Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Queen of her own 'jamu' kingdom

JAKARTA (JP): Mooryati Soedibyo is a born princess. Pakubuwono the 10th, and ruler of the central Java court of Surakarta, was her maternal grandfather.

But instead of whiling away her time at the court like an aloof member of the royal family, she spent much of her childhood with the staff in the kitchen at the palace. It is her curiosity really that helped her later in life to set up the large empire of Mustika Ratu, the undisputed leader today in the cosmetics market here.

She spent her entire youth watching, learning and collecting recipes of age old jamu, the traditional herbal concoctions that were painstakingly prepared every day to keep the women of the court healthy and happy. At first she tried the same recipes on her family, herself and later obliged friends who had always envied the butter-smooth skin of this extraordinarily beautiful woman.

Eventually her business expanded so rapidly that she had to pack all her corks, bottles and the simple machine from Taiwan which she used to make powder and capsules of the same recipes, out of the family garage into a factory far away from the home, allowing the family its much needed privacy.

She started with five helpers to bottle a traditional, energy drink, shampoo from rice straw and coconut hair oil. Today Mooryati rules over a kingdom of over 3000 employees and has diversified into producing hundreds of units of jamu in the form of drinks, powder, pills and capsules and a variety of cosmetics specifically to suit women of different ages, and income groups, covering hair, body and facial care, and makeup.

Determined to spread the goodness of traditional recipes for health and beauty outside the country as well, she recently signed a memorandum of understanding to supply skills as well as products to spas soon to be opened not just in other developing countries like India and Egypt but also London. (Mehru Jaffer)