The goal: “Create my own legacy” in the real estate and hospitality business
The challenge: Balance her ambition to prove herself and her loyalty to the family business, and her desire to support and strengthen it
The result: A residential real estate startup that uses cutting-edge technology that complements the commercial and industrial estate focus of her family business; the startup has won the support of her family
Christina Suriadjaja, 28, is chief strategy officer of Travelio.com, an online residential real estate management company based in Jakarta, Indonesia, that she cofounded in 2015. Her father is Johannes Suriadjaja, nephew of William Soeryadjaya, the founder of the US$18 billion conglomerate PT Astra International. Johannes is also the owner of PT Surya Semesta Internusa, a US$300 million commercial property, construction and hospitality company in Indonesia.
The family had expected Christina to spend five years in the industry and then join the firm. She instead spent one year working for InterContinental Hotels Group in Singapore and then changed course. “We had mapped out a plan and I totally went against it. And to go against it wasn’t a very easy process. I didn’t just have to leave. I had to prove myself,” she says.
The family invested seed capital in Travelio but did not provide practical support until the company hit key performance milestones. In effect, this established well-defined goals for Christina — the perfect challenge.
“We had mapped out a plan and I totally went against it. And to go against it wasn’t a very easy process. I didn’t just have to leave. I had to prove myself.”
Travelio is now delivering a return on Christina’s family’s investment and at the same time helping her father’s generation understand how technology can transform the way real estate businesses operate. “At one of my dad’s hotels, he employs 20 housekeepers and five front-desk officers for 100 units. At Travelio, we only have 300 housekeepers — who also assume the role of front-desk officers — but we’re managing more than 4,000 units. So the ratio is way more efficient than his, and we do it through technology,” says Christina.
The efficiency of Travelio’s on-demand business model illustrates the disruptive potential of technology in real estate. Now that it’s proven the concept, Travelio can access some of the executive directors of Christina Suriadjaja’s family business for advice and support. “As we keep hitting our KPIs, the access to senior executives in the family firm is way more,” says Christina.
Because of the record of success and business credibility she has built, Christina’s father recently invited his daughter to become the CEO of the hospitality division of the family business — an offer she turned down.
“We’ve already built [Travelio] to beat one of their hospitality subsidiaries in terms of value and business scale, and there’s still so much potential here,” she says. Her goal for Travelio is to extend its service offerings and create “the number one platform for middle-class millennials’ living needs” both in Indonesia and regionally.
Travelio is also expecting to announce a Series B funding round from investors in the region.