Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – After Indonesia became independent in 1945, the Dutch suddenly came back wanting to colonize. Through acts of military aggression, the Netherlands tried to maintain hegemony in Indonesia.
Obviously, this attitude angered the Indonesian people. Many people helped the army to fight to expel the Dutch. However, not all struggles were carried out by taking up arms. Some do business, including Atjoem Kasoem. Kasoem fought against the Netherlands by selling glasses. How could that be?
As written by Sudarsono Katam in Nostalgia of Bragaweg Tempo Doeloe 1930-1950 (2018), Kasoem was born in Kadungora, Garut, in 1918. He was one of the children who was fortunate enough to be able to go to school during the colonial period. It is recorded that he graduated from Schakelschool and Taman Siswa School.
His first introduction to the world of glasses occurred thanks to his meeting with Kurt Schlasser. Kurt is a German optician and owner of the Kurt Schlasser & Co. eyewear store located on Jl. Braga, Bandung. Luckily, Kurt is a good boss. He not only hired, but also encouraged Kasoem to become an optical expert and entrepreneur like himself. Because, said Kurt, what is the use of independence if Indonesia’s economy is still controlled by foreigners.
However, Kasoem’s attempt to become an optical entrepreneur only took place in May 1943. The reason was because Kurt was detained by the Japanese military. Thus, the operation and ownership of the shop fell into the hands of Kasoem until Indonesia became independent in 1945. When the Dutch arrived, Kasoem was forced to move from Bandung and live temporarily in Jogjakarta.
Denys Lombard in Nusa Jawa Cross Culture: The Asian Network (2005) wrote, as the first optician from Indonesia, many high-ranking state officials in Jogjakarta became Kasoem customers. Bung Karno and Bung Hatta were also noted to have been his customers. It is known, he traded there for three years. However, the process is not as easy as imagined.
During the war period (1945-1949) Kasoem had difficulty obtaining eyeglass raw materials due to an economic blockade by the Dutch. As a way out, he opened a workshop and small-scale glasses factory in Klaten. Thanks to that, his glasses business was able to grow until the war ended in 1950.
When the situation was normal, Kasoem returned to Bandung and sold glasses through the glasses shop from Kurt Schlasser & Co. From here he began to expand the business. He opened branches in Tasikmalaya and Jogjakarta. Nevertheless, he was not satisfied with his business.
This is because Kasoem wants all of its eyewear components to be made domestically. In connection with that, he then went to Germany to learn the ins and outs of the production and manufacture of eyeglass components in 1960. Still quoting Sudarsono Katam in Nostalgia of Bragaweg Tempo Doeloe 1930-1950 (2018), he was accepted for an internship at Dr. Hermann Gebest for several years.
After studying he returned home and immediately set up a lens factory in Garut with a BNI loan of Rp. 69 million in 1974. Since then he has become famous as the first optician, as well as the pioneer of glasses factories and shops in Indonesia.
After Kasoem died on June 17, 1979, his eyeglass shop still existed under the name Kasoem Vision Care. In fact, his line of business has also expanded not only to take care of the eyes, but also the ears by establishing the Kasoem Hearing Center.