Synonymous with "universe" in Sanskrit, Mayapada Group lives up to its name as it continues to expand into new territories. Encompassing the finance, property development, health care, retail and media industries, it is on the cusp of change - and behind it is founder Dr Tahir, a man many consider to be bigger than the conglomerate itself.
To trace the success of Mayapada Group is to tell the story of Tahir, who goes by one name yet is known by so many: visionary, banker, karate black belter, father, philanthropist and devout Christian, among others. Ranking 15th in Forbes' list of Indonesia's richest, Tahir believes that the key lies in ceaselessly improving himself while staying true to his philosophy, be it for business or personal growth.
"Technology, people and everything else change, that is why I also always upgrade my philosophy," Tahir says. "At 60, what remain unchanged are my morals, integrity and principles."
Born in Surabaya, Tahir has been entrepreneurial as early as his college years. He worked hard initially for the sole purpose of supporting his education and upholding his family responsibilities. As he continued to learn the trade, however, his goals grew bigger and gained more purpose.
But it is not a case of the Midas touch. The success of Mayapada Group is the result of a lifetime of hard work that has had its fair share of failures and difficulties. One of which is Tahir's failed car dealership business in the 1980s, which cost him nearly all the assets he was able to build before it.
"My mistakes taught me to never go into any business that I could not afford to lose. Anything done in the extreme will have the opposite impact," Tahir says. "This principle continues to guide me as my compass, both in life and business."
Tahir applied this principle when he established Bank Mayapada in 1990, a few years before the 1997 Asian financial crisis crippled Indonesia's economy. While the nation's leading banks came tumbling down, Bank Mayapada emerged not only unscathed, but profitable and stronger.
This became the start of an empire. "To build a strong business venture, the basic foundation lies in the financial sector," Tahir says. "That is why we keep our banking business as the backbone to expand into other sectors."
Bank Mayapada, backbone of a growing empire
Flourishing against the odds, Bank Mayapada reinforced Tahir's then newfound stand on doing business.
"Only do businesses where risks are calculable and affordable. Balance the lending risks of different industries," Tahir says. "There are four principles in business progress. First, look at the industry and its future prospects. Next, compare it against global trends and third, calculate the risks you can take; evaluate your strengths and act accordingly. Lastly, scope out the competition and see how you can surpass them."
Before long, Bank Mayapada had listed on the Jakarta Stock Exchange and had given rise to more than 140 branches throughout Indonesia. Among the five leading private banks in the country, it is still aggressively growing and eyes the top spot as its long-term target.
Bank Mayapada also opened the door to Mayapada Life, one of Indonesia's fastest-growing insurance companies that has recently partnered with Switzerland-based Zurich Insurance. Moreover, the bank has become the perfect anchor for the group's diversification into different yet similarly high-potential industries.
"I don't do deals; I cultivate platforms," Tahir says. "Platforms need a solid team, human resources and proper financial infrastructure. Most of all, they require a very clear vision coupled with the right timing."
Mayapada Group's diversification into four other platforms began with the retail industry. Seeing opportunities in the growing number of travellers to and from Indonesia, Tahir ventured into operating duty-free shops in the early 1990s together with Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), the industry's largest player worldwide.
The group's duty-free shops have since grown to more than 10,000 square metres in total, with outlets in the Jakarta Airport, Bali International Airport and downtown Bali. Each shop carries a range of high-end local and international brands including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, as well as other garments, liquor, food and tobacco products.
From a successful chain of duty-free shops, Mayapada Group has also expanded its retail platform to build full-scale shopping malls. Its mall in downtown Bali puts together a shopping centre, movie house, restaurants and other business outlets.
Realising the potential of developing properties, Mayapada Group forayed into real estate with subsidiary Pacific Real Estate Development, Mayapada Tower, Permata Tower, Sona Topas Tower and Topas Tower in the prime street of Jalan Sudirman. The company has developed various projects ranging from residential and commercial properties to hotels and offices.
Among Mayapada Group's most iconic developments are Mayapada Hospital and Regent Hotel in Bali, which was completed this month in co-operation with the Regent Hotels & Resorts chain.
Giving back to society
One of the projects closest to Tahir's heart is Mayapada Hospital. Not only has it taken the group's property development capability to a whole new level, it also paved the way for its fourth business platform - health care.
Located in Southern Jakarta, the hospital was founded in 2008 and encompasses centres of excellence in neuroscience, cardiology, gastrointestinal, wellness and aesthetics, and oncology. It provides a 24-hour emergency ward, ambulatory services and Sunday clinics.
Mayapada Hospital is undergoing expansion for a second building that will house 350 beds. Designed by Singapore's National University Hospital, the expanded hospital is projected to be the largest and most beautiful in Indonesia and the whole Asian region. A third hospital, to be located in Bali, is also under development.
"We also collaborate with public hospitals in Indonesia, fostering co-operation instead of competition," Tahir says. "The objective is to improve the standards of medicine in the country and provide the best possible care and services to Indonesians."
The group continues to expand its horizons with its new media platform, having obtained the distribution rights of Forbes Magazine in Indonesia. It has also bought stakes in International Daily News, including its web TV, magazine, mobile and web news, and printing operations.
Mayapada Group's growth does not stop there. Closely monitoring emerging industries, the group has taken interest in the energy, minerals and related industries. It is on the lookout for potential partners.
"Partnerships, for me, have two purposes. One is to create money-making opportunities; the other is to build trust in the Mayapada brand," Tahir says. "Working with trusted partners such as DFS and Zurich Insurance has enhanced Mayapada's reputation for more than 20 years."
With ancestral roots in Putian, Fujian, Tahir speaks Chinese and understands the Chinese culture. This comes as an additional advantage as he foresees the future being driven by the growing middle class from Asia, particularly India, Indonesia and China.
In Indonesia, where 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, Tahir believes that the business sector has a serious responsibility.
"There is a golden opportunity to build infrastructure and push real growth by creating jobs," Tahir says. "You create jobs, and then you create value."
Tahir, the rock climber
What does a man who has earned countless titles call himself?
"I am a rock climber. Every time I reach the peak of one mountain, I upgrade to another and climb again," Tahir says.
Giving back to society is a crucial part of each journey. Just as in his business platforms, Tahir's charitable contributions have specific purposes that have a long-term view. His contributions to the education sector in Indonesia and abroad, for instance, have enabled students to reach their ambitions. His donations to medical projects, along with Mayapada Hospital's charity programmes, have saved and prolonged many lives.
"I often get more satisfaction in helping people than in business," Tahir says. "I find peace when I conduct good work - whenever I help the needy heal their sickness and whenever an impoverished student gets a degree just like I did."
Helping communities does not stop at being a generous philanthropist, however. Tahir takes leading positions in key organisations such as the Chinese Community of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He also founded the Association of Indonesian Chinese Entrepreneurs and Society, whose objective is to aid key sectors such as the academic and religious in pushing national development.
Standing out among Tahir's many beneficiaries is the National University of Singapore (NUS) and University of California, Berkeley (UCB). Tahir's only son, Jonathan Tahir, graduated from NUS Business School, while daughters Jane, Grace and Victoria graduated from UCB - where Tahir is also the first trustee from Southeast Asia.
"I have taught my children to look beyond social status, wealth and even education," Tahir says. "My journey is nearly finished; my last mission is to prepare the next generation for the continuity and sustainability of Mayapada Group."
Jonathan has been appointed as chairman of Bank Mayapada, the youngest in Indonesia's history at 25 years old. His sisters hold similarly important roles in the group's various operations.
With his children positioned to take the helm of Mayapada Group and its subsidiaries, Tahir is preparing to climb his next rock. As a businessman, he aims to improve his standing in Forbes' list from the top 15 to the top 10 this year. As a person, the goal is more long-term - and a little harder to put a price on.
"My ultimate dream is to become a blessing to more people," Tahir says.