chili and rice stalks, or “pari” in Javanese, reminding visitors of the origin of the company’s name.
Photos of wedded couples are arranged in the center of the office while on one side a 32-inch LCD TV ran footage promoting the company’s one-stop wedding packages with English subtitles.
And throughout the office played a bossanova rendition of a traditional Javanese tune, creating a warm and classy ambience.
Gibran, who drives a white Mazda hatchback, refused to reveal his annual revenue.
“It would only encourage tax officials to hunt me down,” he jokingly said.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview with MetroTV, Jokowi said he had previously been a bit disappointed with Gibran’s reluctance to take over the family furniture business.
“He wanted to establish his own business from scratch and become independent. That was his personal choice. If people asked me whether I was disappointed with that choice, I would say I was, but only for a little while,” said Jokowi, who is running against Prabowo Subianto in the July 9 election.
The business relationship between father and son, however, has now emerged in another form.
Chilli Pari, for instance, offers a joint wedding package with the management of Graha Saba Buwana, a 2,000-capacity Javanese-style meeting hall owned by Jokowi, located only five minutes from Gibran’s office.
The cheapest package, which includes a buffet for 1,000 guests, costs Rp 56 million (US$4,669).
“Our cooperation with the hall management is strictly professional. We pay the rent just like any other costumer,” Gibran said.
Unlike his mother Iriana, sister Kahiyang Ayu, 23, and brother Kaesang Pangarep, 19, Gibran has never been seen beside his father at a campaign event.
Even when Jokowi was in town campaigning last week, Gibran stayed in the kitchen supervising his employees in preparation for a 2,000-person wedding later that day.
Gibran, who chairs the Surakarta branch of the Association of Indonesian Food Services Entrepreneurs (APJI), is, by his own admission, wary of the media.
He immediately turns down reporters interested only in digging into his father’s political activities or his family history.
Jokowi, undoubtedly Surakarta’s most influential living figure, was the city’s mayor between 2005 and 2012 before becoming the governor of Jakarta. After announcing his presidential bid in March, the city has become a flashpoint for journalists scouring for information about Jokowi and his extended family.
But for Gibran, talking politics is not worth his time, as he hasn’t the slightest intention of following in his father’s footsteps.
“There’s no point in asking me about politics since I know nothing about it,” he said.
“But I will meet those who want to know more about my business since I’m here to make money — not a political career.”

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