Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – The following is the story of Liem Seeng Tee’s youth, the founder of the cigarette company Sampoerna and the cigarette king of Indonesia. Since childhood, Liem lived with suffering. Starting from the death of the mother, expelled from the land of birth, separated from his siblings, became an orphan, to live alone. When a child his age lived in the warm embrace of the family, Liem had never felt it. Likewise when the others went to school, he did not either.
Nevertheless, living unlike other children ultimately forms Liem’s true identity. What’s the story?
Expelled from China
Unrest in Fujian, China forced a father and his two children, sons and daughters, to leave in 1898. The father, Liem Tioe, came down from the mountains with his two children to rush to buy tickets for a sailing ship going to the south, even though he didn’t know the destination. what we can be certain of is. Liem Tioe fully surrendered the trip to the skipper.
After days of crossing the ferocious waves of the Indian Ocean, the ship finally arrived at the first landing, namely Malaya. In this British colony, Liem Tioe was absurdly surprised.
The land of Malaya was apparently not very safe to be used as a place to live. Fighting and crime were everywhere. As a result, he wanted to get out of there by buying a boat ticket to Tanjung Perak, Surabaya.
Unfortunately, there is a farewell on the way this time. The boat tickets purchased apparently can only be for two people. Liem Tioe had no more money to buy a ticket. That is, from Liem Tioe’s entourage, one person was left behind.
In the midst of this anxiety, there is a Chinese family in Singapore who wants to adopt Liem’s daughter as a child. Of course, for various reasons, especially economic factors, Liem Tioe gave up and was forced to part with his only daughter until he really lost contact (Gatra“Seabad Chronicle of the Archipelago”, 2000).
Now, only Liem Tioe and a son named Liem Seeng Tee (5 years) are left. The two of them then continued their journey until the ship anchored at Tanjung Perak Harbor, Surabaya. This is where, both of them started a new life. However, when he was just starting out, disaster suddenly came.
Cholera and malaria outbreaks infect Liem Tioe’s body. He was seriously ill until he finally died right in 1898, six months after arriving in Surabaya. This event is clearly a blow to Seeng Tee.
The agony is complete. At the age of not even 6 years old, when he should have received good care from his family, he had to separate from his father, mother and sister forever. Luckily, before he died Liem Tioe had entrusted Seeng Tee to a Chinese family in Bojonegoro. In this new family, Seeng Tee’s tears began to disappear.
As explained in the book The Sampoerna Legacy (2017), Seeng Tee learned a lot in a new family. Starting from talking, walking, speaking Mandarin, and most importantly learning business.
When the child is his agea starting formal schooling, Seeng Tee did not do that and was instead directed by his adoptive father to do business. Coincidentally, his adoptive father produces and sells soy sauce. For him, business is the only way to improve life. And this is really hidden in the mind of Seeng Tee.
As a result, at the age of 7, he asked permission to migrate to Surabaya to risk his life by working in a small restaurant. It is not known exactly what his job, which is certain according to the magazine Gatra (2000), he worked for 18 months without a day off.
He grew up in that small restaurant and understands that to get anything you have to work hard. In the end, his life’s struggles bore fruit: he was able to buy a used bicycle. It was on this used bicycle that he started a new journey by selling charcoal around Surabaya.
Not long ago, Seeng Tee expanded its sales area. Unmitigated, at the age of not even 10 years, he was determined to sell up to 700 km. Precisely up to Batavia (Jakarta).
He traded on the Batavia-Surabaya train. During the hours of travel, he went down every carriage to offer passengers bread for sale. The human stomach, which is easily hungry, clearly makes Seeng Tee’s business effective. He can earn a lot from one train trip.
In the end, living a bitter childhood and forging hard on business experience in the field made a big impact on Seeng Tee. Even though he didn’t get formal education at school, he can appear as a tough and mature person at a very young age.
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