The backbone of Indonesia’s economy are small- to medium-sized businesses, which account for 60% of its gross domestic product. Many still rely on manual bookkeeping, but the impact of COVID-19 has driven small businesses to digitize more of their operations. BukuKas, one of several startups helping SMEs go online, announced today it has raised a $ 10 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital India.
BukuKas launched in December 2019 as a digital bookkeeping app, but is growing its range of services with the goal of creating an “end-to-end software stack” for small businesses. Eventually, it wants to launch a SME-focused digital bank.
The funding, which brings BukuKas’ total raised so far to $ 22 million, included participation from returning investors Saison Capital, January Capital, Founderbank Capital, Cambium Grove, Endeavor Catalyst and Amrish Rau.
As of November 2020, BukuKas had a registered user base of 3.5 million small merchants and retailers, and had crossed 1.8 million monthly active users. During that month, the platform also recorded $ 17.4 billion worth of transactions on an annualized basis, a figure corresponding to more than 1.5% of Indonesia’s $ 1.04 trillion GDP.
BukuKas was founded by chief executive officer Krishnan Menon and chief operating officer Lorenzo Peracchione, who met eight years ago while working at Lazada Indonesia.
Menon’s previous startup was Fabelio, an Indonesian online home furnishings store. Every two months, he would visit smaller small cities in Indonesia, like Jepara and Cirebon, to source furniture.
“One of the things that stood out was how different the Jakarta bubble is from the rest of Indonesia, all the way from the penetration of software to financial services,” he told TechCrunch. While talking to merchants and suppliers, Menon realized that “no one is building products with them as the center of the universe,” despite the fact that there are 56 million small businesses.
Peracchione said he and Mebon had been brainstorming startup ideas for a while. “When he told me about the idea of solving cash flow visibility to SMEs, it immediately struck me,” Peracchione said. “My dad used to be a SME owner himself and during my childhood I experience first hand the struggles and ups and downs connected to running a small business.”
The two decided to start with digital bookkeeping after speaking to 1,052 merchants because helping them keep track of their business performance would generate data that would in turn enable access to more financial services.
“Our vision expanded into providing an end-to-end software stack to digitize SMEs and help them across a wide range of activities as a prequel to building an SME-focused digital bank down the line,” Menon said.
In addition to digital ledger features, BukuKas also sends payment reminders to buyers through WhatsApp and automatically generates invoices, includes an an inventory management module and analyzes expenses to help businesses understand what is impacting their profit. The company plans to add digital payments this month. During the rest of 2021, it will also introduce more features to help businesses sell online, including tools for online store fronts, a promotions engine and social sharing.
“With COVID-19, SMEs are rushing to get digitized, but they lack the right mobile-first tools to sell online as well as to manage their business,” said Menon.
The app focuses on smaller Indonesian cities and towns, since about 73% of the merchants who use BukuKas are located outside of tier 1 cities like Jakarta. Its users represent wide range of sectors, including retailers, food vendors, grocery markets, mobile and phone credit providers, social commerce sellers, wholesalers and service providers. BukuKas acquired digital ledger app Catatan Keuangan Harian, which has 300,000 monthly active users, in September 2020 to expand its market share in Indonesia.
With its large number of SMEs, Indonesia is seen as a desirable market for companies helping the drive toward digitization. For example, India’s Khatabook, which was valued between $ 275 million to $ 300 million after its last round of funding in May 2020, recently launched BukuUang in Indonesia. Other startups in the same space include Y Combinator-backed BukuWarung, Moka and Jurnal, all of which offer tools to help SMEs bring more of their operations online.
Menon said BukuKas’ advantage is its team’s experience building businesses in Indonesia over the past seven years. For example, it launched a “Know Your Profits” module based on user feedback. It also offers a self-guided onboarding process, a simple user interface and an offline mode for users in areas with poor network connections.
“In general, individual features can be copied but we believe our ‘integrated end-to-end software stack approach,’ coupled with our obsessive focus on simplicity, deep understanding of our users and a superior level of service will be key in differentiating BukuKas from competing offerings,” he added.
BukuKas’ Series A will be used on user acquisition, its engineering and product teams in Jakarta and Bangalore and to introduce new services for merchants. The company may eventually expand into other Southeast Asia markets, but “in the short term consolidating and further expanding our leadership in the SME space in Indonesia is our top priority,” said Menon.
Ajaib Group, an online investment platform that says it now runs the fifth-largest stock brokerage in Indonesia by number of trades, announced it has raised a $ 25 million Series A led by Horizons Ventures, the venture capital firm founded by Li Ka-Shing, and Alpha JWC. Returning investors SoftBank Ventures Asia, Insignia Ventures and Y Combinator also participated in the round, which was made in two closes.
Founded in 2019 by chief executive officer Anderson Sumarli and chief operating officer Yada Piyajomkwan, Ajaib Group focuses on millennials and first-time investors, and currently claims one million monthly users. It has now raised a total of $ 27 million, including a $ 2 million seed round in 2019.
Stock investment has a very low penetration rate in Indonesia, with only about 1.6 million capital market investors in the country, or less than 1% of its population (in comparison, about 55% of Americans own stocks, according to Gallup data).
The very low penetration rate, coupled with growing interest in the capital market among retail investors during the pandemic, has spurred VC interest in online investment platforms, especially ones that focus on millennials. Last week, Indonesian investment app Bibit announced a $ 30 million growth round led by Sequoia Capital India, while another online investment platform, Bareksa, confirmed an undisclosed Series B from payment app OVO last year.
Ajaib Group’s founders said it differentiates as a low-fee stock trading platform that also offers mutual funds for diversification. Bibit is a robo-advisor for mutual funds, while Bareksa is a mutual fund marketplace.
In an email, Sumarli and Piyajomkwan told TechCrunch that the stock investment rate is low in Indonesia because it is typically done by high net-worth individuals who use offline brokers and can afford high commissions. Ajaib Group was launched in 2019 after Sumarli became frustrated by the lack of investment platforms in Indonesia where he could also learn about stock trading.
Inspired by companies like Robinhood in the United States and XP Investimentos in Brazil, Ajaib Group was created to be a mobile-first stock trading platform, with no offline brokers or branches. It appeals to first-time investors and millennials with a simple user interface, in-app education features and a community where people can share investment ideas and low fees.
Since people prefer to invest small amounts when trying out the app for the first time, Ajaib requires no minimums to open a brokerage account. Piyajomkwan said “we typically see investors triple their investment amount within the second month of investing with Ajaib.”
Ajaib Group’s platform now includes Ajaib Sekuritas for stock trading and Ajaib Reksadana for mutual funds. The company says that Ajaib Sekuritas became the fifth-largest stock brokerage in Indonesia by number of trades just seven months after it launched in June 2020.
The Indonesian government and Indonesia Stock Exchange have launched initiatives to encourage more stock investing. Some of Ajaib Group’s Series A will be used for its #MentorInvestai campaign, which works with the government to educate millennials about investing and financial planning. The round will also be spent on expanding Ajaib’s tech infrastructure and products, and to hire more engineers.
Ajaib may eventually expand into other Southeast Asian markets, but for the near future, it sees plenty of opportunity in Indonesia. “Ajaib was built with regional aspiration, having two founders from the two biggest capital markets in Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Thailand,” Piyajomkwan said. “But for the immediate term, we are focused on Indonesia as investment penetration is still low and there are many more millennial investors we can serve.”
Bibit, a robo-advisor app that wants to make investing more accessible in Indonesia, has raised $ 30 million from Sequoia Capital India. Returning investors East Ventures, EV Growth, AC Ventures and 500 Startups also participated.
This funding is a growth round and comes after Bibit’s May 2019 Series A. It brings the company’s total funding so far to $ 45 million, chief executive officer Sigit Kouwagam told TechCrunch.
Part of Stockbit Group, about 90% of Bibit’s users are millennials and first-time investors. Like other robo-advisors, the aim of Bibit is to make it easier to create a portfolio tailored to each person’s risk profile and investment goals. Other investment apps in Indonesia tapping into growing demand for retail investment producgts include Bareksa and SoftBank Ventures-backed Ajaib.
Bibit claims that over the past year, it has registered more than one million first-time investors. As an example of market potential, the company cites data from the Indonesian Stock Exchange and Indonesia Central Securities Depository that showed the number of retail investors in the country grew 56% year-over-year in 2020, with about 92% of new investors aged between 21 to 40. But only about 2% of Indonesians have participated in the stock market.
Kouwagam said most Indonesians invest their money in term deposit bank accounts or leave it in low-yield checking accounts.
“Traditionally, they also invest real estate or physical godl bars,” he added, but millennial and Gen Z investors are shifting toward “higher-yielding liquid investments that are also convenient to manage and can be started with a lower ticket size.”
The pandemic has also prompted more users build an emergency fund, with more Indonesians looking at the capital market for higher-yielding assets as an alternative to low-interest bank accounts.