Kamis, 05 Juli 2012

Arwin Rasyid: 'I Wish to Work in The Real Sector'

Despite his frequent smile and friendly appearance, the impression that he is a man with strong determination and work ethos remained throughout the interview. "Telkom demands quite a lot, in terms of thought and time, so I must regularly play sport and eat wholesome food to stay healthy," said Telkom president director Arwin Rasyid.

Only a handful of people could have foreseen that Arwin, born in Rome, Italy, on Jan. 22, 1957, would one day be appointed president director of Telkom after he failed to be named president director of Indosat. Arwin previously had no experience in the telecommunications business.

The 49 year old said he did not exactly fail in his bid for the position, that he missed out on getting the job because the decision makers did not approve his appointment because Indosat was more private in nature as a business entity than a state-owned enterprise. "I wish to work in the real sector," he said, revealing his obsession to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when he was summoned by the President as a candidate for a president director of a state-owned enterprise.

In 2004, he was nominated for the position of Garuda Indonesia's president director. "I have spent too long in the banking sector -- seven years at foreign banks, 12 years in private domestic banks and three years in a Chinese-owned bank taken over by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency," said Arwin.

After leading Bank Niaga and Bank Danamon, Arwin has a new perspective on the presence of a banker or someone from the financial sector in the telecommunications industry, particularly overseas. Datuk Wahid, the president director of Malaysia's Telkom, he said, is an economist while the president director of Globe Philippines is also a banker. "So there is nothing strange about a banker or someone from another type of industry entering telecommunications," said Arwin, whose appointment as president director of the state company was opposed by the association of Telkom employees, SEKAR.

But he said, "Whoever leads a company must be able to manage the company as a whole because eventually managing a company means its strategies, performance, human resources and image. All these things must be supported by a highly competent team."

Arwin, who likes hunting, said his background as a banker was very helpful in his present position. While in the banking sector, Arwin was often assigned to deal with corporate matters and enjoyed many opportunities to get acquainted with many companies representing various kinds of industries, such as the property, rubber and coal sectors. He invariably discussed matters with the executives before extending loans to them.

In this way he learned about running a business and convinced his clients about their prospects so that they could repay their loans. Therefore, in Telkom he has no problems working with his new colleagues, who are not from the financial sector. "For me, this means added value as it broadens my perspective," he said.

Telkom's prospects, he said, are bright thanks to extraordinary developments in the telecommunications sector the world over following the invention of cellular phone technology. China, for example, sees about 57 million new cell phone subscribers every month, while India and Indonesia has three to four million and one to 1.5 million new subscribers every month respectively. Penetration of cell phones in Indonesia stands at about 25 percent, or 15 percent less than the Philippines, where the income per capita is the same as in Indonesia. Analysts estimate that Indonesia has about 100 million cellular phone users. "In fact, Telkom was already in good condition when I joined it," Arwin noted.

It is harder to improve a good company than it is to turn an underdog firm into a good one, and improving Telkom's performance is easier said than done, he said. "We must be realistic. In short, the company has been optimized in strength," he said.

However, Arwin believes that Telkom should not be made to bear a burden that is beyond its ability but that it should team up with other parties in terms of content, products and services in mutually beneficial cooperation agreements to support the company's long-term and short-term strategies.

Undeterred by reputation or size, Arwin believes that greatness in size is simply psychological. "My parents always told me that all kinds of assignments should be considered as religious duty. So try your best. If we succeed, we will be satisfied, otherwise, we may reflect to find out our shortcomings and the reason we failed," said Arwin, who once thought that the Minang (West Sumatra) language, his mother tongue, was Indonesia's national language because he was born abroad and spent more time abroad when he grew up so did not realize there were other Indonesian languages besides Minang. "My parents always speak in English and in the Padang (Minang) language, so I mistakenly thought the Padang language was the national language," he was quoted on one website as saying.

After the first five months in Telkom, Arwin's leadership produced good results. A performance report in the third quarter showed that Telkom's income rose by 20 percent, from Rp 25.095 trillion in the same period the year before to Rp 30.1 trillion. Its net profit also went up 19 percent from Rp 4.8 trillion in the third quarter of 2004 to Rp 5.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2005.

Under the leadership of Arwin, who was an assistant lecturer when he was a third-year student at the School of Economics of the University of Indonesia, Telkom has seen its cellular phone subscribers increase. At present, the Telkom Group has 36 million telephone subscribers. A significant increase can be seen in the Flexi Line-in Service (LIS), which has enjoyed robust growth of 244 percent, namely from one million subscribers in the third quarter of 2004 to 3.7 million subscribers in the same period in 2005.

Meanwhile, the number of Telkom cellular phone subscribers has enjoyed a growth of 72 percent and now totals 24 million. Up to the third quarter of 2005, Telkomsel was still the market leader with a market share of 54 percent. Regarding this achievement, Arwin simply said that the performance of Telkom was indeed excellent. "I'll just have to guard it so that its progress remains solid," he said.

The biggest challenge for Arwin in Telkom comes instead from its cultural transformation into a business-oriented entity. Starting as a state-owned enterprise that enjoyed a monopoly and protection, Telkom now faces intensive competition. It takes time for a new paradigm to take root. Besides, the age of its personnel averages 45 years.

As a leader, he is striving to make the company embrace four basic things: to ensure that the right strategy is adopted, to maintain performance and rectify any irregularities, to build human resources as the personnel constitute a factor determining the company's success and, finally, to build an image that reflects good governance, transparency, credibility and consistency.

In general, there are several strategies to achieve this goal, namely increase income, cut operational costs and spending on goods, choose the right technology, enhance value through cooperation established by means of an alliance and try to build a culture conducive to business. In Telkom, which conducts various kinds of businesses, this means ensuring that every business is a winner. This also means creating profitable products. Therefore, the people and the direction must be correct. "I've been looking for fine people in Telkom to be empowered. If there aren't any, I will recruit specialists from outside the company," Arwin said.

Under Arwin's direction, Telkom continues to make progress. His dream of making telephone lines available in rural areas will be realized through cooperation between the government and a Telkom subsidiary established for this purpose. Telkom has also established telephone facilities in Miamas and Nipah, two borderline areas. It has teamed up with PT Pos postal company for postal and Internet services, provided Internet services to 1,000 senior high schools, established a Cyber Campus and a Cyber Airport and launched Speedy in many cities.

Arwin, who likes watching movies with his family, believes one must have balance in their life. Life is like a cake cut into several pieces, with each piece being devoted to separate things, namely family, career, social purposes, hobbies and religious duties. "If there is upheaval in one part of our life, we will not be easily thrown because we still have other parts with us," he said.

Living by this principle, Arwin has lived through trying times, such as when he was dealing with big-wig debtors at the Bank Restructuring Agency or when he was preparing the financially unsound Bank Danamon to be presented for sale to new investors and when he assumed the position of president director at Bank Niaga, also financially unsound and on the verge of collapse. "Just imagine, our report card in the central bank, BI, was in the red. We did not have enough cash to pay depositors and continued to sustain foreign exchange losses. These were my most difficult days when I was a banker," said Arwin, who is a bookworm.

He likes to read people's success stories and autobiographies as well as books on history, philosophy and management. The last book he read was by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who said that a leader must always be energetic. (Lily G. Nababan

The Jakarta Post, October 04, 2006

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