Hubert Burda Media

Pamela Ardana: On starting a business

The young entrepreneur has set out to brew the perfect blend and in the process, change preconceptions of instant coffee.

Pamela Ardana has always been entrepreneurial, even at age eight. To make a little pocket money, she persuaded her businessman father — who runs a spice export company in Indonesia — to sell her 500kg of garlic at wholesale price. She then approached her classmates’ mothers, charging them 20 percent less than the average price for the bulb at the market. She sold all her stock within three days.

“They must have felt sorry for me,” Ardana, who spent hours playing and roaming around her father’s warehouse as a young girl, recalls with a laugh. 

It was the constant exposure to the family’s spice business that spurred the 28-year-old to embark on a related endeavour. Together with a Singaporean partner, she started the ground work for her instant coffee brand — Luwak Coffee Global — in 2014. Next month will see its launch in China, where her research has shown that 90 percent of the market consumes instant coffee. Singapore is next on the agenda, before launching in her native Indonesia in mid-2016.

One of her main goals, she says, is to change the image of instant coffee. “Regrettably, instant coffee has been deemed cheap, artificial and seen as a misguided way of drinking coffee,” says the Singapore-based entrepreneur. But powdered blends have two distinct advantages over the freshly brewed variety, she is quick to point out: The first is convenience and the other, a diversity in flavour. “I believe that if more care and heart is given to the production process and if better quality ingredients are used, instant coffee can be of a good grade,” she says.

At Luwak Coffee Global, for instance, white sugar is mostly replaced with coconut palm sugar, which is not only healthier, has a lower glycemic index, but also produces a caramelised flavour. The luwak (otherwise known as civet coffee) obtained from certified plantations in Bali and Sumatra, also contains colostrum and has no artificial flavouring.

“We are bringing the real Luwak to the market and it’ll be the first [of its kind] in Singapore. To be able to market ourselves as the purveyors of real Luwak coffee, proof of certification has to be provided to the authorities here. Rest assured that our civet coffee is the real thing,” she shares.

To succeed one must have…goals and dreams. Goals are a measure of your achievements and tracks your progress towards your dreams. I always write down my goals and then run like crazy to get them.

Success is…not only about having a nice house and driving a sports car, but also when you develop other people and help them to achieve a better standard of living for them.

I’m a girl who…doesn’t smoke, drink or party, but who turned can’ts into cans, and dreams into plans.

Apart from business…I am passionate about collecting Hermès bags, watches and jewellery. I love reading and cooking too.

Don’t start a business…simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success.

The best advice I’ve been given…came from my father. He always tells me this: “We make a living by what we do, we make a life by what we give.” He has always told me that we have a responsibility to give back to society so that we can all progress together. The winner cannot take it all. That’s why giving back to the less fortunate is important to me. Personally, I sponsor two kids in Indonesia who receive fresh water, milk, food, education and clothes.