Deep in Taiwan University's library last week I was taken aback when I came across a Japanese version of the Rise of Capital. I did not know it had been translated into other languages. Given the book's significance, and the great work by Japanese academics such as Kunio Yoshihara, it should not have come as a surprise.
First published in 1986, The Rise of Capital by Richard Robinson is the best emerging markets finance / investment book I've read. It outlines the emergence of a domestic capital class in post-colonial Indonesia and the confluence of politics and business that nurtured it . It noted that many of the firms and businesses that did well under Sukarno, had a hard time after Soeharto came to power.
The book filled in many gaps in my understanding of how business operates in Indonesia. It showed that the Jakarta listed companies I was analyzing were typically a small part of very large conglomerates. The book highlighted that many of the business group founders were related, did business together and typically had strong political ties. Later I learned that a similar structure is found in all non-Anglo Saxon economies that I've looked at.
Ever since reading the book I spend more time looking at the people behind the listed companies, what else they own and how this might affect the listed companies. I've also written several reports on the corporate backgrounds of many of Asia's bigger business groups. Most of this is targeted to large investors (publication list here: http://michaelmcgaughy.blogspot.hk/2012/02/publication-list.html..).
In the last couple of years I've been investing my own funds using key leanings from The Rise of Capital and my own bottom-up research. Results have mostly been better than expected.