Indonesia’s newest unicorn Bukalapak now wants to take on the big boys

Photo by Bukalapak

PT Bukalapak.com became a billion-dollar startup by focusing on the Indonesian farmers and small-time merchants that bigger rivals such as PT Tokopedia neglected. Now it wants to buy its way onto their turf.

Bukalapak, which earned unicorn status with funding from 500 Startups among others, has set up a mergers and acquisition team to identify startups that will help it achieve an ambition of serving 10 million people by 2025. That’s triple its current 3 million members drawn from across the archipelago, Chief Executive Officer Achmad Zaky said.

Indonesia and its 260 million people have emerged as a coveted market for the world’s top e-commerce players, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc. Bukalapak, which means “open stall,” is one of just a handful of unicorns which’ve sprung up in Southeast Asia’s largest economy alongside booming smartphone penetration. In the eight years since its founding, it’s become something of a bazaar for shoppers seeking bargains and used items in quantities not often found on Tokopedia, the online mall that’s backed by Alibaba.

That’s not to say Bukalapak is entirely a discount store: it offers everything from plastic soldiers worth 100 rupiah (1 U.S. cent) to gemstones worth 6 billion rupiah. The platform, whose backers also include Batavia Incubator, is close to breaking even, said Zaky, who co-founded the start-up with Nugroho Herucahyono and Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid in a rented room in Bandung.

“We have started generating big revenue and the potential growth of the market is still big,” the 31-year-old entrepreneur said in an interview at his office in South Jakarta. “That’s why we’re still running aggressively to maintain the growth.”

Indonesia has an e-commerce market that McKinsey & Co. says can be one of the fastest-growing in the world, part of a digital economy adding $150 billion a year to gross domestic product by 2025. The country is also home to ride-hailing app PT Go-Jek Indonesia and online booking platform PT Traveloka.

Internet businesses present an attractive alternative to consumers struggling with inflation and worsening traffic congestion. Bukalapak’s aim is to profit by bridging between buyers and sellers scattered across more than 700 islands.

“Even though 2025 is a long way off, our dream remains the same since day one that we want to empower SME entrepreneurs,” said Zaky, an engineer from the Bandung Institute of Technology. “We’re dreaming to have, perhaps, tens of millions of users by then.”

Bukalapak has enough cash to fund its expansion for now, Zaky said. While it’s discussed a listing with the Indonesia Stock Exchange, the company isn’t considering an initial public offering immediately and its founders continued to own a majority, he said.

“Every player, eventually, should go public because we’re not going to be a baby forever and being listed means we have turned into an adult,” Zaky said.

Also Read:

Strong appetite among Indonesia’s retail investors for startups: Kioson CEO

Indonesian unicorn Bukalapak weighs next fundraising strategies

Indonesia likely to see next unicorn emerge from education sector

Bloomberg

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.