From the world’s first hotel school to the World Economic Forum

ehl hospitality business school
Irvan Sutiono's passion to create global impact began when he was studying international hospitality management. This year, he is one of the Southeast Asian representative for Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. Source: Irvan Sutiono

Practically synonymous with global diplomacy and surrounded by five countries, Switzerland is intrinsically international — a lot like Irvan Sutiono.

The Jakarta-born student graduated with a Bachelor in International Hospitality Management programme at EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne.

Before that, he attended Tsinghua University High School in Beijing.

Young Sutiono was interested in biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science — so much so that he was keen on pursuing a bioengineering or computer science degree at uni. 

Then, a relative who worked in a multinational hotel chain in Shanghai took his family to explore the chain’s hotels in the city and shared that exploring the world is one of the main perks of the hospitality industry. A curious soul at heart, Sutiono was fascinated

“At the back of my mind, I was like ‘You know what, this could be interesting to pursue as a career because it allows you to move around different places’,” he shares. 

When it was time to apply for uni, he submitted applications to bioengineering and computer science programmes — and one to EHL Lausanne.

ehl hospitality business school

The EHL Hospitality Business School graduate describes his family as “my anchor, my rock, my team.” Source: Irvan Sutiono

Looking for “different perspectives”

Studying in Beijing, Sutiono saw China’s massive growth first-hand and its role in the Asia Pacific region.

In Switzerland, he got “a very different perspective” of the world.

As part of his EHL Lausanne programme, Sutiono also completed two mandatory internships in Zurich and Singapore.

His innate sense of curiosity later spurred him to make the switch from hospitality to finance.

“By the third and fourth year of hospitality, I knew I was leaning more and more towards the finance side of hospitality,” he explains.

“After graduation, I worked in London at CBRE — the world’s largest real estate company — in the hotel brokerage department, where I sold hotels on behalf of hotel owners.”

Sutiono’s background as a Southeast Asian who worked in Singapore and lived in countries like China and Indonesia proved helpful when interacting with hotel investors in the Asia-Pacific region.

ehl hospitality business school

Sutiono (pictured on the left) together with his Student Business Project (SBP) team (akin to a capstone project). The group was awarded the prestigious EHL Consulting prize for their consulting project with, Metro AG’s subsidiary that focuses on helping independent restaurants, hotels and caterers with innovative digital tools and solutions. Source: Irvan Sutiono

How a side hustle at EHL Hospitality Business School nurtured his passion to create global impact

As a student at EHL Hospitality Business School, Sutiono co-founded Isara, a community platform for people with hearing loss that included a sign language learning application and an online sign interpreter service. 

This side hustle was “the beginning and the one that also nurtured” his passion for creating a positive impact, he said.

Eventually, the French government absorbed the community platform. 

“After graduation, and on top of what I was doing in London, I was also going back and forth to Paris, as we were working under the French government to develop the program further,” he says. 

When his career took him to Thailand, Sutiono chose to focus on working his way up the real estate finance industry.

Still, the hospitality graduate felt something was missing, which led him to be involved with the Global Shapers Community (GSC) in Bangkok. 

GSC is affiliated with the World Economic Forum. They are a network of young individuals under 30 working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. 

During his time at Global Shaper’s Bangkok Hub, Sutiono led his team to drive social projects in Thailand across four areas: health, education, sustainability and COVID-19. 

Along with the Bangkok Hub, he raised around 3.2 million Thai Baht (approximately US$95,000) for three COVID-19 relief projects that supported families and Community Isolation Centres in the city. 

In 2023, Sutiono was one of two selected to represent Southeast Asia at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos to talk about launching a new chapter or hub. 

Asked for advice on how international students can transform their side hustles into impactful initiatives, he shares: “Start small. Explore what areas you are passionate about and gradually see how to create an impact.”