Bukalapak looks abroad as e-commerce growth in Indonesia plateaus

Bukalapak's Fajrin Rasyid at DEALSTREETASIA's Indonesia PE-VC Summit 2019 in Jakarta. Photo: Ipsita Ray/DEALSTREETASIA

Bukalapak’s overseas pivot is coming at a time when e-commerce growth in Indonesia is beginning to hit a hard ceiling. 

“…Yes, there is potential that (e-commerce) growth is not as fast as before,” said Fajrin Rasyid, president & co-founder of Bukalapak. “That is why we are expanding into other services, not because we want to leave e-commerce, but because we want to explore areas close to e-commerce so we can help the industry.”

In May, the Indonesian e-commerce unicorn launched BukaGlobal, a new platform which connects its more than 4 million Indonesian sellers to international buyers. Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam have access to the platform today, with the Middle East likely to join this growing customer base in the near future. 

It’s been beefing up its host of platform services too. 

Today, Bukalapak features range widely from video content (BukaNonton) to bike-sharing (BukaBike). It’s been exceptionally busy on the fintech front, with its e-wallet (BukaDana), mutual funds (BukaReksa), credit payment (BukaCicilan) and lending (Modal Mitra) services all rolled out in the last 12 months. 

Rasyid kept mum about how long the company could sustain itself until its next fundraising but said it has previously spoken with Chinese and US investors to raise capital. 

“…the US-China trade war is one of the things that may benefit VCs and startups in this region… In fact, we did talk to some investors from both. We do speak with investors from the US and some from China,” said Rasyid.

Bukalapak faces cut-throat competition in Indonesia, with multiple players vying for a share of Southeast Asia’s largest market. Its most prominent local rival is Tokopedia, which recently announced a record $1.3 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) for its Ramadan sales alone. 

Tokopedia also has some well-heeled investors, including Alibaba, Sequoia Capital India and SoftBank Vision Fund which led its last $1.1 billion round in December, valuing the company at $7 billion.

While Bukalapak isn’t doing too badly itself – its investor lineup includes GIC, Ant Financial and Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund – there is only so much cash burning one can do before the sector kills off a player or consolidates. 

Rasyid is determined that Bukalapak is not going to be the casualty here. Not now anyway.

“The company is growing fast. That’s what we are focusing on at the moment. I see the company growing in many sectors that we are entering into – online, offline, fintech,” said Rasyid. “I see Bukalapak as a standalone company in the near future.”

Edited excerpts of an interview with Fajrin Rasyid, president & co-founder of Bukalapak:

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