On the afternoon of January 22, 2019, Tommy Lee paid a visit to past cohort member - Johannes Ardiant, at the Lemonilo headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia. Surrounded by the cheerful green and yellow murals, and beautiful paintings by local artists, the two sat down to catch up on faith, friendship, business, and responding to God’s call.
Lemonilo - the brainchild of Johannes and Shinta Nurfauzia, is a healthy home staples brand. Their hero product is healthy additive-free instant noodles in a country where instant noodles are King. This is, after all, the place that brought the world Indomie, and boasts street food dishes like InTerNet - a mixture of instant noodles, telor (egg), and cornet (corned beef). However, analogous to Johannes’ own eclectic background and professional journey, Lemonilo wasn’t always about food. In fact, its journey (from healthcare to health food), which closely mirrors Johannes’ (from engineering to politics to business and more), is a reminder that God’s call often leads to adventures beyond our own expectations.
Johannes was born and raised in Jakarta, but studied in Singapore for university at the National University of Singapore (NUS). From an early age, he had a passion for politics, but somehow ended up in degree programs related to Computer Science. The decision had been made in response to pressures from family and the market that demanded for more engineers. After university, he took on a PhD program again related to Computer Science, but found it lonely, and knew deep down he was meant for something else. After his struggle through the program, he worked at International Business Machines (IBM) for a time, before finally admitting to his own political passions and aspirations. After IBM, he took on more finance and consulting roles across entities such as Tusk Advisory and the Indonesia Infrastructure Finance, until which point he found an opportunity to go back to school.
From 2013-2015, he took his passion for politics with him to Harvard University, and studied a Masters in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Governance. However, upon returning to Indonesia, instead of doors opening in politics, he saw doors opening in other areas to help the public as a private citizen. With his friend, Shinta, he started Konsula then - a healthcare tech startup that sought to connect Indonesians with doctors. Public health was a cause that he felt the Lord impressing upon his heart, even as he wished for inroads into policy. It then occurred to him, perhaps serving the public from this private sphere, was actually an inroad. After over a year of building the company, he felt a strong call from the Lord to think of an area he could help that was more organic to the Indonesian people. Something that they needed everyday, but weren’t even thinking about. This is where the idea for a health food startup came.
The statistics were clear: in 2015 alone, Indonesians consumed 13.2 billion instant noodle packets. That is 55 packets per person, per year, as a general average (counting even infants). The logical conclusion was that Indonesian adults ate instant noodles multiple times a week, despite what most in the developed world might consider common knowledge of how unhealthy instant noodles are because of the preservatives used. In late 2015, reports were surfacing of people developing cancer linked to their frequent consumption of instant noodles. Considering Indonesians’ dependence on the staple food, Johannes saw an opportunity there to provide a healthy alternative. With that seed planted, Konsula slowly grew into Lemonilo.
Since then, Lemonilo has launched a second instant noodle flavor (now with both mee goreng [fried noodles], and curry noodle soup), and is well along the path to launching healthy cooking oils, and other pantry must-haves. Johannes has found himself in a leadership position yet again in an area that was not his initial expectation: health products, instead of politics. However, he’s clear that, while it may not have been what he expected, he is learning that “God is teaching [him] the hard way” that doors will open and close according to God’s will.
As a leader in this new area in his life, Johannes says “the hardest thing is the draining work, the meetings,” but it is all worth it when rewarded with the blessing of mentoring others and sharing one’s values (something he feels he lacked as a young professional). He also credits Resource Global with a lot of the strength and confidence he has pursuing his work with a Christian perspective. For his cohort, their retreat exposed him to Silicon Valley’s challenges for people of faith - the money, idolatry, relativism, and more. He considers this an important component of his maturity today as a Christian business leader. On top of all this, to cope with the pressures of his work, Johannes says he leans on the personal mentorship he received from Resource Global with Ken Baugh (Saddleback Church), as well as time in the Word. “Being rooted in the Word, focusing on one passage per week, meditating on it…[also,] instead of just spending one prayer a day, taking short breaks throughout the day to converse with God,” these are the things he leans on most when times get rough. For him, now, he no longer mourns for his own dreams (such as a political career). Rather, he feels confident that God will open and close the right doors, at the right times, and his job is to faithfully heed the Lord’s direction.