Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak expands overseas

Indonesian e-commerce firm Bukalapak started offering its services here yesterday as it sets out on an ambitious strategy of regional expansion.

Bukalapak, a tech start-up with a valuation of more than US$1 billion (S$1.375 billion) making it an uncommon unicorn company in Indonesia, is the country's first e-commerce site to be available internationally.

Its BukaGlobal app, which uses Bahasa Indonesia, links four million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Indonesia with shoppers in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Brunei.

Products sold on the site include health and beauty items, pantry items and handicrafts.

Bukalapak co-founder and president Fajrin Rasyid said BukaGlobal was designed to address logistical challenges in the region such as high postage and courier delivery costs.

He told a launch ceremony at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore: "We want to break down barriers that hinder young and small entrepreneurs from competing on a global playing field, primarily on access, infrastructure and connectivity."

Separately, Mr Fajrin told The Straits Times that his company chose Singapore and the other four markets to launch BukaGlobal as they matched two criteria: "There are many Indonesians there and the people in these countries understand Indonesian culture."

BukaGlobal has tied up with Janio, a Singapore tech start-up that began operations last year, to handle shipping and logistics.

Janio co-founder and chief operating officer Syed Ali Ridha Madihid said his company's "robust technology", in terms of customs clearance and duties, possibly helped it seal the deal in March.

Janio currently ships close to 150,000 parcels globally per month on average, and hopes to increase this volume by 20 per cent with the BukaGlobal deal, said Mr Madihid.

Mr Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia's ambassador to Singapore, noted: "The strong ties that have been established between Indonesia and Singapore makes it the suitable market hub to introduce Indonesian products to the regional market.

"This could be a proper strategy to advance the SMEs' potential."

Indonesia Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rudiantara said BukaGlobal was aligned with his government's vision to capture the growth of the expanding middle class in the country, where the government is helping eight million SMEs transform their business models.

Mrs Putri Wanna, one of several Indonesian vendors at the event, said she hoped to find new customers in Singapore and Malaysia for her coffee-related products and coffee from her hometown of Aceh.

Mrs Wanna added: "Hopefully, with BukaGlobal, we SMEs have more opportunity to scale up our business."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak expands overseas. Subscribe