It’s not often that you meet larger than life characters. Sukyatno Nugroho, the founder of Es Teler 77, probably the first Indonesian fast-food franchise in the country was one such person.
Unspun first met him at a reflexology place in Pluit, where he and his wife was reclined in comfort. Unspun was courting his daughter then and this was the first meeting with the potential in-laws. I remember this was a weird place for a first meeting between potential in-lawsbut he was so friendly, unpretentious and welcoming that it all seemed OK.
That was Sukyatno – in spite of how successful he became, he couldn’t give a toss about appearances or status. He was totally open and retained a child-like enthusiasm for promoting his business and other projects in a self-deprecating manner. Whenever he talked about Es Teler 77, the business he founded and grew together with his in-laws and wife, he would sound totally infectious through his passion.
He would regale his audiences with his adventures and before you know it he would co-opt you into a project or two that at first sounds hare-brained but on reflection made sense. He had a huge gung ho attitude and optimism of a can-do person and apparently throughout his life he lived like the Nike slogan where he went out into the world and “just did it.”
What he did was to snatch Es Teler 77 from the jaws of ruin and turned it into one of Indonesia’s largest franchise with over 150 outlets throughout the country, with outlets in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and probably in the near future, Saudi Arabia. Not only that he also became an icon ofr many poor Indonesians seeking to hit the big time through entrepreneurship. In his later years he was invited to universities and business schools to share his experiences and knowledge.
The last time Unspun saw him was in Kuala Lumpur, just over to and a half years ago. His daughter and Unspun had decided to tie the knot. Since we had a trip to KL planned, we thought we would inform my mother, who lives in Malaysia, of the news before breaking the news to him and his wife.
But as circumstance would have it Sukyatno, enroute from China to Jakarta had made a quick stop in KL. So we thought we’d opt for efficiency and make the announcement to both my mother and Sukyatno at the same occasion. So we arranged for a lunch and told them. He seemed very happy and gave us his blessings.
The next time I saw him was about two weeks later. He was in a coma in a hospital bed. He had had a stroke and within a day he passed away peacefully.
I knew him briefly, heard only some of his captivating stories. Over the past two years, his daughter, now my wife, has been slaving away, turning a manuscript of random thoughts and jottings that Sukyatno had left into a very – at least in my view (but I’m biased) – coherent story about Sukyatno, his childhood in Pekalongan, his early years of struggle in Jakarta, his failures and and his eventual triumph as the head of Es Teler 77.
Later today Felicia will be launching her book entitled “Prinsip Di Sini Senang, Di Sana Senang” at, appropriately Es Teler 77 Resto at Jl Adityawarman. It is a labor of love on her part and all the more so because she was not, by how own admission, a natural writer. All the greater achievement and I am extremely proud of her for he achievement.
See also: Di Sini Senang, Di Sana Senang