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Vidjongtius has been with Kalbe Farma for more than three decades and has witnessed the business transform itself during that time into one of Indonesia’s leading companies.
When he joined the business in 1990 he was a university lecturer and before that, a public accountant. Now he is its President Director. “I decided to join Kalbe because, at the time, it needed a team for its initial public offering [IPO] preparation,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
“It is very fulfilling to know that I am in a position to help people, especially in health care, through initiatives with new products, services and people.”
The company successfully carried out its IPO in July 1991 and has experienced an upward trajectory since that point. Today, with more than 17,000 employees, it’s the largest healthcare provider in Indonesia.
“As Kalbe continued to grow it gave me a continuous challenge as an accountant. I got more responsibility later on,” Vidjongtius says.
Established in 1966, Kalbe has grown from humble origins, having started out in a garage, to now being the leading pharmaceutical company in South–East Asia. It has expanded its business interests to become a provider of integrated healthcare solutions across four business divisions.
These business divisions manage an extensive portfolio of prescription pharmaceuticals as well as over-the-counter drugs, health supplements and nutrition products. It has a robust distribution arm serving more than one million outlets across Indonesia’s vast archipelago.
Health care is not only a job for Vidjongtius, but a topic close to his heart. “It is very fulfilling to know that I am in a position to help people, especially in health care, through initiatives with new products, services and people.”
Through strategic alliances with international partners, Kalbe has started to support several successful R&D ventures working on cancer drugs, stem cells and biotechnology research. “Anything that we can create makes me happy,” he says. “It makes me proud, and I’m sure everyone at Kalbe feels the same way.”
“We continuously bring innovation into our services. The challenge is how we can combine innovation and digital technology.”
One of the secrets of Kalbe’s success is its constant innovation over the years, which has helped it to expand. “We continuously bring innovation into our services. The challenge is how we can combine innovation and digital technology.”
In fact, this is a dilemma facing many companies in the fast-paced digital world we now live in.
“This is the challenge for the future,” he says. “We already have the innovation, the physical network and all the physical end-to-end, from the supply chains up to the retail. What we are still missing is how to use the digital technology, or the internet-based technology, so that we can serve more people, not only in Indonesia but also other Asian countries and beyond. Our dream is global.”
The Indonesian government has a number of healthcare initiatives to improve society, including providing more access to health care.“I think this is in line with our strategy that we have to provide our products as much as possible because Indonesia is an archipelago,” he says. “We need to further improve logistics, availability and distribution points.”
Kalbe has just started a new company in the Philippines, working together with a local player for the distribution and logistics of healthcare products. It is also starting to build its digital health business with a service called Klik Dokter, along with a popular business-to-business platform for pharmacies across Indonesia called EMOS Mostrans.
“I think this is the first step and a big challenge, but we have to adapt fast to respond to this issue,” he explains. “The second challenge is learning, as there are a lot of new things coming up. And then, many changes that we have to make to accomodate for this, which will become new habits to our employees as well.”
Business leaders across all sectors have to deal with dynamic and rapidly changing landscapes brought on by technology, innovation and shifting consumer behavior. Vidjongtius is very aware of this and is building a business that can adapt to this environment.
“It’s continuously changing and it becomes faster and faster,” he says. “It means that, as a leader, I keep upgrading our knowledge and our mindset, as well as our willingness to change, to accept the change. It’s a must now if a leader wants to stay in the market. We have to always be ready for change.”
“Forming a super-team is much better than becoming a superhero.”
Talking about his style of leadership, Vidjongtius regularly mentions the word ‘participation’, referring to himself as a participative leader. “I totally believe that as a manager you are always successful through the team, not as a single person,” he says. “Forming a super-team is much better than becoming a superhero.
“This is the way it’s being constantly communicated to all the team that we are a success through others,” he adds. “Yes, I’m the CEO, but I cannot work alone. I need the board of directors, the general managers and the retail people. Building a strong and winning team is extremely important.”
For Vidjongtius, being a great leader also means planning ahead for someone to take over in a seamless and smooth transition – succession planning. “Right now, I’m preparing because we are approaching the period of succession planning. If we can continue the leadership, this will be one of the most satisfying achievements during my time here,” he says.
“If you have a good leader, then you have good, talented people who are very dedicated and committed. This leader will automatically give you good results.”