Raja Sapta Oktohari, or Okto to his friends, has turned his passion for boxing into a business. To get in the ring, you have to think outside of the box, he tells Albertus Weldison Nonto
Creativity, says 35-year-old Raja Sapta Oktohari, is the driving force behind new business opportunities – a philosophy he applies to all of his business ventures, including boxing.
While boxing is often perceived as an aggressive sport, Okto says that revamping its alpha-male image has made the sport more appealing to Indonesian audiences. Last December Okto organized a Rp7 billion boxing championship in Jakarta that focused on showcasing boxing in a more relaxed atmosphere: the stage was designed in café-mode, with the audience watching from their tables.
For Okto, all passions and interests can be potentially lucrative if handled in a creative and professional way. Last year, he channelled his love for cycling into organizing Tour d’Indonesia, a cycling competition that attracted international athletes.
“I love cycling and now we are successfully promoting cycling as a lifestyle,” says Okto, a key coordinator of the bike-to-work community (B2W) and head of Indonesia’s Cycling Association (ISSI).
The son of businessman-turned politician Osman Sapta Odang, Okto was actively involved in business from an early age. His first venture was a rice trading business in Makassar, South Sulawesi which came soon after graduation from Oklahoma City University in 1994 with a degree in management information systems.
Relocating to Jakarta, Okto followed up by starting a garment business with friends at Tanah Abang market. “That business taught me the importance of negotiation in securing business deals and how to be responsible,” he recalls.
While he describes his family’s financial situation as comfortable, Okto says he was never spoilt. “My father was my best business coach and taught me how to be a tough negotiator,” he says, adding that his family has just started building a 420-room hotel in Bali to be called The Stone.
After years in the garment business, in 2001 Okto’s father asked him to manage his OSO Group. He took up his father’s offer, but says his passion for fusing sport and business was never far from his mind.
After managing several boxing tournaments in his hometown of Balikpapan, Okto was inspired to organize a fight between world champion Chris John and Argentinian Fernando Saucedo, as well as another match between Indonesia’s rising boxing star Daud Jordan and Damian David Marchiano. “My main goal is to see Indonesia produce a boxing world champion,” he tells GlobeAsia.
Of course, dreams must be tempered with reality and Okto acknowledges that his events must be both financially viable and profitable. “Profit usually comes at the end of my business plan. The first thing is make it as fun and creative as possible,” says the co-chairman of Indonesia’s Young Entrepreneur’s Association (HIPMI).
Okto’s idea to have Chris John compete in Indonesia was a hit with local boxers and also a prime business opportunity. Since 2008, Okto has organized several profitable boxing tournaments and in early 2011 he is fielding matches between Daud Jordan and Robert Alanic in the Philippines and the US.
Okto has also teamed up with Berlian Promotion to organize boxing championships with big names such as David Foster. “I am trying to promote Indonesian athletes at the international level. Sport is all about ideals,” says Okto, reiterating that his challenge is to re-brand the image of boxing.
“The first thing you have to do is make people love the sport and then make it a trend, a lifestyle,” he explains. Admittedly, Okto knows the business of boxing is hardly revolutionary. It’s something he learnt as a young boy watching his father promote Indonesian boxing champion Ellyas Pical.
Okto’s sports business is run under Mahkota Promotion, while his other business ventures operate under his investment firm Reinvest Surya Optima. Outside of personal business interests, Okto controls shares in the OSO Group along with his four siblings.
Given his success over recent years, Okto has an eye on future projects such as recruiting former controversial heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to train young Indonesian boxers. “This could be possible because of my business and social networks,” he muses.
Promoting boxing in Indonesia, says Okto, will also have a positive ripple effect for tourism. “We want to draw attention to Indonesia and I’m doing my best as a businessman to promote the country,” he says, adding that in the future HIPMI should become the training ground for young entrepreneurs to become good business operators.
Business should be simple, profitable and enjoyable, he insists when asked what drives him. “Whatever I do, even it is business; I want it to be done in a friendly atmosphere. My friends and staff are part of our extended family,” he concludes. GA