Hendy Setiono: Turning Dreams into Reality

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

As the old saying goes, ‘Success doesn’t come overnight’, Hendy Setiono really keeps his eyes on the prize. He started his own business when he was just 19 years old with very little capital. It wasn’t until 10 years later, PT Baba Rafi Indonesia becomes the world’s biggest kebab chain and has developed to a great extent with three franchise brands; Kebab Turki Baba Rafi, Piramizza, and Ayam Bakar Mas Mono which around 1,200 outlets are spread in Indonesia, Malaysia, Filipina, Brunei, China, Singapore, Srilanka, Bangladesh, and Netherland, and which sales turnover is more than hundred billion of Indonesian rupiahs. Join InClover while we chat with this humble “Asia’s Best Entrepreneur under 25” according to BusinessWeek Asia Magazine 2006, Hendy Setiono.

  • InClover: What really inspired you at the beginning to start a business, considering you were very young and still in college back then?
  • Hendy: Firstly, I have always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and it became an ambition. I also love culinary, so it certainly matched with my passion.  Secondly, I chose kebab because years ago, people haven’t been interested yet with Middle Eastern food, let alone to have it as their main business in this country. That’s why I saw it as a bog opportunity for me.
  • InClover: Can you tell us a bit about your ups and downs when you started this business with only 4 million rupiah as your capital? Who always believes in you that gives you a huge motivation to keep going?
  • Hendy: It wasn’t easy at the beginning. When I stated to develop the business, hard times came from the marketing field and raw materials supply which at that time were difficult to obtain.
    My family plays a very big role, especially in terms of helping me with the business development. My wife and my parents have given me their support from the very beginning. In fact my wife, Nilam Sari, has also been involved in Baba Rafi management from the beginning.
  • InClover: Through good and bad times, what are the significant lessons that you have acquired?
  • Hendy: Starting a business is never easy. There have been a lot of ups and downs I went through, also life lessons I’ve learnt in this process. The important lesson which I always remember among all of them is that being an entrepreneur, you must have a strong character and passion, and always do what you have to do with unyielding commitment. You have to transform your biggest fear into courage as soon as possible by doing actions and push yourself to create “something” new and innovative. This kind of attitude helps you to become the leader, especially when your business offers unique, different, and qualified products.
  • InClover: What is your key of success?
  • Hendry: Working hard, never stop learning, being open-minded, and prayer are my powerful resources. We also manage to have the quality control team to help us keep the standard high in each outlet, regularly.
  • InClover: How do you describe yourself now and what’s the difference from the very first time you started the business? Is there one thing you always want to change if you were given the chance?
  • Hendy: I’m very grateful with what I have achieved and endured right now. I think there is no significant change happen to my natural self. If there is any difference, it would be my daily routine that has changed.  If I could turn back time, I would still live my life the way it is. Because I believe, what I have right now is the best thing that has ever given to me.
  • InClover: With more than 10 years experience in business enterprise, what inspires you to continuously adapt and build product diversification to be the market leader?
  • Hendy: Product diversification is a very crucial strategy to shape the brand image on top of people’s mind. Just like PT Baba Rafi Indonesia. Everyone identifies it with kebab, even though its products are not only kebab. Product diversification can also keep the customers away from boredom because innovation is perpetually done.
  • InClover: What is the biggest challenge in this business?
  • Hendy: That happened when we tried to expand our business overseas. We have to know exactly the international trade law, look through and understand all the rules and regulations in a joint venture, and also the mechanism of getting business licenses, taking care intellectual property rights, and bureaucracy in each country.
  • InClover: Facing the pressures of the Digital World, which impressively has been growing bigger and faster, how do you adjust your business and keep innovating?
  • Hendy: As technology advances and Baba Rafi is taking the quality improvement higher and better, we have prepared to promote and market our product through digital by building a strong online presence and identity, so we can reach our customer in a wide range and allow the two-way communication.  Our customer now can also reach us through www.babarafi-online.com.
  • InClover: Is there any dream that has not come true yet? Would you like to share with us?
  • Hendy: I have a vision to take my company, PT Baba Rafi Indonesia to the next level: becoming “The Fastest Growing Food Company in Asia”.

Photo courtesy of  Hendy Setiono