Indonesian social commerce startup Chilibeli in talks to raise $20m 

From left to right: Chilibeli co-founders Damon Yue, Alex Feng, and Matt Li. Source: Chilibeli.

Indonesian social commerce firm Chilibeli is in talks to raise around $20 million, its co-founder and chief executive Alex Feng told DealStreetAsia in an interview.

The startup has already received interest from several investors, including existing backers, and is looking to close the round in 2-3 months, added Feng.

Chilibeli last raised $10 million in March 2020 in a Series A round led by US venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other VCs that participated included Golden Gate Ventures, Sequoia Surge, Kinesys Group, and Alto Partners.

The startup was founded in 2019 by Alex Feng, Damon Yue, and Matt Li.

Social commerce companies rely on a person’s social network to promote sales. Chilibeli enables online and offline shopping of fresh produce — mostly fruits and vegetables — and other household items by connecting farmers, suppliers, and consumers through its network of agents. 

Chilibeli’s agents, whom it refers to as mitras, or partners, are mostly housewives and earn a cut of every transaction.

Feng, who previously worked at the Alibaba-owned e-commerce firm Lazada, and is the former chief operating officer and co-founder of SCI Commerce, said the fresh capital will go into building Chilibeli’s logistics capabilities and supply chains and hiring both on the sales and tech side.

Chilibeli will also expand its tech hub in China, which currently has around 20-30 people. The company is also looking at hiring more mid- to senior-level management executives in engineering, design, and business development in either Singapore or Indonesia.

Going beyond Tier I

Feng said the company is also looking to “pilot” the startup’s service in tier four cities in Indonesia next year. Having launched its service in Tier I to Tier III cities, Feng realised that though households in Tier I cities have much higher GDP per capita, they spend roughly the same amount as Tier III city users. 

He attributes this to the lack of both online and offline grocery players, and the stronger community bonds its agents have in these places. About 43% of Indonesia’s population lives in rural areas, World Bank data showed.

Fresh produce delivery has much potential to grow because of the low market penetration of online groceries in Indonesia, Feng said. A study by LEK Consulting published this year found that the e-grocery penetration rate in Indonesia was only 0.5% last year. But it could reach 3% by 2025 as consumers become more tech-savvy.

“Grocery is a very big category. It’s a daily essential,” he said. “There’s still no clear winner in this space. [So there is] massive opportunity.” 

“We are definitely not the first tech company to do perishables. It’s very tough… you need to manage your wastage, it’s definitely not a high-margin business,” he added. “So you need to focus on a lot of efficiencies.” 

Feng said they address the issue of food wastage by adopting a pre-sales model, where they aggregate the demand first then pass the orders down to the suppliers.

To set itself apart from other competitors like Sayurbox, Feng said Chilibeli targets “mass market” consumers instead of the premium segment.

Chilibeli has around 10,000 mitras currently, Feng said. Top agents can earn between $100 and $500 a month, a significant amount for those who live in lower-tier cities. He claims the company’s annualised gross merchandise value (GMV) is between $10 million and $20 million, growing at 20-30% month-on-month.

In the long-term, Chilibeli hopes to expand into delivering low-frequency, high-margin items like household appliances and furniture. It aims to enter other countries that have an existing agriculture industry and a large population. Vietnam could be one of them. 

Other popular social commerce firms in Indonesia include Super, which raised $28 million in April this year, and KitaBeli, which raised $10 million in March this year.

DealStreetAsia reported last month that Evermos, an Indonesian social commerce company focused on Sharia-compliant products, secured $19.5 million so far in Series B funding led by Singapore-based UOB Venture Management.

Social commerce is one of the four big sectors with immense growth potential in Southeast Asia, a recent Golden Gate Ventures report had noted. Southeast Asian social commerce GMV stands at around $1 billion this year and is expected to cross $10 billion by 2026 and $100 billion by 2030, the report noted.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.