Sarah Lacy on the Emerging World (a.k.a. Indonesia) -part2

The Oprah of Indonesia who empowers women with her company, Puri Ayu Martha Tilaar.

Previously on my last post, we read how Lacy compared Martha Tilaar to Oprah Winfrey. It tickles me a bit to spot this line:

[…] Heavily perfumed and air-conditioned, it’s an estrogen oasis in this hot, humid country. […] (BCC, p 191)

The word ‘estrogen’ serves pretty well to mark the transition from the manly world of erecting skyscrapers represented by Ciputra to a ladylike industry of cosmetics portrayed by Tilaar.  Lacy relates how Martha Tilaar has been taking part in female empowerment, something that goes beyond making money from natural makeups, grooming and pampering.

The proud Javanese woman entrepreneur also teaches women how proudly revealing one’s chronological age is NOT a shame as in:

[…] “I’m 74 years old,” she says proudly. “No facelift and no Botox! Can you imagine if I didn’t look good? Who would buy my products?” She exudes a confident, yet appropriately self-deprecating, charm that any finishing school student could learn from. […] (BCC, p 191)

I myself have hardly ever encountered a woman ‘voluntarily’ confessed her age in public. Tilaar is perhaps a totally different case considering how much time she’s devoted to maintaining her looks. But the grandma’s just not a pretty face. She’s reached the ultimate level of confidence as a business owner since 1960s. Tilaar has the ‘it’ factor an astounding entrepreneur should possess; i.e. idealism (which occasionally leads to a head-to-head battle with the male CEO Hartanto Santosa).

In spite of the differences, it turns out Ciputra and Martha Tilaar share the similar childhood lesson: don’t let anyone, even your parents, say you’re a failure for good! Ciputra was the last born kid in the family. He was the least expected offspring of all to excel in life. Even his dad, as long as I can remember, once said the young Ciputra was the blacksheep of the family. While Ciputra’s peers were already moving on to the higher education, Ciputra (at 12 then) still stayed in elementary school as a second grader. The young boy was wayward, difficult in any possible way.

Martha Tilaar grew as a fragile little girl, lacking health and vitality. A doctor’s verdict stated she was only going to be a not-so-brainy grownup, which she managed to prove wrong later on (Really, how can you call someone whose company’s revenue is worth US$100 million dumb?). Like Ciputra who was looked down by the father, even Tilaar’s mother wasn’t quite impressed by what Tilaar thought of as the acme of her academic achievement (she was the third from the last in class). So the desperate mom saw entrepreneurship as an ‘exit strategy’. She simply wanted Tilaar to lead a better life with entrepreneurial skills because to her the young girl seemed to lack academic skills.

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