Anastasia Tjendri-Liew



Anastasia Tjendri-Liew (b. 1947, Bangka Island, Indonesia–) is the founder and managing director of Bengawan Solo, one of Singapore’s most successful bakery chains.1 Under her leadership, Bengawan Solo has grown from a single store to a chain with over 40 outlets.2 Tjendri-Liew grew up in Indonesia before coming to Singapore in 1970.3

Early life

Born on Bangka Island, Indonesia, Tjendri-Liew was the third of eight children and grew up in Palembang. Her mother was a homemaker, while her father ran a provision shop. She did well in school, usually finishing within the top three in class, but civil unrest in the city curtailed her education during her teenage years. Her interest in food was clear from childhood, when she sometimes walked to school so she could use her bus fare to buy food such as fried noodles and pempek, an Indonesian fishcake.4

After leaving school, Tjendri-Liew took up baking and cooking classes to hone the culinary skills that she had picked up from her mother and aunt as a teenager. She improved on the recipes she was taught and conducted her own culinary classes from home, using the income to take up an even wider variety of classes.5

In 1970, Tjendri-Liew came to Singapore to improve her command of English. There, she met her husband Johnson Liew, who is also an Indonesian-Chinese. They married in 1973 and have a daughter, Rissa, and a son, Henry.6

Beginnings of Bengawan Solo

In 1975, Tjendri-Liew was a homemaker when she started making butter and chiffon cakes and kueh lapis (an Indonesian layered cake) at her four-room flat in Marine Parade. She sold these cakes to friends and acquaintances, and the popularity of her confections grew through word of mouth. The demand rose so much that she began to supply them to supermarkets and shops, with one department store in Lucky Plaza even setting up a retail counter to showcase her confectionery.7

Tjendri-Liew did not have a food manufacturing licence, and in 1979, officials from the Ministry of Health visited and instructed her to stop supplying to shops from her home kitchen. Tjendri-Liew thereafter ceased operations from home, but customers continued to request for her cakes and kueh. This prompted her to open a shop at Marine Terrace, near her home, a few months later. As the shop had been empty for one to two years, Tjendri-Liew succeeded in securing a low starting rent of S$1,200, and named the shop Bengawan Solo after the popular Indonesian folk song about Indonesia’s Solo River.8

The popularity of Bengawan Solo grew and demand for her cakes became overwhelming, helped by a newspaper review that emphasised their homemade taste.9 Customers urged her to open another shop in a more central location, and she obliged in 1983 with a second outlet at the Centrepoint shopping centre on Orchard Road.10

The number of Bengawan Solo outlets increased every year as the business registered profits and turnover growth annually.11 Tjendri-Liew took charge of every area of Bengawan Solo’s operations such as production, sales, personnel, accounting, finance, product design and development, advertising and purchasing.12 Her efforts were recognised in 1998 when she became the first recipient of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises’ Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award.13 She was also honoured with the Public Service Medal in 2008.14

Business philosophy

Tjendri-Liew’s business philosophy is to use the best ingredients possible to ensure the quality of the final product.15 She addressed quality control issues by personally overseeing the manufacturing processes and taking customer feedback seriously.16



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Bengawan Solo. (n.d.). Outlet details. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from Bengawan Solo website: http://www.bengawansolo.com.sg/outlets.aspx
3. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddess. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddessThe Straits Times, p. 39; Cheong, J. (2000, May 15). From home confectionary to S$30m firmThe Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Cheong, J. (2000, May 15). From home confectionery to S$30m firmThe Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddessThe Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Cheong, J. (2000, May 15). From home confectionary to S$30m firmThe Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Bengawan Solo. (n.d.). Philosophy. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from Bengawan Solo website: http://www.bengawansolo.com.sg/abtus_philosophy.aspx
13. Fernandez, W. (1998, December 7). Icing on the cake for Bengawan Solo bossThe Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. National Day awards. (2008, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Huang, L. J. (2009, July 13). Domestic goddessThe Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Bengawan Solo. (n.d.). Philosophy. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from Bengawan Solo website: http://www.bengawansolo.com.sg/abtus_philosophy.aspx



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and is correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Manufacturing industries>>Food, beverages and tobacco
Personalities
Businesswomen--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies
Anastasia Tjendri-Liew, 1947-