Text & photo: Aulia R. Sungkar. Published in The Jakarta Post.
Businessman Prasoon Mukherjee empowers his staff with social integration to grow the business.
Headquartered in Singapore with operations in India and Southeast Asia, the group focuses on hospitality, industrial parks, townships, power and ports.
‘We are currently developing 12,000-acre island in India. We are developing close to 7 million square feet of real estate, and we also do township and industrial parks for our major tenants. Now, we are working on the development of super thermal power plants and ports in West Bengal and Gujarat,’ Mukherjee said during a short visit to Jakarta.
He was in the capital to attend the opening of the Outback Steakhouse at Lippo Mall Puri @ The St. Moritz, the newly launched integrated lifestyle mall in West Jakarta. It’s the fourth outlet in Indonesia, following the success of three others in Ratu Plaza, Pondok Indah Mall and Kuningan City Mall.
USE has since 2000 owned the franchise rights of the American steakhouse brand in Southeast Asia. There are currently 13 outlets operating throughout Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. The franchise-rights obtainment marked the start of the company.
Currently, it has more than 5,000 employees, 600 of whom work in the hospitality division. Leading such a giant company with operations in different countries is not easy, but is aided by what Mukherjee calls ‘absolute localization.’
‘I believe in the absolute localization of our company’s manpower and social integration. It’s the management approach that also speaks to our concern for the societies where our businesses operate,’ he asserts.
‘It is important that we become part of the community where we are doing business. In my entire Indonesian business, there are about 250 employees, mostly locals, including those at the managerial level. This way, we become a part of the society.’
Becoming part of the society also means giving back to the society, Mukherjee added.
He then cited his company’s recent donation to SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia, an Austria-based non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the well-being of orphans. The donation was made in conjunction with the opening of Indonesia’s new Outback outlet.
The prospect of a business is a beacon of hope not only for those working in one particular company, but also for people living in the surrounding community, he remarks.
‘We dont just come to one particularly country to capture business opportunities. I always tell my people the value of recognizing and receiving love. Sharing with the surrounding community will create a sense of belonging to a community. Harmonious relationships between business and society indeed paves the way for a company to grow further.’
Giving back to society has become part of the culture at all divisions within USE. There are four CEOs, each heading a respective division. To maintain the culture, Mukherjee sets main criteria for each of his CEOs to follow.
‘In my book, integrity is of great importance. So, I always hire people with high levels of honesty; the ones with passion to grow and share with communities. Above all, of course, they must possess the ability to do intelligent work.’
Dare to dream big
Mukherjee’s life is an inspiring success story, as he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His rags-to-rich story stretches back to his high school days when Mukherjee, as an ordinary Indian middle-class youngster, dared to dream big.
‘My dad toiled to finance my four-year hotel management study. With all the financial setbacks I went through, I eventually managed to graduate from a leading hospitality institute. That was around 30 years ago, and that was the beginning of my big dream!’ the 53-year-old recalled.
Upon graduation, he landed a job with the Indian Tourism Development Corporation , rising from a trainee to F&B manager.
After 10 years, he moved to Malaysia and then Singapore, where he rose from regional manager to director. In 1995, he moved to Indonesia and started pursuing his entrepreneurship dream. After establishing USE, the Indian citizen has resided in Singapore.
Living in different countries has taught him a valuable lesson that has sharpened his ‘absolute localization’ management style.
‘If you are a foreign investor, respect the country and the citizens where you are doing business. You will earn the respect back not only for yourself but also for your business organization.’