Prior to becoming a seasoned politician, Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, popularly known as JK, has built his reputation as a noted businessman from Makassar, South Sulawesi. He helped expand his family business empire from a humble textile company into its present state, which interests range from car distributor to power plant.
He is the only Indonesian having served twice as Vice President. His first tenure was in 2004-2009 with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Then he served as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s vice president in 2014-2019. Many has seen JK as a symbol of Indonesia’s business elite to have a say in the government.
Business track record
JK is a well connected businessman and politician with a long history of network in business elite grouping under the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin). He served as chairman of Kadin’s South Sulawesi chapter in 1985 -1997 and Kadin’s Board of Advisors in 1997-2002.
His business foot prints can be traced back to his Kalla Group family business. His father Hadji Kalla established the business group by starting a textile industry in hometown Watampone, South Sulawesi, in the 1950s.
The textile business ran well and prompted the family to expand their business to South Sulawesi capital of Makassar. Hadji Kalla established NV Hadji Kalla Trading Company, focusing on logistic and transportation business.
In 1967, Hadji Kalla decided to leave his business to his second son, Jusuf Kalla, who then established a construction company PT Bumi Karsa. In 1969, the Kalla Group entered automotive business by starting to import cars from Japanese car maker Toyota. The business proved to be lucrative for the family and they were appointed as the sole car distributor for the eastern part of Indonesia by Astra International. In an interview with national media in 2014, one of Kalla family members said that the automotive business was a gold mine and had a pivotal role in the next long journey of the family’s business expansion.
Under JK’s leadership, the Kalla Group expanded into automotive, industry, heavy equipment, energy and other businesses. In the 1970s, Kalla Group established PT Makassar Raya Motor selling Daihatsu cars in almost all provinces in Sulawesi. In the 1980s, the group entered into asphalt business through PT Bumi Sarana Utama and transportation/logistic business through PT Jelajah Laut Nusantara.
The 1990s was another pivotal period for the family business, expanding to property and real estate business. Kalla Group established PT Baruga Asrinusa Development and Sahid Makassar Persada. Both companies developed housing complexes and big hotels in Makassar. The group also built the biggest shopping mall in the eastern part of Indonesia called Mal Ratu Indah.
Path in politics
In 1999, JK’s sister Fatimah Kalla took over his position as the group CEO after JK joined then President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid as the Trade and Industry Minister in late 1999 for only six months.
The Kalla family business became a conglomeration under the Bukaka Group in the 2000s. The group businesses include many sectors from trading into energy, construction, property, transportation, agroindustry and telecommunications. Bukaka’s name became well-known as the company built passenger boarding bridges and tunnel glasses for airports across Indonesia.
In April 2000, Gus Dur sacked JK from the Cabinet, along with Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi, accusing them both for corruption. JK denied the allegation.
Gus Dur ordered the cancellation of Bukaka’s winning contract of the Central Java to West Java transmission development project. This resulted in Bukaka losing a project worth US$75 million.
In October 2004, JK won the election with Yudhoyono. Consequently, he gave up all his positions as Kalla Group chairman. His siblings, Fatimah Kalla and Achmad Kalla, took over the control of Kalla Group and Bukaka.
In his 2014 wealth report, JK had a total wealth of IDR 465.61 billion and around US$ 1 million.