A humble Man
Medan-based entrepreneur Hajj Anif shares his thoughts with Retta Oktaviani Suparli about how giving back to society gives him a sense of purpose and happiness
A big heart that gives back beats behind Hajj Anif ’s brain and drive
Hajj Anif is a man who appreciates and treats people equally regardless their background and social status. He makes friends with everyone, from taxi drivers to religious leaders to state officials. Everyone in Medan knows him, not only for his status as a successful businessman who owns palm oil plantations in North Sumatra and Riau Province, but also for his generosity. As Anne Frank once said: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Hajj Anif sets a good example on how to live a balanced life through philanthropy as well as his hard work ethic.
“I started everything from zero as a farmer in 1968 and fought so hard to get out of poverty and be successful. And believe me, I wouldn’t be who I am now without God’s blessings,” Hajj says.
His plantation in Besitang, which covers 7.8 hectares, was his first palm oil plantation, bought in 1982. Three years later, Hajj Anif founded PT Anugerah Sawindo and PT Anugerah Langkat Makmur (PT ALAM). In 1989, PT ALAM took pride in its plantation and partnership management agreements with its farmers, providing each family with three hectares of land as opposed to two, as regulated by the government.
“According to the agreement, my company also had a responsibility to provide housing for the farmers. I used my own money at the beginning, but then, thank God, in 1992, BRI financed the cost of land purchase, development, and working capital for the plantation. Former Information Minister of Indonesia Hajj Harmoko played an important role to make it happen,” Hajj recalls. The two gentlemen remain good friends until today.
Then, in the 1990s, Hajj Anif plunged himself into other businesses, including property, composting, gas stations, and birds’ nests. He founded the Cemara Asri Real Estate in Deli Serang, Medan, in 1991, which was the first property complex in Indonesia to house a 5.6-hectare bird park. “I wanted to provide the birds with a habitat where they could nest and lay eggs,” he says. His deep passion for nature is also reflected in the presence of a deer breeding centre in the Langkat plantation, as well as safe habitats for flora and fauna in every plantation he owns. “I have around 1,000 deer now,” he adds.
Moreover, Hajj Anif was the first to set up a centre for conservation of the endangered corpse flower, which is native to Indonesia. For this noble cause, he was listed in the Indonesian Record Museum (MURI), the inauguration of which was held in Semarang in June 2002. Following this, he was listed again two times in MURI for the bird park and also for his initiative—through the Hajj Anif Foundation—to provide mosque-cleaning service cars in North Sumatra.
On a daily basis, Hajj keeps himself busy with charity-related works, focusing on implementing the company’s corporate social responsibility programmes. “I run the Haji Anif Foundation and Anugerah Pendidikan Indonesia Foundation, both of which specialise in providing scholarships for students whose parents work for the ALAM group. We also give grants to other students with academic achievements until they can complete their studies in universities.”
A respected philanthropist, Hajj Anif is also a donor who has made significant contributions to society in the form of lecture buildings at Universitas Sumatra Utara, UNIMED and Universitas Islam Negeri Sumatra Utara. The last one was inaugurated last year on March 23 on his 78th birthday. The inauguration ceremony saw the presence of Minister of Religious Affairs of Indonesia Lukman Hakim Saifudiin and North Sumatra Deputy Governor Nur Azizah Marpaung.
Turning 79 this year, Hajj Anif still has a dream that has not yet come true. “I want to establish a pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, which focuses on agricultural and also on religious studies. Through this institution, I hope I can provide another contribution to this country. Young people will learn how to master modern agriculture system and then transfer the knowledge to the farmers in small villages,” he says enthusiastically. Besides education, religious charity is also at the forefront of his social work. “I’m a Muslim, but I don’t limit my donation only to help Muslims build mosques. I’ve also helped Christians and Buddhists construct their own places of worship.”
Hajj Anif is very much content with his life. He is not looking for a standing ovation for his philanthropic activities. “My motto is to live a sincere life without guile. I am more than happy to help people, sincerely, because God has given me so many blessings until this very moment. I am His instrument to help people who are less fortunate,” Hajj Anif adds.
To keep his life more balanced, Hajj Anif loves travelling with his family. He would spend four months in Australia to explore some of the country’s tourist cities, like Sydney and Melbourne. “I will do road trip in Australia, which means driving. And the food there is amazing, and the nature always fascinates me,” he concludes