Surabaya, The House of Sampoerna, Indonesia Tobacco Industry

It's like going to Cuba and visiting a cigar factory. Come to Surabaya and see the House of Sampoerna.

Sampoerna was one of Indonesia's largest cigarette makers. Its founder was Liem Seeng Tee, a Chinese boy who lost both his parents after sailing with them to Indonesia in early 20th century. He worked hard and eventually managed to start a small charcoal business.

His entrepreneurial skills knew no bounds and finally led him to build an empire on the back of Indonesia's lucrative Kretek or clove cigarette industry.

Dutch Colonial Building, Surabaya

Dutch Colonial Building, Surabaya

World Health Organisation Report

A 2005 World Health Organisation report says Indonesians make up 11.4% of world smoker population. While foreign brands are popular, traditional kretek cigarette are still the choice of most in the country, though they are said to contain more tar and nicotine than regular cigarettes.

Indonesia's Second Richest Man

Big tobacco is one of the biggest employers both in the province of East Jawa- where Surabaya is located - as well as Indonesia. Liem's grandson, Putra Sampoerna, who succeeded the family business, is Indonesia's second richest man according to Forbes Magazine, after paper, palm oil and energy tycoon Sukanto Tanoto. His personal net worth is estimated to be more than US$2 billion.

Sold To Philip Morris

In 2005, the 58-year-old sold the family's cigarette business to Philip Morris in 2005 for over US$5 billion.

Non Profit Foundation And Donations

For all the evils that can be said about big tobacco, it should be added fairly that the Sampoerna family has set up a foundation devoted to numerous education projects all over the country.

It donated textbooks to high schools in the Tsunami-hit province of Aceh, gave local overseas scholarships to students and financially supported efforts to improve local universities when the government announced it was going to stop subsidizing varsity education.

The Sampoerna Story

The Sampoerna story is a tale of Indonesia's uber-rich elite, and it is lauded at The House of Sampoerna, the very orphanage where Liem grew up. It now stands into a showcase cigarette factory /art gallery /cafe.

There, workers still roll kreteks by hand, giving a glimpse into a very "Indonesian" produce.

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