From student to biz wiz: Ivan Tandyo

INTERNATIONAL student turned stellar businessman Ivan Tandyo sits down with Meld’s Marcella Purnama to share advice on achieving your career dreams. 

Often we wonder what the future will look like – whether we will need to go back to our home countries or stay here in Melbourne. International student turned successful businessman Ivan Tandyo had the same thought a couple of years ago.  

Ivan Tandyo (right) with his little brother.

All hands on deck. Ivan Tandyo (right) with his little brother.

Dressed in a white shirt, black knitted vest, black suit and a tie, Ivan, originally from Indonesia, sits down with his half-eaten lunch.

We have exactly 15 minutes for an interview.

After nine years at the helm of his company, Navanti (which has invested in Crown Café Bakery, Kimchi Grandma BBQ and Kimchi Kitchen), the 34-year-old admits he never originally thought he’d own his own business, let alone a business that invests in other companies to help other people make their career dreams a reality.

Before it all began

Ivan came to Melbourne in 1996 and finished his foundation studies at Trinity College a year later. He then went to RMIT to pursue a degree in economics and finance.

“When I graduated from my foundation and needed to apply for uni, I applied for everything I could think of,” Ivan says.

“I applied for a psychology degree at one university, engineering in another and even combined arts in another. I had no destination in my life. But I was lucky because God put me in economics and finance, and actually, I really liked it.”

Academically though, Ivan didn’t do well at university.

“I used to want to be a VJ in MTV, to be in a band playing guitar, and to just enjoy my life,” he says.

And soon enough, Ivan was expelled from RMIT. Thinking school wasn’t important, he chose not to continue studying.

“After I got expelled, I was very stressed. My dad got angry with me and I enrolled in another school. Not for long though because I was eventually allowed to reapply at RMIT. From then on I studied hard and got good marks.”

With his degree in hand, Ivan reached a crossroads – should he work for others or open his own business? In the end, his father helped him decide.

“I realised that I was the type of person that could’t be put inside a box, so when my dad asked me if I wanted to be a businessman or someone else’s employee, I knew what to do,” he says.

“I like business. I like negotiating with people, I like dealing with them, talking to them, networking and exploring my own creativity as well. I didn’t want to be bordered within the walls that exist for those who work for someone else.”

Ivan (bottom right) with his team.

Getting down to business. Ivan (bottom right) with his team.

Ivan says it definitely wasn’t easy to start his own business, and he has some tips for those hoping to lead successful lives.

1. There is no such thing as a free lunch

Ivan is quick to assert that becoming complacent about your education is the worst thing students can do.

“Don’t think: ‘oh, if Ivan can open a business and be successful when he was no good at school, then it must be easy.’ No, that’s not the message I’m trying to convey because there is no such thing as a free lunch,” he says.

“Hard work…is a necessity. There’s no point doing anything, if you don’t intend to work hard in school and in your professional life.”

2. You need a destination in order to make decisions

The first words of wisdom Ivan offers after instilling the principle of hard work is you have to have a dream to become successful. Only after you decide to pursue your dream, he says, can you start making decisions.

“Let me give you an example. Let’s say your destination is Melbourne Uni. Once you’ve locked that in, you can make a decision about how to get there. Do you want to take a tram, bike, taxi, car, or on foot? The options are always there. But if there’s no destination, you won’t be able to make decisions about how to arrive there. It’s the same with a dream.”

Ivan insists once you have a goal, you can start to work towards it. Having a goal is also what keeps you going when you’re faced with problems.

“When suddenly there’s a road block and you’re on the tram, if you know your destination, you don’t just give up. You sit down and start planning. You have to be at Melbourne Uni by 3pm, so you find a way. Maybe you’ll use taxi if it’s urgent or run if it’s not that far away. The same thing is true with any dream, including in business. Maybe you don’t have a lot of money to achieve your dreams, but if you know where you are going, you can make decisions even though there are hurdles. That’s important.”

“Who you become while you go about achieving that dream also matters. You want to be successful in every aspect of your life, but do you want to become a crook along the way? It’s important to achieve your dreams, but never at the cost of yourself or your integrity. You can be an honest person and still be successful.”

3. Be red in your mind

No matter what your path in life, there will always be people who will try to knock you down, Ivan says.

Ultimately, no two people see success in exactly the same way. He likens it to the way you can never be sure the colours you see are seen the same way by someone else. But self-conviction, he says, goes a long way in making others believe in you.

“If you’re already red in your mind, then no one can tell you’re pink or magenta or fuchsia. People will say: ‘you’re red’.”

“You have to be confident in your abilities and in the knowledge that you will succeed.”

Looking for work experience? Internship opportunities are available at Navanti. For more information, contact Ivan Tandyo at

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