Boenjamin Setiawan

Boenjamin Setiawan

From Garage to Globe

Boenjamin started his pharmaceutical business in his garage back in 1966 and has turned it not only into a major force in the regional pharmaceutical industry but has also branched out into consumer goods, where it competes head-on-head with industry giants, and in hospitals, under the Mitra Keluarga brand.

Boenjamin’s main interest is stem-cell research and he has set up the Indonesia International Institute of Life Science (i3L) in collaboration with Swedish institutions and offering programs in healthcare, marine science and forestry. The institute’s mission is to be a leading and globally connected interdisciplinary institution that impacts society through science and innovation.

Creating A Giant

There are almost no Indonesians that don’t use products from PT Kalbe Farma, the Indonesian pharmacy giant that produces a lot of popular medicines and nutrition products. The person behind this company is Boenjamin Setiawan, a pharmacy graduate from Universitas Indonesia and University of California who developed PT Kalbe Farma from a small pharmacy store in a small garage in Jakarta to a multinational pharmacy company.

After graduating from the University of California with a pharmacy degree, Boenjamin Setiawan started with a stable, decent job as a pharmacy lecturer. However, his business instincts urged him to open his own pharmacy business. Together with six partners, he started a pharmacy business startup in a small garage in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, and Kalbe Farma was launched on September 10, 1966 as a small pharmacy business.

Transforming & Expanding

The company enjoyed small profits and grew gradually, until the monetary crisis in year 1998 sent many companies in Indonesia to bankruptcy. Even after applying for loan from foreign banks, Boenjamin was unable to keep the company running as well as before, so he decided to sell many of the company assets except those that were related to pharmacy, and started new business branches while also keeping Kalbe Farma as a pharmacy company. During the difficult times, Boenjamin kept his company from crumbling by expanding the company’s business to other fields like property and logistic, but still strengthening the main business in pharmacy.

Finally, he managed to keep PT Kalbe Farma from bankruptcy, and later even managed to increase its business expansions and profits. In 2012, Kalbe Farma even managed to acquire a health beverage company, Hale International. In the same year, the company also went into joint venture with Milko Beverage and built Kalbe Milko Indonesia. This company later made popular health beverages in Indonesia such as Sakatonik, Extra Joss and Fatigon.

The key of Kalbe Farma’s success is strong business base, which focuses on pharmacy despite various business branches expanded by the company. Currently, about 17.4% of its profits come from medicine products, and 20% come from nutritional or health products such as baby and toddler milk, pregnant mother supplement and extra calcium milk.

Boenjamin, who is now 80 years old, has now retired and decided to move his business to younger generation. Currently, his niece Bernadette Ruth Setiady holds the position as Director.