Name: Tome Hula Muda Goncalves
Institution: University of New England
Course of study: Masters in Urban and Rural Planning
Years completed: 2015
Tome Hula Muda Goncalves from Liquica was interested in the design of buildings and cars from an early age. At twenty he studied civil engineering at university in Surabaya but, when his family home burned down during the 1999 post referendum crisis, he returned to Timor-Leste.
Back in Timor he got a job with an electrics company where the owner – an ex-pat from Australia – mentored him and, recognising his talents, offered him a share in the company.
Securing a small loan from the bank Tome became a partner and over the next 10 years he developed his business skills, whilst studying part time for a Bachelor’s in Architecture at a college in Dili and designing projects for UNDP and the Government of Timor-Leste.
By 2012 he was ready to set up on his own and decided to try his luck selling imported fridges and washing machines and renting motorcycles.
Like many entrepreneurs his first business venture had its ups and downs. Demand for white goods was not as high as anticipated, so he closed the business down.
Undeterred and keen to enhance his knowledge of planning and architecture, he heard about the Australia Awards Scholarship Program and successfully applied to study for a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of New England in 2014.
Whilst Tome already had a solid business background, he describes his experience in Australia as invaluable, contributing to the development of his business, communication and negotiating skills.
‘It took my critical thinking skills to another level. I was more able to absorb and interpret research, to define my position clearly using a logical approach.’
Skills which, since graduating in 2015, Tome has been using to develop his new car and motorbike rental business, Taltabi, in Timor’s capital Dili.
The company currently rents a fleet of fifteen cars and seven motorbikes, employing five staff. As it’s a new business Tome’s number one concern is satisfying his customers, whilst making sure he grows his capital, so he can re-invest in the business.
A big challenge he’s faced so far is the lack of available market research, including data on household income, making it tricky to determine his future investment strategy.
Despite this Tome aims to expand, with ultimate ambitions to be the leading car rental company in Timor-Leste. He’s also keenly aware of the role Timor-Leste’s private sector will need to play in providing future jobs and a more sustainable economy.
‘We need to make our economy more sustainable and to do that we need to create a healthy private sector’.
Never short of new ideas and plans, in three years’ time, Tome intends to employ a manager to run the company’s day to day business, giving him time to start focusing on teaching, or advising on his other passion in life, urban planning, and who knows what other venture…….