Bob Sadino: An Eccentric Role Model

Story By
Donny Syofyan

A humble man who highly esteems simplicity with an untraditional success story.

Every time people hear the name Bob Sadino, they would instantly be reminded of a very eccentric person. Not just simply due to his unique style—wearing shorts everywhere he went, including when he met former presidents Soeharto and Megawati Soekarnoputri—but also because of the fact that he is a school dropout. 

Born Bambang Mustari Sadino, the legendary businessman passed away last January at 81 years old. Bob’s health had reportedly been in decline since last July, following the death of his wife of over 40 years, SoelamiSoejoed. Bob left behind a legacy of gourmet supermarket Kem Chicks, meat producer Kem Foods and agricultural firm Kem Farms.

The eccentric figure is inseparably linked to his untraditional success story to become a livestock businessman, after several decades of odd jobs. Om Bob, as he was often called, is a man who highly esteemed simplicity in reflection and action. While advising, Bob always gave sound and easily understandable advice, which reflects his simple way of thinking and swift action. Unlike most people, Bob believed that too much planning would be in vain as it may not come out right. 

Bob really fathomed that modesty means befriending the rank and file. Sugiono, Bob’s driver since 1983, probably knew this best. “While out of town, we often ate at the same table and even slept in the same room.” he said. With his debacle of pursuing higher education, Bob never failed to remember helping the needy and to have a never-say-die attitude. On many occasions, he said that the uneducated should not find work, but to create jobs and hire smart people. One does not have to be smart to be a successful entrepreneur, but having guts is the key. 

Along with his modesty, Bob never stayed at one comfort zone for a long time. He attributed success to one’s zeal in getting out of the comfort zone. Despite having an established job in Europe, young Bob decided to go back to Indonesia. Upon his return to Jakarta, he did some ‘odd’ jobs such as being a taxi driver and construction worker. His siblings were concerned with Bob and offered him help. But rather than welcoming their help, Bob replied, “Please do not help me. That is what I need!” It’s interesting to think that if he had received that help, there would probably be no Kem Chicks, which Bob started from a small terrace and garage.

Regardless of his quirk, Bob is a real role model inspiring those around him. He believes that showing exemplary manner to public is instrumental in building one’s mental capacity, and this must start from his own family. Though he led his kids in a firm manner, Bob gave them a free choice to have their lives. Discipline and self-reliance, according to Bob, must be balanced. This is the spirit that sets his employees in Kem Chicks Group, whom he regarded as his own children.

Bob was also known as a husband who appreciated a wife’s role. His wife Soelami, although not much of a talker, always stood by him until the end. In silence, she was disposed to living a hard life with Bob, as she believed he would make her happy. Throughout his journey of business, Bob kept awake and reminisced about her silence as his success trigger. It was her silent habit that make their marriage last longer until the death did them part.