What is interesting about Syam Resfiadi? I should explain this particular reason to further understand this middle-aged man. No one has written about the personal life of this man who is fond of basketball, and it was not easy to get genuine information — even though he is the man behind a successful travel agency.
After much work, I was able to retrieve what is unknown about this lowpprofile man. Syam likes rendang, a stewed beef cooked with special ingredients originally from West Sumatra; it is also the world’s favorite food according to Yahoo’s check list. He is the father of five children and the husband of Lies Purnamawati (53), and he comes from Betawi or is native from Jakarta, although his name is commonly linked to West Sumatra, as initially I was misled.
At the age of 12 years old, Syam Resfiadi was taken to Mecca by his father, Amirsyah. His first spiritual journey did not make young Syam to feel comfortable and blessed like other people who travel in these religious sites. These unexpected experiences that his Pilgrimage group had gone through during the visit impacted him greatly. Syam was critical due to the lack of sanitation service, ablution and other facilities that should be available to travel agents.
Our friend promised not to return to the Holy Mecca until he could provide his pilgrimage group very good services at the destination site. Who would have thought, that young Syam would be the President and Director of Umrah and the Haj Travel Company called Patuna, and that it would became the forerunner travel agency of hajj and umrah in Indonesia.
It was in 1975 when the late Amirsyah Thabrani and his friend established Pan Travel. At that time there was no Haj Plus service and Amirsyah had decided to expand his travel business by providing services to regular pilgrims who wanted to return to the country more frequently. It was a joint work with the government of Indonesia.
Three trips were formed during 1976-1977 named Pan Travel, Tunas Indonesia Travel, and Natrabu Travel under the consortium of PT Patuna Graha. It was said, at that time Patuna became a pioneering agency of private haj organizing, outside the government.
In 1984, the government through the Ministry of Religious Affairs had to make a new policy, namely the provision of special services (Haj Plus) to those who wanted to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca managed by a private company. Patuna was eventually dissolved, and the other two companies continue to be operational.
By the suggestion of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the name of Patuna can still be used due to its popularity among many Indonesian travelers. Patuna Mekar Jaya a new Haj and Umrah travel company has been established and owned by the family of Amirsyah.
Meanwhile, young Syam joined his family business from 1988 to 2004, then he decided to have other business experience outside his company. In 2011, Syam decided to re-join his family’s business and that made his father feel proud knowing that Syam could lead the family business into further growth and future aspirations.
Like many other successful people, Syam had a hard time growing his Haj and Umrah travel company. The worshipers going to Mecca only could trust the service provided by the government. It was not easy to introduce his new products, especially to a non-quota Haj and Umrah travel, and even his company was known as “Haji Sandal” due to the flip-flop sandals used by the worshipers, not a good image indeed, but Syam had to accept it as a challenge to get more clients with better services year by year.
He has been trying to always give the best services to his clients, and by using an online network that connects his 53 branches offices in other provinces, therefore, his work become more effective and efficient. While conducting Haj and Umrah, workshops or seminars is one of the best ways to introduce his product to prospective clients. The results of his initiatives were amazing and unpredictable. At the end, his Umrah package was selling like fast food.
After his return to his family business, the number of pilgrims has increased. His travel offices dispatched as much as 1,500 pilgrims from 2009 to 2011, then 1,750 pilgrims in 2012. In fact, they did not have a variety of providers at that time. They used only one hotel, one airline that was not enough to serve all the worshipers, but Syam has been always persistent in running his business. Then after a while, hotels and airlines invited him to cooperate. The number of pilgrims has increased significantly in 2012-2013 where he served 4,200 congregations to Mecca and incredibly increased up to 6,000 pilgrims in 2014, despite being recognized as having not reached the expected target, but that could be regarded as a blessing from the Almighty.
Syam always wants to be one step ahead of his competitors. He makes very good leaflets on Haj and Umrah packages and has established alliances with travel agents in other Islamic countries, such as Morocco, Egypt and United Arab Emirates.
He follows the needs of the market with innovation, accompanies his travel missions as to ensure customer satisfaction. Syam hopes his company shall be the best and biggest Haj and Umrah travel agency in Indonesia.
According to this man, Islam which came from the Arabian Peninsula and finally came to Indonesia generates the connection with many Islamic countries of the world, especially merchants from India, Central Asia, and the Middle East by bringing the Islamic propagation to Indonesia.
Going back to the Islamic history of Indonesia, and especially the relations between Uzbekistan and Indonesia, we may turn to the time when some clerics had taken the adventure of Islamic learning in Java and one of them was Maulana Malik Ibrahim who was from Samarkand. He was the founding father of the first Wali Songo or the Ninth Saint in Islamic history in Java.
The evidence can be found by several written sources on Wali Songo, among others by Ranggawarsita in the 19th century and from the writings of former Mufti Johor who died in 1962. As people may know, Java Island played a big historic role in the spread of Islam in Indonesia.
Maulana Malik Ibrahim had arrived in Java at circa 1392 CE, disseminated Islam in the region that is well-known as Sunan Gresik. This great cleric died in 1419.
As the chairman of Indonesian Haj and Umrah Association Organizer or Asphurindo, his association’s members trust him to develop the association in a more dynamic and progressive style while facing the current challenges that are becoming more complex.
Asphurindo is the umbrella of 130 Haj and Umrah travel companies all over Indonesia. Together with members of Asphurindo, Syam will make the first Islamic trip to the Holy Sites of Uzbekistan followed by the visit of Uzbek Tourism Minister, H.E. Anvar Sharapov in early May 2017 and the visit of some Uzbek travel companies and Uzbek Airways management to Jakarta during this year. His name, Syam means ‘all good’ in Arabic. He hopes that his Haj and Umrah travel company shall bring all the good benefits for his nation and country. He has a good vision of Indonesia, that one day will become the greatest country in the world and become the center of Islamic study in 2040 (praise the Lord).
*Nia S. Amira is an Indonesian author, journalist and linguist. She writes on culture, international affairs, multiculturalism and religious studies. Her articles have appeared in over thirty newspapers that are published in Europe, Asia, and United States.