Sukanto Tanoto – Chairman & Founder (RGE)

Unlike others who had a head-start given the previous generation’s achievements, Sukanto Tanoto had a humble beginning and he build his empire from scratch. He did not even have a proper education to serve as his trampoline towards success, all he had was the perseverance, dilligence and spirit of excellence.

Today, Sukanto Tanoto is the Founder and Chairman of RGE, a global resource-based manufacturing group of companies comprising of: APRIL – Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Ltd and Asia Symbol operating in the pulp and paper industry, Asian Agri and Apical in the palm oil industry, Sateri International (listed in HongKong Stock Exchange) in the rayon and specialty pulp industry, as well as Pacific Oil & Gas in the energy industry. The group of companies have corporate offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Beijing and Nanjing, and manufacturing operations in China, Indonesia and Brazil. Their sales offices are widely distributed globally and well represented in each continent.  As of today, RGE has assets exceeding US$35 billion worldwide and a workforce of 70,000 employees globally.

The history of the company goes back to 50 years ago when young Sukanto Tanoto started his first business supplying spare parts to the oil and construction industries. Following his success, he ventured into other sectors such as the plywood business, palm oil and power generation. After years of sowing, Sukanto Tanoto finally reaped some fruits of his labour. Today however, despite all his successes, Sukanto Tanoto also set up Tanoto Foundation to help to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of the community in the region.

Sukanto Tanoto is a self-educated entrepreneur because he had an interrupted education when he was young. However, this did not stop him from learning. He learned English word-for-word using a Chinese-English dictionary and finally attended business school in Jakarta in the mid-1970s. He also undertook further studies at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Today, Sukanto Tanoto is a member of the INSEAD International Council, the Wharton Board of Overseers, the Wharton Executive Board for Asia, and various other educational, community and industry bodies. In 2013, he is also the recipient of the Wharton School Dean’s Medal Award, which recognizes individuals for their contributions to the enlargement of the global economy and to the improvement of lives worldwide. Past recipients of the award include Chiefs of State, Nobel Prize winners, and Chairmen and CEOs of companies.

In 1997, Sukanto Tanoto chose to settle in Singapore with his family, establishing his company’s headquarters there as a stepping stone to grow the company globally.  However, he continues to hold an Indonesian passport and citizenship and is still contributing significantly to the economy of the country. His businesses today are still expanding and growing, creating values and impacting the people from all over the world.

To find out more about Sukanto Tanoto and his businesses, please visit

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  1. How Mr Tanoto thinks about run-grow-transform model on your corporation and how to approach this. World is globalisation & stiff competition. The consumer goes for paperless; and young generation practices internet and IT devices for surfing information nowadays.

    A lot of enterprise use word “transformation “to mean a big change but extent of change isn’t what defines a transformation. Since the market is too dynamic, times of fast change and limited resources, achieving the right balance between operations and strategic activities that support the future mission & goal is always a challenge. As a strong senior mentor, it is interesting to share with how organizations can strike the right balance between what as Run (on-going operations), Grow (incremental growth and improvements), and Transformational (transformative change) activities regard to technology & safety-based new traditional business like oil/gas/LNG and also, an Asia enterprise entering to western culture countries?

    Hope that Mr Tanoto could share your vast experience & useful advice with me as part of long-life learning curve of young generation?
    Thanks for your input.

    Best Regards
    Eason Lim Teng Kiat

  2. Dear Mr Tanoto,

    It is few small questions to share with

    1) Investing in women’s education and empowerment for women is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. I strongly believe that sustainable development is only possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to reach their potential; by giving power in decision-making at all levels especially managerial role regard to gender & rave equality. Woman now tend to do better at school and work than men; during decision making, women could act much quick fair judgement in complicated working culture. Women might be capable to hold senior managerial role nowadays (ie.e a lot of strong politician and CEO are women) and work on much high responsibility role ; not mainly work on administration , HR, Legal and accounting,
    We are pleased to find out details from Tanoto family’s philosophy and minimum strategic priorities to empower women in corporate policy implication development and workforce planning & employee rationalization respect to long term investments in economic & human capital. How women contributions can be better realized at present and how strategies can be developed for meeting the needs of future generations in order to maximise the economic, social and environmental role of women & assure long term sustainability

    2) Lean integration is a management that emphasizes creating value for customers, continuous improvement, and eliminating waste as a sustainable system integration practice, it is part of long –life learning curve with no fast return expected.
    How this aligns corporate resource to create strong value as market is getting globalization and stiff competition. How to balance among organisation, profit and environmental for a corporate survival? How the employees fully engaged “Lean thinking” & open viewed with sincere honest heart to corporate value stream improvement? Should it consider adaptability” apart from transformability & sustainability “ respect to complexity and resistance to change within the group next 20 years? For example, emerging technical & process debts at dynamic market, the company unable to pay interest” until the debt is eventually liquidated; how your team consider ways to remove obsolete components through regular business analysis, considering total cost of ownership with each change.

    Hope these inputs are indeed useful; having such improvement could strive great long term happiness rather than success.

    I am happy to listen your advice from a senior mentor and thus eager to learn & grow

    Thanks a lot

    Best Regards
    Eason Lim Teng Kiat

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