With a mission to help disadvantaged mothers and children enjoy safer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives, entrepreneur Maya Miranda Ambarsari has turned her family’s home into an education centre for 800 students. Liviani Putri reports.
“When I was young, I wanted to have a lot of things and to prove myself to everyone. But today, I’m no longer in that phase. Every time I start a new business, it has to be for the greater good. It has to bring impact for all. I pray every day that everything I do could bring blessings for everyone.”
Maya Miranda Ambarsari, mother, entrepreneur and founder of Rumah Belajar Miranda, tells us this when we visit her home in Pondok Indah one Monday afternoon. She has just returned from two business meetings, one in Bogor and the other in Kuningan.
“This is my hectic daily life,” says the dynamic and inspiring brand muse of Swiss luxury watch manufacturer DeLaCour with a laugh. “Hopping from one place to another is just a normal thing for me – especially after our recent acquisition of PT Batamec Shipyard (in Batam). There are still a lot of details that we have to take care of.”
After graduating from Pancasila University in Jakarta, Maya began her working life as a lawyer. “But I soon thought that just being a lawyer wasn’t enough,” she recalls. “I was intrigued with the world of business and wanted to know more about it.” She decided to pursue a Master’s degree in International Business at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
“In Australia, I ended up learning more about life, because living alone while studying abroad made me a more independent person,” Maya recalls. “I also found out that international business really was my passion. I love to get connected with people from different backgrounds, which then opens the way to wider opportunities.”
After coming back home, Maya resumed her work as a lawyer for a while, to “gain more experience and network, and gain people’s trust”. Her first business venture was in telecommunications. Her entrepreneurial interests subsequently took in PT Tawu Inti Bati, an oil refinery, PT Merdeka Copper and Gold Tbk, Elliotti Residence, Gorjes Hair Salon & Lounge and e-commerce firm JD.ID. Batamec Shipyard joined the portfolio at the end of 2019.
She is proud of being a successful woman in several male-dominated industries. “Anyone can do it,” she says modestly of her achievements. “I think there are no limitations on being what you want to be. When people ask me what makes me so passionate about being in all of these different businesses, I says it’s about having an eagerness to learn. When it comes to running a business, most of the management methods are more or less the same – no matter what industry you’re in.”
The busy wife of Andreas Reza sees the world from several different perspectives. Today, she might be sitting down with her board of directors and industry experts, talking about the future of her businesses. Tomorrow, she might be somewhere visiting those in need, such as orphans, senior citizens and the disabled.
“These visits remind me to be always grateful for what I have, while at the same time taking a look into my heart and asking myself: what could I be doing to make my life more meaningful?” says Maya. “Luckily, my parents taught their children the importance of sharing when we were young, and those lessons encouraged me later in life to give more. It’s powerful, because when we are giving, we become richer in heart.”
The desire to give back motivated Maya to follow her late mother and take on the leadership of Rumah Belajar Miranda. “It was initiated by my late mother who was the chairman for the Islamic study group in our neighbourhood. After she passed away, I took over from her. I thought: why we don’t set up an education centre to create more impact – not just for mothers, but for the children as well?
“The inspiration for this came from our daily routine of walking to Cipete Market to buy food and groceries. I saw a lot of children of school age there waiting for their parents, who were buying and selling stuff in the market. Sometimes, they were just wandering around. They were missing their school lessons and getting into trouble. I was concerned about their situation and began to think about what I could do to help them, and especially to prevent them from the dangers of sexual exploitation and criminality.”
It was a big ask, but Maya has a way of winning people over. “I asked my father and husband for permission to turn part of our house into an education centre. After they agreed, we began with an Islamic study group.” Demand for this soon grew from just a couple of students to hundreds. “I was so thrilled by the response that I decided to start more classes, including mathematics and English language, reading and writing,” Maya adds. “We started a religious music group as well, then we opened a library and we launched the Khalifah Islamic School for kindergarten children.”
Maya’s parents’ three-storey home quickly became busier and busier. Her school now has no fewer than 800 students – all coming and going at various times of the day. “We ended up having to do several renovation projects to add more space and facilities,” she says. Maya even had the family’s swimming pool taken out so that she could add more classrooms and a prayer room. “We took the gates off to make the house look more open and accessible for everyone who wanted to come in.”
As if all this were not enough, Maya also finds time to organise training programmes for the deaf, as well as set up yoga, beauty and financial planning classes. “I want to give women more chances to develop themselves – to be healthier, smarter and more successful,” she explains. “For the financial planning classes, we invite experts to teach the mothers how to manage their housekeeping budgets. Sometimes, we show them how to create something new to make savings or earn extra income. It’s such a big help for them.” Maya pays tribute to the experts who volunteer to help her: “Coming to us with their different areas of expertise, their dedication is amazing. They are willing to work with all of their heart, helping those in need.”
Having been an entrepreneur and headed up Rumah Belajar Miranda for more than 20 years, Maya declares that she has learned a lot from her experiences. “I think I’m such a lucky person,” she declares. “Every moment, whether good or bad, that I’ve been through has been part of a journey to become who I am today. God has been very generous to me. I was raised in a family who were kind to others and this inspired me to do the same thing. I have a husband and a son who have supported me through thick and thin and have strengthened my soul. Every time I feel doubtful about something, they push me to believe in myself.”
Maya strives to fill her life with kindness, and she doesn’t want this feeling to stop. “It has to be continued by spreading more kindness,” she declares. “Sharing is one of the ways we make our lives more meaningful. It makes our heart feel more content. When I was young, my parents taught me the Javanese philosophy of Hasta Brata, the meaning of leadership based on eight natural elements.
“I didn’t understand it at first, but later I realised how it affects the way we interact with others. I also learned that God wants us to have purpose in our lives. Some of us are destined to be entrepreneurs and to create jobs, some to be doctors or engineers, government officials or religious leaders. I believe all of these paths in life have positive impacts on society.”
Looking ahead, Maya says: “The important thing is that every business venture I undertake should jobs so that more people can work to provide for their families. My wish is to give more people opportunities to live better lives.”
The way she sees it, Maya’s home belongs to everyone who needs it. “Something that really moves me is that when a class is due to start at 1 pm, for example, the children start arriving for it from 12 pm. They want to play and be with their friends, and they all look so happy to be together. Seeing their joy when they’re studying makes me think: what else do I want in life – what more could I want?”