The Digitalization of Indonesia’s Micro Businesses
We’re coming up to the tail end of a trip to the world’s fourth biggest country where we observed some incredibly successful startups, heard some fascinating stories about the country’s potential, and found 10 AI startups that are helping Indonesia compete in the global AI race. In the last part of this series, we’re going to talk about the digitization of Indonesia’s micro businesses. TechCrunch calls it “a digital revolution in Southeast Asia’s largest economy,” and they are referring to several large funding rounds closed by Indonesian startups in just the last few weeks. Let’s take a closer look.
The startups that took in funding recently all share a common thread in that they all target the world of “micro businesses” in Indonesia, what they refer to in the local language as Usaha Menengah Kecil Mikro or UMKM. This segment of “small to medium-sized businesses” is significant because the government has made a commitment to support it, and consequently, startups see this as an opportunity to develop platforms that target micro businesses. In our article on Indonesia’s Big “Big Data” Problems, we talked about how HARA is taking this approach by connecting banks who have government-mandated micro-loans with eligible farmers. Helping out micro businesses isn’t just for altruistic reasons, as it happens to be a very lucrative space. Sell to the poor, live with the rich, as they say.
Let’s take a look at some of the startups in Indonesia that are targeting the micro-business segment. The first two we’re going to talk about can be found on Indonesia’s unicorn list; Tokopedia and Bukalapak.
|Company||Valuation (USD billions)||Industry||Key Investors|
|Tokopedia||7||Marketplace||SoftBank Group, Alibaba Group, Sequoia Capital India|
|Traveloka||2||Travel Tech||Global Founders Capital, East Ventures, Expedia Inc.|
|Go-Jek||1.8||On-Demand||Formation Group, Sequoia Capital India, Warburg Pincus|
|Bukalapak||1||E-commerce||500 Startups, Batavia Incubator, Emtek Group|
Founded in 2009, Jakarta startup Tokopedia has taken in $2.3 billion in funding from some big league investors including Sequoia Capital, Softbank, and Alibaba Group to become the most highly valued startup in Indonesia. The vision they have is to “democratize commerce through technology” by providing a platform for sellers and buyers. The problem they’re solving is that sellers (primarily Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises or MSMEs) need to move to large cities to find large volumes of customers for their products. Conversely, the customers in smaller cities have to pay inflated prices because all the volume selling is being conducted in large cities. Now, four million merchants use the Tokopedia platform to sell 100 million unique products, providing same-day delivery for 25% of all transactions. The company is also investing in artificial intelligence to better serve their massive customer base. They’re hardly alone though when it comes to empowering Indonesian MSMEs, and there is evidence of a large-scale land grab similar to the all-out war that’s being waged between GO-JEK and Grab. In this case, the battle is being fought between Tokopedia and Bukalapak.
Founded in 2011, Jakarta startup Bukalapak has taken in just $50 million in disclosed funding so far, all of which is represented by a $50 million Series D round they took in just a few weeks ago. The word Bukalapak means “to open a stall or shop,” and that’s exactly what the platform enables entrepreneurs to do. The company also says it has four million merchants, and the 50 million monthly active users using the platform generate around $283 million in gross transaction value per month. That’s according to an article by KrASIA which talks about how the company is expanding to include “virtual products like plane and train tickets to financial products, and investment services” and should be more appropriately referred to as a lifestyle app based on e-commerce, almost like a digital shopping mall.
The article went on to say that Indonesia’s president believes that all micro, small, medium enterprises or MSMEs should be using this platform, and that includes kiosks as well – which is a good segue into our next startup which took in funding recently to build “smart kiosks.”
Founded in 2017, Jakarta based Warung Pintar is a micro retail technology company that has taken in $35.5 million in funding so far with the lion’s share of that coming in the form of a $27.5 million Series B that closed just one week ago. While Bukalapak is looking to target kiosks as part of their offering, that’s the sole focus of Warung Pintar which offers “smart kiosks” to vendors with amenities that include a digital Point Of Sales (POS) system, WiFi and phone charging ports for customers, LCD displays, and of course a bright yellow kiosk that customers can immediately begin to associate with the brand. The name “Warung Pintar” is a Bahasa Indonesia phrase that means “smart shop” in English, and they now have over 1,000 of these smart shops in place across Jakarta, with plans to expand that to 5,000 kiosks across select cities in Indonesia by the end of the year.
That’s according to an article by TechCrunch which goes on to say that these kiosks will cost around $5,000, not a small amount of money for kiosk owners to pony up. It seems likely that Warung Pintar will begin – if they don’t already – offering financing to kiosk owners in order to accelerate adoption of these kiosks, something that meshes well with the government’s plans to support MSMEs. This brings us to the last startup we spoke with which wants to digitize Indonesia’s many restaurants.
While not known that well on the global stage, Indonesian food is simply spectacular in its broad range of styles and flavors. From small street carts that serve Nasi Goreng, to chain restaurants like Steak 21 that serve up delicious and cheap steaks, to mall outlets that serve up tasty dishes of Ayam Rica Rica, you will never want for selection in Indonesia. When it comes to food technology, many companies are solving the front end (food delivery) and the back end (the POS systems) but not the middle (the customer experience). We sat down to talk with Rudy Hartawan, CEO of and Co-Founder of Meeber, a startup that has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to try and transform the food & beverage (F&B) space in Indonesia, starting in Surabaya. The company started by developing a POS system, and then quickly realized that the real value was selling a solution to restaurants that would let them better know their customer. Thus, the Meeber app was born:
Customers download the app and use it at restaurants where Meeber is supported. Scan a QR code on the table and the restaurant knows there’s a new customer, and also how many times that customer has visited any branch of the restaurant chain and what they’ve ordered. The customer uses the app to order, and it’s sent directly to the kitchen. Need to call a waiter? No more snapping your fingers like a tool. Just use the app to page a waiter. When the meal is complete, the customer can be solicited for feedback in exchange for reward points or some other incentive.
The app supports all payment providers and takes a small cut of the transaction. In just three months, over 1,000 restaurants have signed up. Restaurants see the value in being able to know their customers better, prioritizing those people who spend lots of money, and pushing promotions to certain demographics – for example, they might offer a drink special to all students on a Friday at around 4PM. Meeber’s challenge will now be to get the app on as many smartphones as possible in order to start generating the sort of data that restaurants see value in.
When a country’s president talks about the importance of having his country’s 56 million businesses enter the digital age, you can expect that any barriers in place to make that happen will vanish pretty quickly once the problems are identified. This is hardly a comprehensive list of all startups targeting the micro-business segment in Indonesia, but it does provide some great examples of high-growth business models that are working today. The country has a tremendous amount of potential, and we walked away thinking that it doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. We’re looking forward to playing a small part in changing that as we continue our series on Indonesia this summer when we return to look at some more thriving startups in the world’s fourth biggest country.
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