Lippo Group founder and chairman Mochtar Riady shares life story in book

Guests waiting for Dr Mochtar (seated) to autograph their copy of his book yesterday at the launch. In his memoirs, Dr Mochtar describes the many difficulties he experienced early in his life, from the sudden death of his mother when he was eight to
Guests waiting for Dr Mochtar (seated) to autograph their copy of his book yesterday at the launch. In his memoirs, Dr Mochtar describes the many difficulties he experienced early in his life, from the sudden death of his mother when he was eight to the conflicts he lived through, including the Japanese Occupation and Indonesia's struggle for independence.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Lippo titan wants young to learn from his journey, not just acumen

He is a renowned philanthropist and business titan who is widely regarded as a pioneer in Asia's banking and real estate sectors.

But what many outside the family of Lippo Group founder and chairman Mochtar Riady do not know is that he almost lost his life when he was a 20-year-old.

It was 1949, and he was about to board a boat in Hong Kong bound for Tianjin, China, when a letter from his girlfriend Li Limei, who was in Indonesia, changed his mind.

The boat, carrying a group of young men hoping to join Communist forces in their struggle against imperialism in China, later sank at sea during a violent storm. There were no survivors.

"Dear Limei, thank you - your letter saved my life," he wrote back.

They tied the knot two years later and have been together since.

Many of such private anecdotes are now told alongside his rags-to- riches story in the book Mochtar Riady - My Life Story.

DO GOOD FOR SOCIETY

The main message for my grandchildren and great grandchildren is to build for good, and know that they have a responsibility to society.

DR MOCHTAR RIADY, Lippo Group founder and chairman, on his newly launched autobiography.

The English version of his memoirs, dedicated to his wife, as well as his father and teacher, was launched in Singapore yesterday.

Dr Mochtar told The Straits Times in an interview last week that he started writing his memoirs because he wanted his family's next generation to learn about his life journey, not just as a businessman, but also as an Indonesian of Chinese descent.

"The main message for my grandchildren and great grandchildren is to build for good, and know that they have a responsibility to society. "That way, our country Indonesia will be jaya," he said, using the Bahasa Indonesia word for victorious.

The 87-year-old, whose Chinese name is Li Wenzheng, was born in Malang, East Java, but spent many years of his youth in China, his ancestral birthplace.

In his book, Dr Mochtar describes the many difficulties he experienced early in his life, from the sudden death of his mother when he was eight to the conflicts he lived through, including the Japanese Occupation and Indonesia's struggle for independence.

"Our independence was not given to us, but achieved with a fight; it was a war, a revolutionary war, that means our country suffered a lot for it," he said.

He added that those years of conflict were painful but the experien- ces not only gave him strength, but also formed his ideals for success later in life.

He also remains fiercely patriotic and believes that, despite its tumultuous past, Indonesia is on the cusp of an economic revival under President Joko Widodo.

 

Mr Joko, in turn, said he hopes Dr Mochtar's story will inspire the young to be "more courageous, not to be complacent, but to compete, struggle and fight for their beliefs".

"Don't let there be a spoon-fed generation," he wrote in an accolade for the book.

Dr Mochtar said that besides spending his days "trying to stay one step ahead" of his grandchildren, he is busy with research on new technology, specifically in nanoscience.

"We have to understand the changing nature of politics, the economy and technology. "Without an understanding of these three, you will be phased out," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Business tycoon shares life story in book'. Print Edition | Subscribe