Bukalapak – The Unicorn’s Tale

In Indonesia, Bukalapak is the leading online marketplace, but their horizons are expanding. A “Unicorn” is a privately-owned start-up company with a value of over a billion dollars. The term was coined to describe how such companies are rare to the point of being mythical. And yet, Bukalapak is one such company. However, this is far from the only thing that makes the growing e-commerce venture a unique business achievement.

“Bukalapak is one of the leading online marketplaces in Indonesia that provides buying and selling facilities from consumers to consumers,” explains the company’s President. “Everyone can open an online store at Bukalapak and serve buyers from all over Indonesia for unit and multiple transactions.”

Of course, online marketplaces are a booming business sector, with many start-ups recognising the advantages of facilitating millions of transactions, but for Rasyid it is about more than that. He sees Bukalapak as nothing less than a way to help support and grow micro, small and medium enterprises in Indonesia, businesses which he sees as vital to the country’s economy.
“We have always been sticking to our mission since the first time this company was formed; We are committed to growing MSMEs in Indonesia as we believe that they are the backbone to Indonesia’s economy,” Rasyid says. “As of today, we have over 2 million mom and pop shops and over 4 million sellers with us.”

From this foundation, Bukalapak has grown its market and its capabilities, leading the company to break new ground for start-ups in Indonesia.
“Currently, we are the first Unicorn in Indonesia that has enabled the overseas feature in which our sellers are accessible from countries in South East Asia such as Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore to name a few,” Rasyid is proud to tell us.

Indeed, Rasyid has set his company the challenge of becoming “the Amazon of South East Asia”. It is an ambitious goal, but one that the company is taking very seriously through a combination of independence, innovation, and investment into research and technology. However, Bukalapak perhaps differentiates itself from the e-commerce giants in that Rasyid’s business plan always seems to prize the social benefits of the company as much as its profit margins and economic growth.
“I think we have taken a really good example of how global companies approach the market by always being innovative and staying relevant,” Rasyid says. “We have built a few R&D branches in Bandung and Surabaya to focus on research and how can we build a more innovative product that is eventually tailor-made to create positive social impacts.”Bukalapak office entrance

Spreading the Word
When it comes to e-commerce, reputation and brand awareness are everything. This is why companies spend money on trying to ensure they get the best ranking in Google results and why social media strategy is becoming an integral part of every company’s business plan. So, for Bukalapak, a large part of the business’s work is ensuring that their customers know not just who they are, but what it is they do and how their innovations work.
“Domestically, I think financial inclusion and tech-savviness remain the biggest challenges that we are facing today. It is essential to keep on educating the market and bringing more impactful innovations to accommodate these challenges,” Rasyid says.

However, that education goes two ways, and as Bukalapak’s horizons spread the company is learning to adapt and work with new countries, new cultures and new ways of doing business.
“Abroad, the challenge remains very cultural,” Rasyid admits. “I predict that it will take a lot of time for us to fully understand the culture of other countries, especially the West, in terms of behaviour and their habits of purchase and interests.”

Age of Innovation

In both cases, Rasyid believes that the way forward for the company is to pursue new ideas and new solutions, letting imagination lead the way.
“I think we are always trying to overcome challenges by pursuing innovations,” he says. “To get creative is the real challenge nowadays, which is not as easy as it might seem but we are still keeping tabs on it.”
Indeed, Rasyid believes that Indonesia is entering a golden age of innovation in the technological sphere, and while they may not have the baked-in talent pools of places like Silicon Valley, they have plenty of home-grown talent. While some of that talent may have gone abroad, Rasyid is working to convince them that there are now bigger and better opportunities back at home.
“Technology has just started to boom in Indonesia in the past five years. Talent pools are not as big as it is in the US or maybe even in Singapore, so we had this scarcity problem in the very beginning,” he says. “We have had a program called BukaJalan Pulang (in English: Open a pathway home) in which we were sending out our Talent’s team to several countries to attract highly talented Indonesians that were working abroad to come home and work with us. It worked well for us to fill out several key positions in our company.”

As well as bringing talent home, Bukalapak is also helping to nurture Indonesia’s next generation of talent.
“Nowadays, we try to recruit the best young talent from the top universities in Indonesia and heavily invest in them by providing top training and giving them high exposure in the industry,” Rasyid says.
With that new generation of talent coming through, and Bukalapak itself growing into an imposing force on the e-commerce market, Rasyid has every reason to be optimistic about the company’s future and prospects.
“Bukalapak is on the right track in terms of contributions to the economy and how we disrupt the industry,” he tells us. However, once again, his excitement is almost palpable when he is talking about what his company can give back to the country. “In 20 years, I see Bukalapak as the biggest job creator and the biggest tax contributor to Indonesia.”

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