A chat with Kevin Susanto about Business, Sustainability, and Innovation
Serial entrepreneur Kevin Susanto shares the story of his expansive business ventures with Prestige
“Basically, everything starts with a dream, a goal, and then we just need to draw the map in order for us to achieve that goal,” says Kevin Susanto, a serial entrepreneur whose business stretches from F&B to packaging and beyond, at the start of our Zoom interview. The 27-year-old then continues: “What motivates me is, I like being an entrepreneur, and when I can achieve a target, it feels very rewarding.”
Having several business ventures under his belt, Susanto shares that he has had a passion for business since he was in university. “I knew that once I graduated, I wanted to go directly into the business world,” says the Macquarie University graduate.
On starting a business, Susanto notes: “You have to not be afraid to do all the dirty work when you start, because that’s where we learn the little things that are going to matter the most. These experiences will be the best teacher and will provide the best lessons for entrepreneurs. There’s no instant route to success. Everything is a process. Trust the process and work hard on it. That’s what I have been doing.”
“There are always problems in running businesses. If you don’t have problems, it means your business is not growing”
Back to his educational background, Susanto received his Bachelor’s Degree of Economics from Bina Nusantara International University and then earned his Master of Commerce in Finance and Organisational Management degree at Macquarie University, Sydney, in a span of just four and a half years. After finishing his education, Susanto returned to Indonesia in 2015 and became president director at petrochemical firm PT. Multi Globalindo Sukses Pratama, a company that manufactures the alternative, eco-friendly packaging brand EnviGo!
“It was supposed to be a family business. It was not really a brand back then; I just turned it into one recently,” Susanto elaborates on EnviGo!’s early days. “My ultimate goal with EnviGo! is to create a green mindset for people. Especially in 2020, we saw that there was a drastic change in people’s behaviour: They have become more aware of the environment; they have become aware on how the overuse of plastic is not good for the environment, so they reduce usage of plastic bags and straws. So, with EnviGo!, I wanted to create a brand and a whole perspective on a green lifestyle. We wondered what we could do, and the idea of making eco-friendly packaging came up. That’s how EnviGo! came up with its solution, in which we offer different types of eco-friendly packaging to suit different purposes and different products.
“EnviGo! offers different options for packaging: Paper bags, which are reusable and recyclable; cassava bags, made of cassava starch, which are biodegradable and compostable, and will break down in six to eight months; oxo biodegradable plastic, which degrades after two years; spunbound, which is reusable, durable and made of a safe natural, minerals. And it doesn’t stop there. EnviGo! also provides e-commerce courier bags for shipment packaging and has become a supplier for companies such as Tokopedia, Blibli, Ninja Express and JD.ID.
“We made different types of packaging because we realised that just one type is not really suitable for all uses. Different products need different types of packaging. For example, packaging to hand carry a few cups of coffee can be a paper bag or a cassava bag. But if you order coffee from an online food delivery service that uses motorcycles, and if it rains on the way, the cassava bag would get perforated.”
Although, as Susanto previously stated, people have become more conscious about the environment, running an alternative eco-friendly packaging business is not without its share of obstacles. “The challenge here would be education,” he points out. “People have been using plastics their entire lives. Sometimes they simply don’t realise that it affects the environment.”
Susanto elaborates: “In Indonesia, 68.7 tons of waste is produced every year. Every day, in Jakarta alone, around 8,000 tons of waste is dumped into the river at Bantargebang, and 15 percent of it is plastic waste. Considering just how big of a problem that can be, we need to create change together. We have to be wiser about the products that we use. By creating EnviGo!, we are trying to help educate the public about the topic while also providing a solution at the same time. As a company, we keep seeking new innovations. Hopefully, we can continue to come up with new and improved solutions, so we can help make the world a better place.”
Besides helming EnviGo! and its environmental ventures, Susanto also heads a number of F&B ventures, namely Goola and Gaaram, which he established in partnership with Gibran Rakabuming Raka and Benz Budiman. Through Goola and Gaaram, Susanto dreams of revolutionising local Indonesian food and drinks. “We have the same vision and mission for both Goola and Gaaram,” he states. “For now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these ventures are in hibernation for the time being. But we are actually preparing a new business model and when it is ready, we will definitely share it with public. And for Gaaram, by the end of last year, we had 20 stores across Indonesia. So, we are working on expanding our team and our outlets all over the country.”
The basic idea behind both Goola and Gaaram is to increase the popularity of Indonesian cuisines in the market. Susanto points at how popular international dishes actually are among Indonesians compared to local foodstuffs. “In 2018, we saw the hype for cheese tea,” he points out an example. “So, we thought, why don’t we turn es doger or es cendol into something like that? That was how we came up with the idea of revolutionising Indonesian drinks and transforming it with more modern packaging like those popular drinks you can find in shopping malls.”
Then there is also Glatuk, a low-calorie ice cream brand which is the latest addition to Susanto’s F&B ventures. “That’s also one of my investments. It all started based on the trend of people moving towards healthy lifestyles and opting for healthy eating,” tells Susanto. “Glatuk is a guilt-free ice cream as each scoop contains under 100 calories. Some people still think that low-calorie or guilt-free food taste bad, but with Glatuk, we have proven that you can still enjoy good ice cream without worrying about the calories.”
It goes without saying that running multiple businesses is beyond challenging. Susanto, however, embraces this. “There are always problems in running businesses. If you don’t have problems, it means your business is not growing. How do we overcome it? When we encounter a problem, we think of the solution; we solve it as soon as possible. So, when we are done with the problem, we can continue towards achieve our targets and get closer to what we want to reach.”
Susanto mentions that in business, it is important to stay innovative and keep improving. “If you are an entrepreneur or a businessman, you need to invest more in your knowledge, as well. You have to stay informed about what’s going on in the market and about the economy. Besides experience, knowledge is also important. Don’t be shy to ask someone who is better than you to teach you. Ask a lot, learn a lot. That’s an important thing to do. It is going to help you a lot in growing your business.”